WLNG – changes cooling system

UPDATE October 21 2016 – On Wednesday October 20, Concerns about the possible damaging effects of the Seawater cooling system on Herring spawn around the Woodfibre site spurred the Squamish Nation Chiefs and council to reject this type of cooling Woodfibre LNG had proposed for its LNG facility in Atl’kitsem / Howe Sound. At the Council meeting it was decided to require Woodfibre LNG to use an air-cooling system instead of the Seawater cooling system.

Woodfibre LNG had been proposing a Seawater cooling(also known as Once-Through-Cooling) for its LNG facility. The cooling system would have sucked up the content of 163 Olympic sized swimming pools (408 million liters of seawater), everyday for 25 years, to cool the machine that takes warmth form the Methane gas and cools it down to –162 Celsius. Like a freezer, but than bigger and the heat is not blown into the surrounding environment, but transferred to the seawater and spewed back into Howe Sound. The water would have been chlorinated to prevent fouling, de-chlorinated to an, by Government set, acceptable level and discharged at a temperature 10 degrees Celsius above intake temperature.

Why is Herring important for the recovery of Howe Sound?
Herring is considered an important part of the food-chain between plankton and larger fish, marine mammals and birds. That’s why we have seen salmon, seals, sea-lions, dolphins and whales return to Howe Sound.

Squamish Nation identifies importance of protecting fish and Herring
The first of the total of 25 conditions the Squamish Nation has imposed on the Woodfibre LNG project, concerns the cooling system. Condition 1 reads:
“Conduct further studies on the proposed sea water cooling method that will prove to the satisfaction of the Squamish Nation that the biological impacts on marine life are acceptable to it and also that the method has lower overall environmental impact than alternative technologies. If WLNG cannot provide conclusive evidence to demonstrate this, then WLNG will pursue an alternate method of cooling the natural gas that is acceptable to the Squamish Nation.”
Squamish Nation | Woodfibre LNG | Update | Issue 3

Herring spawn in Howe Sound
There is a lack of baseline information and consistent data concerning aquatic species in Howe Sound, especially for Herring spawn:

Citizen scientists doing bulk of survey work in Howe Sound
Citizens scientist John Buchanan from Squamish has observed and documented Herring spawn around Woodfibre and Howe Sound north since 2010. His survey data was ignored in the Environmental Assessment of the Woodfibre LNG project. View the the compilation report of Mr. Buchanan’s survey work. and the Buchanan map and Part of the Herring spawn map from Woodfibre LNG’s EA application.

Woodfibre LNG knew of Herring spawn around Woodfibre site
Through the earlier 2013 project description, it is clear Woodfibre LNG knew herring spawn was present at the Woodfibre site. For the Environmental Assessment application it designed a strategy of misrepresenting information to get what it wanted: -a cooling system that is know to be very damaging to marine life.

What Woodfibre LNG did

In its Application for an Enivronmental Assessment Certificate:

  • Woodfibre LNG used only the outdated and faulty online DFO Herring spawn information for upper Howe Sound to suggest that the closest known Herring spawn to the Woodfibre site was 3.5 km away.
  • Woodfibre LNG acknowledged in its Environmental Assessment Application –section 5.18, it had found a 2013 Pique newspaper article about Herring spawn observed around the Woodfibre site by Mr. John Buchanan from Squamish. In the same paragraph Woodfibre LNG dismissed this lead: “This information has not been found in an online search of DFO documents and scientific literature, and the exact location of the siting is not known.” (Woodfibre LNG EA Application section 5.18 – page 22 paragraph 2),
  • Woodfibre LNG followed the DFO Guidelines for water intakes in BC (DFO water intake Guidelines – Federenko 1991) and suggested that since the closest recorded Herring spawn was 3.5 km away, its cooling system intake was well outside the 2 km Intake Exclusion Zone around Herring spawn (DFO water intake Guidelines- Federenko 1991),
  • Essentially, Woodfibre LNG submitted a proposal for a ‘Once Through Cooling’ system, not even appropriate for a location where NO herring spawn is present, since it is so damaging to marine life, and suggested it didn’t know of or couldn’t find any local knowledge of Herring spawn in the DFO online data or scientific literature,
  • Woodfibre LNG wanted the Once Through Cooling system, because it is cheaper as an investment and in operational costs than the Gold standard, ‘Closed Loop Cooling’, which uses only 7% of the vast amounts of water a comparable Once Through Cooling system uses.

All this was clearly explained in a letter sent to Jonathan Wilkinson, MP of North Vancouver and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna. Read letter

Woodfibre LNG 2015 Herring spawn surveys find Herring spawn
Although, Woodfibre LNG’s 2015 Herring spawn survey came back positive, DFO and EAO didn’t demand the cooling system and the location of its water intake to be changed. In its Herring spawn surveys, spawn was observed 50 meters away from the proposed water intake and discharge points.

Assessment was based on misrepresentation of Herring spawn information
Clearly the assessment of Herring spawn was based on a misrepresentation of information. When Woodfibre LNG’s own herring spawn results came in, the company produced an explanation why their choice of Cooling system and its intakes would not damage Herring and Herring spawn system.

The explanation is however not credible since the cited scientific articles do not support the conclusions, and Woodfibre LNG did not do any fieldwork or surveys at the depth the intakes would be installed.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the BC Environmental Assessment Office didn’t do their due diligence, didn’t catch the serious misrepresentations of information, and didn’t bother to do their homework.


Fisheries and Oceans going against its own regulations
As mentioned, DFO did not require Woodfibre LNG to locate the water intake for the cooling system to 2 km or more away from Herring spawn, or change the cooling system to a type that would use no or very little Howe Sound water.

Compensation for killing Herring and herring spawn habitat not possible
DFO also accepted the proposed compensation measures to make up for lost spawn habitat, fish, larvae and eggs killed, but there is one problem, the measures proposed are know not to work or to be impractical.

From a DFO letter of June 27 2011 in regard to a Gravel mine proposal at McNab Creek, DFO states: ‘The options for adequate fish habitat compensation within McNab Creek or even the greater Howe Sound area are severely limited and may not allow the proposed development to meet DFO’s fish habitat policy objectives, including the “No Net Loss” guiding principle.’

CCBowen informs Ministers in letter January 2016
The Hon. Mr. Tootoo, Federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coastguard and the Hon. Ms. McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, were informed about this flawed assessment for the cooling system in a letter sent on January 8 2016. Read letter

News paper articles about Herring spawn around Woodfibre

Squamish Chief: No Log dump here please, February 2015

Globe and Mail: Development pits jobs against the environment in B.C.’s Howe Sound, May 2015

Squamish Chief: Woodfibre LNG sticks to seawater cooling system, May 2015

Squamish Chief: Herring spawn at risk from Woodfibre LNG: biologist, April 2015

Pacific Herring articles