A petrochemical company has begun talks with local stakeholders about developing their own plant in the Kitimat area.
West Coast Olefins Ltd. is a company that specializes in developing petrochemical projects in Western Canada. Currently, they are working on constructing a petrochemical facility north of Prince George, but with all the natural gas that will soon be coming to Kitimat with the LNG Canada facility and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline, the company’s eyes have turned to Kitimat.
“After the big construction jobs, like LNG Canada, everybody feels like their plate’s really full. It’s a very sudden shock when it all ends. If you want to have a project that’ll start in behind that project, you have to start working on it today,” Ken James, President and CEO of West Coast Olefins, said.
LNG Canada and the CGL pipeline will bring natural gas into Kitimat, where it will be shipped out to other countries, but James said his goal with the petrochemical plant is to keep some of that natural gas in the community, while also providing jobs and money for the local economy.
“[A petrochemical plant] creates new employment opportunities and it just pumps a lot of money into the economy, and I can tell you, with what’s going on with the forest sector, with what’s going on with COVID, it’s going to be a central focus for the next, probably 10 years,” James said.
James said there are many options for processing opportunities that come with having access to large amounts of natural gas, methanol being a main one, which is needed for the creation of many fertilizers. As well, many derivatives of adhesives, which support the forestry sector in building and repairing, come from the byproducts of natural gas.
Currently, the plant is only in conceptual stages, with James meeting with key stakeholders, including community leaders, several industrial and investor groups in the area, and Skeena MLA, Ellis Ross, who thinks James’ idea is a good one for the Kitimat economy.
“If anybody’s suited to take on this kind of initiative, it’s Kitimat because we’re an industrial town,” Ross said. “I’m all for selling LNG to Asia, but I’d much prefer selling a cleaner product, pure natural gas, and take some of that product out and start manufacturing with it, before it leaves Canada.”
Ross said the idea has been on his mind for a while, but only recently have actions been taken by James, and others, to actually make the thought a reality.
He added that not only is he starting to get real interest from James, but also from investors from all over the world, such as a meeting he had a couple of weeks ago with investors from India, who want to open up the market in India, officially, including bringing in capital to Kitimat.
“What Ken James and what these other proponents are doing now is totally different from how it used to be done, 15, 20 years ago. Companies would just come in, make a proposal with the government, then just come in and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ ” Ross said. “Well now, these proponents and these investors, they’re coming in and laying the groundwork and they’re talking to First Nations, they’re talking to communities, and they’re trying to get the lay of the land in terms of how welcome they would be.”
James said the plans are still in the early stages and they’re still looking around and talking to stakeholders and soon the community about what locations may work for a plant, anywhere between the Douglas Channel and Terrace.
“I’ll probably spend a year trying to figure out what that answer is,” James said. “Anybody that tries to design too quickly before they’ve got those decisions made, they don’t gain any time at all. You’re better off just working your way through that and working with the community.”
However, like James said, he wants to get started today so something is in the works by the time the LNG Canada facility is finished. This way, jobs can continue, machinery doesn’t sit idle, and nothing has to be taken apart and then put back together at a later date.
“The worst thing is to let [all the workers] go home and then five years later start all up again, rebuild all the camps. Because they’ll get dismantled. The minute they’re idle, they’ll get dismantled.”
LNG Canada started as a concept in about 2010, he added, right after the Methanex plant shut down in 2009. Continuation is key, especially with the amount of natural gas and the potential for work and product that it brings, that will soon be coming into Kitimat.
“I think the most important thing in this community is continuation,” James said. “Natural gas is going to be the big new input in this city.”
James said he hopes to have shovels in the ground starting in 2023 or 2024. And with the amount of methane and LNG leaving here, they could easily do two plants here of the size they’re doing in Prince George if stakeholders and the community agreed.
James said the plant would be a $10 to $14 billion investment, which would bring in thousands of high-skill, high-paying, long-term jobs going forward for British Columbians and Canadians.
And with the U.S. not buying from Canadian markets as much, James said it’s time Canadians start investing further into their own markets to continue putting money into Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy.
“Canadians need to development new markets, and British Columbia fortunately is on the Pacific Rim, and that is the biggest market and one of the fastest growing markets in the world,” James said. “So, hopefully we get our act together and create a lot of prosperity.”