In the wake of September 27’s “Climate Action Day,” we feel it relevant to reiterate the vision behind the Énergie Saguenay Project: to fight global climate change and air pollution in a concrete way using the know-how and technological resources of the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region and the province of Quebec.
Énergie Saguenay aims to provide natural gas, which produces less GHGs than coal and oil, in order to replace, in Europe and Asia, these fossil fuel sources which are also responsible for the emission of huge quantities of polluting particles that are harmful to human health. Since 2014 our team has worked to develop a project that combines the fight against GHGs, technological innovation, and economic development. When it comes to the world’s energy transition process, we are working for the planet, not against it.
To understand the project, you have to break from preconceived ideas and stereotypes: yes, natural gas is a fossil resource. But it is the only fossil energy source that plays, and will continue to play, a key role in the fight against climate change in the coming decades, by replacing coal – climate’s number one enemy – in electricity generation, by playing an increased role in road and marine transport, and by supporting the development of renewable energies. Faced with significant smog and public health issues, many countries, with China (1) in the lead, have made the exit of coal a national priority. This presents us with an opportunity to take concrete action for the planet while showcasing the assets and resources of our region and our province.
This is not merely the opinion of a developer, but one shared by global energy experts, chiefly the International Energy Agency (IEA), which recently published a report dealing specifically with the role of natural gas in the global fight against GHGs (2). Notably, the report states that the use of natural gas as a substitute for coal has already prevented the emission of 500 million tonnes of GHGs worldwide between 2011 and 2018. In its estimates based on the scenarios for achieving IPCC recommendations, the IEA also gives high priority to natural gas as a reliable, safe, low-carbon energy source to supplement renewable energies (3). In addition to the fact that they cannot fulfill all industrial needs, wind and solar energies require a reliable and storable backup source to ensure the stability and security of the networks and meet unforeseen demand.
We agree with those who claim that in the fight against climate change, we must listen to the experts and scientists. That is why right from the outset we made a point of enlisting the help of prominent scientists to deliver the best project possible. We work with internationally recognized academics, based right here in Quebec with the International Reference Centre on the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG), to develop a fact-based profile of the project’s emissions. It is why we have mandated the Chaire en éco-conseil de l’UQAC to support us in our commitment to operate a carbon-neutral complex, a world first for an industry of our size. It is why we are working with marine specialists to improve the design of ships that would come to our terminal in the future, and with marine mammal experts to better understand how to reduce the potential impacts of navigation, particularly in terms of underwater noise. These joint efforts are already advancing science.
We recognize that the environmental issue is an emotional one. We will therefore continue to work as a serious developer with the best experts, within a very thorough federal and provincial assessment process and with a view to continually improving the project. With the help of a clean and renewable hydroelectric power supply, a clear commitment to carbon neutrality and to working with the best in the industry, and Canada’s standards, which are the most stringent in the world in terms of fugitive emissions regulation and natural gas extraction, Énergie Saguenay would set new standards in the intelligent use of natural gas and establish itself as a global model.
The facts are clear. Demand for natural gas will increase in the coming years, and it will continue to be extracted everywhere. Together we have the opportunity to raise standards and offer the world’s cleanest liquefied natural gas to meet demand and help reduce the number of coal-fired power plants still in operation around the world. There are still 6,500 such plants remaining and, unfortunately, more are being built. If we miss this opportunity, which combines the fight against climate change and air pollution and the economic development of Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec and Canada, other developers will fill the void with projects that are much more environmentally damaging.
(3) From the International Energy Agency, 2018, IPCC 1.5 degree scenario