FortisBC Plans Major Expansion of Tilbury LNC Facility to Improve Gas System Resiliency and Meet Demand

By Tina Costanza

An expansion to increase storage and meet rising demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is in the works at FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG facility in Delta, B.C.

The Tilbury Phase 2 LNG Expansion project is part of an overall upgrade at the facility, which is being carried out to increase storage and enable FortisBC to meet increasing demand for LNG overseas and for use as a lower-carbon fuel for ships.

A key benefit of the Tilbury Phase 2 LNG Expansion Project is the improvement of the resiliency of the system that supplies B.C. homes and businesses with natural gas.

The upgrade would also help support FortisBC’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions associated with its customers’ energy use by 30 per cent overall by 2030, marking one of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the Canadian utility sector.

Construction on Phase 1 began in October 2014. Last year, a new storage tank and the first new liquefaction train went into service. An additional Phase 1 liquefaction train is still in development. A marine jetty is also proposed to make it easier for marine and international customers to access LNG from Tilbury and is nearing completion of its Environmental Assessment process. Construction of the rest of Phase 1 and the marine jetty could begin as early as 2021.

The proposed Phase 2 expansion includes a new tank of up to 162,000 cubic metres that could triple the site’s storage capacity and store enough energy to keep a community of 70,000 people warm for 45 very cold days, and expanded liquefaction capacity of up to 3.5 million tonnes per year.

The new Tilbury LNG storage tank is expected to be in service by 2025, while the Phase 2 liquefaction equipment expansion may be in service by 2026.

“Our facility is ideally positioned to meet these opportunities and we’re aiming to elevate Tilbury’s role in the global transition to lower-carbon energy,” says Douglas Stout, vice-president, market development and external relations at FortisBC, an electricity and natural gas distribution utility.

What is liquefied natural gas?

LNG is natural gas that has been cooled into a liquid form. It is a clean burning fossil fuel that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used to displace higher carbon fuels such as oil, coal and diesel. Within a double-walled insulated storage tank, LNG is maintained in liquid form, without air, and will not burn.

LNG can slash greenhouse gas emissions by up to 21 per cent over the entire lifecycle compared to other marine fuels, depending on the engine used.

The International Maritime Organization has imposed new sulphur emission regulations and ship owners are adhering to them by adopting LNG as fuel. Customers in Asia have also expressed a growing interest in buying LNG from Canada.

In British Columbia, the economy will benefit from the Tilbury LNG expansion through the creation of jobs and contracting opportunities during planning and construction. About 110 long-term jobs are expected to have been created once construction is finished.

“We are committed to creating jobs for local workers through education and training programs, as well as direct and indirect opportunities,” Stout says.

These economic benefits will also extend to the industries that support the LNG industry, including everything from professional services to manufacturing and engineering, and will reach northeastern B.C., the hub of where gas is produced.

The work before construction begins

The Tilbury LNG facility has been providing British Columbians with natural gas on the coldest days of the year for nearly half a century.

The storage expansion project is subject to regulation by the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC). FortisBC is preparing to file an application with the BCUC later this year and if approved, FortisBC will be one step closer to building the new LNG storage tank.

More specifically, the project would include the construction of the new tank and equipment to boost the facility’s capacity to flow gas from the Tilbury LNG facility back into its system that serves B.C. This will strengthen the overall resiliency of its natural gas system during a supply shortage.

FortisBC has submitted an Initial Project Description for the Tilbury Phase 2 LNG Expansion Project to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

Early engagement phase extended

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge at this early stage of the project, but FortisBC has risen to meet that challenge.

“We responded to the public health emergency by pausing the timeline for engagement on the project to allow more time for meaningful engagement with the public, stakeholders and Indigenous groups,” said Stout.

The organization requested that the Environmental Assessment Office extend early engagement on the Tilbury Phase 2 LNG Expansion Project from 90 days to 150 days. At the same time, it requested the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to suspend its assessment of the project. Engagement resumed with a public comment period from June 1 to July 16.

“We’re continuing to engage on projects that are considered vital to our energy infrastructure,” says Stout. “We’re also taking steps to keep our customers, our employees and the public safe, including using alternative methods such as teleconferences and virtual open house tools to engage with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public.”

This early engagement phase gives the public, Indigenous Groups and stakeholders an opportunity to learn more about the project and provide feedback to the regulatory agencies.

FortisBC has said it is committed to continuing engagement with the local community, including opportunities for dialogue throughout the regulatory processes. The feedback it receives will form part of its application to the EAO and IAAC.

If approved, Phase 2 construction could start as early as 2022 and be complete by 2028.