Liquid-rich gas production: An imperative opportunity for Canada

Mary Hemmingsen's picture
Mary Hemmingsen, EVP and CFO, Northwest Innovation Works
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When it comes to gas monetisation, Canada is looking for new approaches to remain competitive against the mature exporting markets. NorthWest Innovation Works is a multi-national partnership, committed to meeting the global need of a cleaner source for methanol production. This new technology will not only reduce the global carbon footprint but also introduce new gas monetisation techniques to Canada. 

Ahead of the Canada Gas and LNG Conference and Exhibition, 14-16 May, Gastech Insights spoke with Executive Advisory Board Member and Executive Vice President & CFO at NorthWest Innovation Works, Mary Hemmingsen, to discover more about the organisation and what these new opportunities mean for Canada's gas industry. 

Gastech Insights: NW Innovation Works is committed to meeting a global need for clean-burning liquid fuels and clean feedstock for petrochemical industry.  Can you tell us more about methanol as a clean and versatile energy carrier? 

Mary Hemmingsen: Methanol’s versatility leads to many important applications as a clean and multipurpose fuel and feedstock:  in marine and ground transport, power, heat and petrochemical applications. Adding to this versatility, methanol exists as a clear liquid form in ambient conditions, that is water soluble and biodegradable, ensuring easier and safer shipping and distribution.

Methanol demand is expected to increase steadily through 2035, in part, driven by increasing MTO demand with low-cost gas-based manufactured methanol that is more competitive to coal-based methanol.  This rapid rise in MTO is led by China, driven by opportunities in the value chain and for improved environmental performance. Among the fuel applications being expanded is the:

  • Marine Sector: Currently consumes 370 million metric tonnes of bunker fuel per annum. IMO standards on SOX & NOX emissions are required to be met by 2020 with methanol poised to capture at least 20% of this market based on methanol’s attributes of cost-effective lower emission output.
  • Ground Transportation Fuel: China, with others following, is leading the growing utilization of methanol as a clean fuel for transportation.  Methanol standards have already been implemented in 14 Chinese Provinces mandating methanol blending, and are being implemented in additional Provinces.
  • Small Mid-Boiler Market: In China, over 600,000 small to medium size industrial boilers consume approximately 700 million metric tons of coal per year or 18% of China’s coal consumption. The opportunity to vastly improve environmental performance has motivated the Chinese government to phase out all coal-fired boilers with the capacity of 35 tonnes/hour or less by 2020, creating a corresponding conversion opportunity to methanol-fired boilers on the heels of currently converted boiler units which consume about 1 MTPA of methanol. 

Gastech Insights: What monetisation opportunities can the methanol markets sector offer Canadian gas producers and what work needs to be done to ensure these opportunities are realised?

Mary Hemmingsen: Canada needs to realize the first-mover opportunity and accelerate aggressive efforts to capture new high value-add methanol markets in scale development. Leveraging our low-cost natural gas and advantaged gateway to a new growing clean Asian methanol economy, we need to crack the barrier of pipeline access and relentlessly focus our efforts to deliver a cost competitive advantage.  Scale development and scale economics using between 1 to 2 bcf of gas would support at least two facilities of up to 28 MTPA of manufactured methanol and would capture a portion of the identified and looming methanol demand. 

We need to act on the investment in related development already made in modularized construction and of interested host First Nations. This includes formalizing investments and the sharing of investment, costs and/or corridors for pipelines as well as providing various fiscal support arrangements and removing pipeline and other costs and delay barriers such as import duties and prolonged regulatory process, based on the high value-add for Western Canada and Canada as a whole. 

We need to invest as a coordinated industry value chain and supply chain, relentlessly focused on cost competitiveness to be first to this new market.  In doing so we can capture both a rapid step function increase in Asian methanol demand toward improved environmental performance and provide a supporting platform for other gas exports including Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) and LNG.

Gastech Insights: How can the industry harness the potential of liquid-rich gas successfully – allowing NGLs to turn from a hindrance to a help for Canadian shale producers?

Mary Hemmingsen: Recognizing the increasing “hotness” of liquid-rich production such as Montney gas, investment in pipeline corridors and support for co-development platforms, complemented by coordination in market development, is not only an opportunity but an imperative. Our Canadian governments and agencies, in partnership with focused industry players, can establish market entry and market penetration in supporting a cost competitive and timely development and manufacturing environment.

Gastech Insights: Why should industry players attend the Canada Gas and LNG Exhibition and Conference in May?

Mary Hemmingsen: The conference will bring together the players who are poised to inform and lead a new thrust for market access and development for our vast Western Canadian gas resources, and in doing so realize the opportunity of gas value-add export products to contribute to the trifecta of energy, economic and global environmental performance improvement.

The Canada Gas and LNG Exhibition and Conference on 14-16 May, will identify the opportunity, tackle the challenges and set the solutions for long-term gas monetisation in Canada. Hear Ms Hemmingsen speak along with many other industry experts, book your pass today. 

Image courtesy of NW Innovation Works