Natural gas & LNG: A pivotal role in developing the Canadian Northwest Territories economy

Menzie McEachern's picture
Menzie McEachern, Director, Mineral and Petroleum Resources, Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Government of Northwest Territories
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As Canada's gas and LNG industry continues to take steps closer towards competing in the global market, it is not just new projects we must keep our eye on, but also new governments and regions who are keen to grow their LNG presence. 

With the Canada Gas & LNG Exhibition and Conference just around the corner, Gastech Insights spoke with Menzie McEachern, Mineral and Petroleum Resources, Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Government of Northwest Territories and confirmed speaker for Day 1 of the conferrence, to hear exactly why they are Canada's next LNG opportunity. 

Gastech Insights: You are speaking at the upcoming Canada Gas & LNG Exhibition and Conference next week on how Northwest Territories is Canada’s next LNG opportunity. Could you give us a brief outline on what will be discussed?

Menzie McEachern: In the Northwest Territories (NWT), our prospects are bright – and we are looking towards the future. Our vast untapped resources place us in a spectacular position to both improve our own energy security and supply while also serving as an important player in the global marketplace. Through an elevated focus on our own potential and how we can harness that potential, the NWT is bringing new and exciting initiatives to the table that can serve everyone.

Gastech Insights: How is the Northwest Territories working to reduce the costs of doing business in the territory?

Menzie McEachern: It is no secret that for companies that are interested in working in the NWT, the costs of doing the day-to-day business can be an obstacle. To this end, the NWT has focused much of its attention in recent years to making significant improvements to its transportation, information technology and energy infrastructure to help offset the costs of operating in the territory.

The long-awaited completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway system which, once in place, will see an all-season road system that will allow for not only cost saving for NWT businesses and those companies that operate in the territory but savings for all NWT residents across the board. Other major infrastructure projects such as the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link and the Inuvik Satellite Station also serve to improve and enhance existing technology that will reap great rewards in the long term through better information and telecommunication systems in place.

Technology and infrastructure improvements in all sectors can only help to increase our attractiveness to investors and companies looking towards the NWT – but they aren’t the only improvements we are making. The Government of Northwest Territories has completed its Petroleum Resources Strategy, our blueprint to grow the oil and gas sector over the next 15 years, which has clear goals, implementation actions and performance measures.

Gastech Insights: Is it safe to transport LNG by ship from the Beaufort Sea to Asia-Pacific markets? Is it technically feasible?

Menzie McEachern: The answer to both questions is yes. The growing capacity to navigate the waters of the circumpolar Arctic for longer periods will inevitably open up new thoroughfares for gaining access to Asia-Pacific markets and the NWT is perfectly positioned to serve as the new Arctic gateway.

The open water season at present is already 55 days, and with new ships and relatively simply increases in capacity, the shipping window could almost double in the next decade. By implementing a phased-in approach to developing the LNG transport sector, the NWT could grow to become a key distribution point to the key markets over the next 15 years.

As the countries of the circumpolar region continue to research and develop the technologies for travel through the Arctic Ocean, the idea of shipping to the Asia-Pacific markets becomes even more of a reality. There is little appetite for risk when it comes to maritime safety in the Arctic waters, and there would be no large-scale expansion of the shipping season that would risk the health and well-being of the ocean, its inhabitants, and Indigenous people who survive on the species that they can take from the waters.

Beyond the improvements to the types of ships that travel through the Arctic waters, such as tankers with ice-strengthened hulls, rear azimuth thrusters and icebreakers, gains in other areas will serve to increase the safety of shipping industry. Advances in remote sensing capabilities, environmental response, capital cost structures and operating efficiency will all contribute to a stronger and more attractive Arctic shipping and transport sector.

Gastech Insights: With such a huge amount of natural gas, how can Canada successfully develop this resource; both domestically and for exports?

Menzie McEachern: As Canada wrestles with discovering new sources of energy generation that will result in a shift toward lower-carbon alternatives, natural gas is a strong contender to meet the country’s energy needs and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

In the NWT, we are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and diesel fuel in particular. We have begun to look to establishing regional energy initiative designed to take the resources available and develop our power generation capabilities

Gastech Insights: Considering the Canadian gas and LNG industry, what would success look like to you in 2025?

Menzie McEachern: The industry in 2025 would be vibrant, sustaining and a force to be reckoned with. Beyond the increased use of natural gas and LNG across the country, Canada would be recognized as one of the leading producers and exporters of natural gas in the world. And when you throw in our political stability and security, Canada’s attractiveness will be unparalleled.

The NWT, while still seen to some as remote, challenging and frontier, is working to position itself as an industry player, both in serving its residents with more affordable and cleaner forms of energy and capitalizing on its vast resources to become a key exporter. Download the eBook 'What Canadian gas & LNG success looks like by 2025 to 17 industry leaders' to read other expert answers on the above question. 

Gastech Insights: Why should industry players attend the Canada Gas & LNG Exhibition and Conference this month?

Menzie McEachern: Events like the Canada Gas and LNG Exhibition and Conference are a key venue for establishing new relationships with those in the industry that may be looking for new avenues and new regions to explore. We are also able to reconnect with individuals with whom we have met during previous events and continue discussions on a wide variety of topics. Due to our remote location, it’s not always easy for those people to come to us, but we see considerable value in making trips like this one to promote our potential and to celebrate the milestones and achievements we have reached in the last few years.

The natural gas and LNG sector has a potentially pivotal role in developing the NWT economy and energy supplies for the benefit of all, and we hope that participants at this conference will help us realize that vision.

Have you booked your place at the upcoming Canada Gas & LNG Exhibition and Conference? Do not miss out and register today.