NT Energy hopes to have liquefied natural gas (LNG) powering up to 70 per cent of Inuvik’s electricity needs by summer 2014, phasing out the diesel dependency forced onto the community following the premature failure of Inuvik Gas Ltd.’s Ikhil well.
The gas will most likely be trucked to Inuvik from BC or Alberta or barged from the West Coast, according to the report, with the LNG being vaporized (or heated to gas form) in Inuvik and pumped directly into the NTPC gas plant or distribution network. In a full-out LNG scenario, transporting fuel to Inuvik by truck or barge would require storage twice a year when both river ferries and ice bridges on the Dempster Highway (Hwy 8) are non-operational, according to the NT Energy report. Over the last 10 years, road access was closed for up to 53 days in the spring and 39 days in the fall. In order to accommodate the town during these periods, fuel would need to be stored in the community, meaning new infrastructure to store the LNG.
While the pilot project focuses solely on electricity, it could hold important implications for the future of heating in the community. Inuvik residents have been paying $35.44/GJ for synthetic natural gas heating since Feb. 1 – nearly double what they paid previously for natural gas from Ikhil. A larger scale LNG solution that includes storage for heating and/or electricity needs in Inuvik may also be viable but will add to timelines and costs.
The Government of NWT concluded last winter that “LNG is the only option analysed that can provide the base electricity requirements for Inuvik and is the only heating option that would not require significant capital expenditures by each individual building owner. LNG would provide fuel for both electricity and heating at a cost lower than the base case but the storage requirements needed to meet heating demand are significant and require further analysis for site selection, security of supply and cost.”
Slowly governmental energy authorities in the NWT and Yukon are beginning to embrace LNG as a practical solution to the North’s electrical energy needs.