Report presents fantasy scenarios for intensive natural gas development in northern Yukon

North Yukon's natural gas resources would bring great economic benefits to the territory if they were developed, a recent report has found.

North Yukon’s natural gas resources would bring great economic benefits to the territory if they were developed, a recent report has found.

The study was completed by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a non-profit group funded by government and industry.

It studied two hypothetical development scenarios, one where the Eagle Plain basin is developed for domestic consumption, and one were the Peel Plateau and Plain basin is also developed for domestic consumption and exports.

The domestic gas scenario would see $35 million in annual Yukon gross domestic product impact over 25 years, and 240 annual local jobs.

The export scenario would see $108 million in local GDP impact and 760 jobs in the territory.

Both scenarios are highly speculative. As the report notes, the Yukon’s natural gas industry is in its infancy.

For one of these scenarios to become reality, a company or companies would have to secure leases to all of the available land in the basin, prove up the resource and then enter the environmental assessment and regulatory processes to get permits for production.

On top of that, a pipeline would have to be permitted and built to get the gas to an envisioned power plant and liquefied natural gas facility at Stewart Crossing, which would also have to be permitted and built.

All of this depends on industry interest in this development, which for the moment is limited.

The domestic scenario would see close to three-quarters of the Eagle Plain basin developed.

Currently Northern Cross Yukon is working to prove up resources in that basin, but its leases cover just a quarter of the basin, and its active exploration covers just a small fraction of that.

The export scenario counts on not only the development of the Eagle Plain basin, but also the Peel Plateau and Plain.

That basin is located in the Peel watershed, which the government has put off-limits to mineral staking and oil and gas leases while a court battle over its future continues.

The report’s export gas scenario envisions a pipeline from the middle of the Peel watershed to Eagle Plain, continuing on all the way through an imagined LNG facility in Haines, Alaska.

Both scenarios also count on the proposed Casino mine to eat up a big chunk of the produced natural gas.

The gas would be piped from northern Yukon to a hub at Stewart Crossing. At that point, some would be burned in a power plant to feed Yukon’s grid, some would be liquefied and trucked to off-grid mines and communities, and some would continue down a 125-kilometre pipeline, across the Yukon River to the Casino mine property.

The Casino mine, currently in the environmental assessment phase, expects to build a 150-megawatt natural gas power plant to fuel its operations, using imported LNG.

That’s as much as Yukon Energy’s current hydro and diesel capacity combined.

The natural gas study notes significant risks that would affect both the domestic and export scenarios.

For the domestic scenario, any excess surplus gas beyond local demand would have nowhere to go. The gas from Eagle Plain would more than double the territory’s current hydro capacity.

In the export scenario, gas prices would be at the whim of international markets. Currently those prices are very low, thanks to a glut of shale gas production in B.C., Alberta and the United States.

Still, the report suggests developing Yukon’s natural gas industry could be preferable to investing in new large-scale hydro, as the Yukon government has already committed to do.

“Eagle Plain gas could well serve the Yukon’s needs as the territory grows since it is cheaper to develop than new large-scale hydro, is less (greenhouse gas-)intensive than diesel, and more reliable than intermittent wind.”

The Yukon government expects to use this report as a template for its promised study of the potential economic benefits of shale gas development in the Liard Basin through hydraulic fracturing.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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