A liquefied natural gas plant planned for Fort Simpson is on hold while officials instead assess the viability of moving the village's existing diesel plant to higher ground.
Doug Prendergast, a spokesperson for the N.W.T. Power Corporation, said last May’s flooding “prompted interest in potentially relocating the existing diesel plant,” delaying engineering and construction work on the LNG project.
“Until we have an answer on what’s happening with the diesel plant, we can’t finalize plans for the LNG plant,” Prendergast said.
“The actual location is a key consideration, but we also need to focus on the logistical situation when it comes to can the [diesel] plant be moved ... what would that look like, and how much would it cost?
“The investment in the diesel plant has already been made and so if it can be relocated to avoid some of the issues that arose during the flooding this spring, then obviously it’s in everybody’s best interest – NTPC, the community, our customers – to take a look at whether there’s a better site in the community.”
Fort Simpson is primarily powered by four NTPC diesel generators that lie near an eroding riverbank
Last spring’s flooding saw water levels peak at 16 metres, approaching the threshold at which the village’s power plant is considered at risk of flooding.
“The flooding has raised a number of issues, not just regarding this plant," said Prendergast.
"What is the impact of climate change going to look like and how do we ensure that infrastructure – whether it be electricity or otherwise – is located appropriately?"
The diesel plant may be moved to the same site proposed for the future LNG plant, though a location has yet to be confirmed.
The switch from diesel to LNG, now considered a "transitional fuel" in the move toward cleaner electricity generation, would reduce emissions. The GNWT’s has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent (compared to 2005 levels) before the end of the decade.
The territory's emissions reduction plan aims to reduce communities’ diesel generation emissions by 25 percent by 2030. Although LNG is still a fossil fuel, its emissions are lower than those associated with diesel.
Prendergast said the power corporation's five-year capital plan still earmarks money to complete the LNG project, as the federal government has already contributed more than $11 million to cover 75 per cent of the expected costs.
“It’s in our best interest to get the assessment completed in terms of the viability of relocating the diesel plant," he said, "because then, obviously, we could move forward with both projects.”
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio