Chilliwack on the LNG highway

The Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) refuelling station in Chilliwack will be the first in B.C.

A refuelling station for long-haul trucks that use liquified natural gas (LNG) is expected in Chilliwack within months. The station is the first of its kind west of Calgary, city council heard Tuesday.

Chinese-owned ENN Canada Corp. is quickly creating a network of LNG refuelling stations across the country, with Chilliwack first up in western Canada.

The plan is to work with transport companies and engine manufacturers to retrofit entire fleets of long-haul trucks from diesel-based engines to LNG-based engines.

Refuelling with LNG will cost 20-40 per cent less per litre than diesel, according to ENN project manager Stephen Rohling.

The new network of refuelling stations would provide truck drivers the confidence they need to use LNG trucks.

“It’s new, it’s in its infancy. It’s a chicken and egg scenario. Which do we build first, the station or the trucks? We are trying to combine it so that the station and the trucks are going to be coming online at the same time,” said Rohling.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the City of Chilliwack approved ENN’s application to rezone their property at 44037 Progress Way to permit a natural gas bulk storage and sales facility and service station. Once all the paperwork is done, building the station will take about nine months. LNG will then be trucked in.

Chilliwack is a natural stopping point for trucks travelling across Canada, as well as those coming in from Seattle and further inland, said Rohling. ENN is planning similar refuelling stops at every 600 km or so on major routes. Rohling himself is looking at 17 sites in B.C. and Alberta.

The area at Lickman Road north of the highway, from Yale Road West to Progress Way, is slated to become an even bigger truck hotspot. Other than ENN, Otter Co-op, Shell, and possibly Esso are moving forward on expanding their presence in the area.

“Lickman Road is one of the busiest truck stops west of Winnipeg,” said Stan Rogers of Legacy Pacific, a company working with ENN on setting up the new station.

Traffic congestion in the area is a concern. While the city has earmarked funds for an upgrade to the interchange flyover, the project is not yet an urgent priority.

Chilliwack Liberal MLA John Martin made a rare appearance at city council to back the ENN station.

“I was personally and on behalf of the government very excited to hear that Chilliwack had been identified as potentially one of the very first places to have an LNG filling station,” said Martin. “I see it as a coup for Chilliwack, further putting us on the map.”

The development of B.C.’s LNG industry is a main tenet of the B.C. Liberal’s economic plan, and was a major platform cornerstone during this year’s election.

Only a “limited amount” of trucks on the road are currently using LNG, but ENN expects that to change quickly. While the strategy first focusses on long-haul trucks, ENN will cater to locally-based fleets as well as smaller UPS-type trucks. Some waste trucks run by Progressive Waste Solutions in Surrey are already using natural gas.

ENN Canada’s parent company, ENN Group, has built about 200 LNG stations in China. It is creating a similar network of stations across the U.S. to take advantage of the country’s shale gas boom.

Proponents of LNG argue that natural gas is a cleaner fuel than petroleum, with fewer carbon emissions. According to Rohling, LNG does not contaminate soil, cannot ignite when spilled, and is much safer than diesel.

Opponents, however, point to the risk of flammability once LNG converts back to its gaseous state. Some studies have also shown that LNG can produce the same amount or more of emissions as other fossil fuels over the product lifecycle.

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