British Columbia

Canada's first propane export facility plans to ship 1.2 million tonnes of propane a year to Asia

AltaGas Ltd. opened Canada's first propane export terminal on Ridley Island, about 10 minutes south of Prince Rupert, B.C.

AltaGas says facility will put Canada on the map as a significant new player in the energy market

AltaGas held its grand opening Tuesday afternoon for Canada's first international propane export terminal. (AltasGas)

AltaGas Ltd. opened Canada's first propane export terminal on Ridley Island, about 10 minutes south of Prince Rupert, B.C.

The Canadian energy company has its sights set on Asia, with a deal already in place with Japanese company Astomos Energy Corporation to buy at least half of its propane shipments each year.

AltaGas plans to ship 1.2 million tonnes of propane annually to Asia. 

"People are watching these ships that we're doing. Propane has been traded globally for many, many years and all these shipments are tracked and now they're going to see Canada's a new player," Dan Woznow, senior vice-president of energy exports at Alta Gas, told Daybreak North's Matt Allen. 

"So, it's quite big and it's being tracked globally and is changing everything for us here."

The Maple Gas arrives from Japan at the harbour outside of Prince Rupert. It is one of the first vessels that will carry Canadian propane to Japan. (AltaGas)

Up until now, AltaGas only sold propane to North American markets.

Japan is an ideal market for the Calgary-based company to expand into, because many homes are heated there with propane. 

'Big Opportunity'

Trains are used to transport propane to the new facility, where water is then extracted from the propane, which is then chilled and stored in a large holding tank before being shipped overseas.

Work began on the approximately $500 million Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal in the spring of 2017. The first shipment left the terminal last week. 

Paul Desilets, the environmental health and safety co-ordinator at AltaGas, said it's a good feeling to see the facility in operation.

"To see it at this stage, it does feel like history in the making especially for Canadians, for us to have such a great opportunity," he said.

Woznow hopes this opens up opportunities for other natural resource exports.

"We know there's LNG now coming up behind us here. There's other commodities that we're investigating that may make sense to move into Asia. So, we're looking at this as a big opportunity," he said.

In 2018, AltaGas paid nearly $400,000 in taxes to the City of Prince Rupert. Now. that the terminal is in operation, that number is expected to increase significantly. 

So far, 40 people have been employed at the facility full time. 

Maple Gas has set sail for Asian markets from a first-of-its-kind facility in Prince Rupert. CBC's Matt Allan explains. 6:34

With files from Matt Allen and Daybreak North

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