New Brunswick

Belledune natural gas options: Too soon to explore, says Enbridge

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick says it's too early to say how it might bring natural gas to NB Power's Belledune generating station, or even if such a scenario would be feasible.

Getting natural gas to generating station to replace coal as fuel stands to be complicated and costly

Enbridge has exclusive natural gas distribution rights in New Brunswick.

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick says it's too early to say how it might bring natural gas to NB Power's Belledune generating station, or even if such a scenario would be feasible.

Belledune will no longer be able to burn coal after 2030 as a result of federal climate change regulations, and Liberal cabinet minister Donald Arseneault said recently the government was looking at natural gas from Enbridge as an alternative.

But that's a complicated and costly option.

Nova Scotia's Emera built a natural gas pipeline from the Canaport LNG terminal in Saint John to the Maine border, a 145-kilometre line that cost $500 million.

That's a shorter distance than Enbridge would have to cover if it wanted to run a pipeline from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which crosses southern New Brunswick, to Belledune.

If there is ever a formal requirement, yes, Enbridge would look at it.- Sara Gourlay, Enbridge spokesperson

​Enbridge spokesperson Sara Gourley said in an email message that if the company gets involved, it wouldn't necessarily propose a pipeline.

"Belledune falls outside of Enbridge's current pipeline infrastructure, but as the natural gas distribution utility in the province, we do have other options and technologies that could help bring the needed gas to the plant," Gourley said.

"So if there is ever a formal requirement, yes, Enbridge would look at it."

Gourley wouldn't comment on the potential price tag of a pipeline.

'It's 100 jobs in our region'

Restigouche-Chaleur MLA Daniel Guitard says many of his constituents are concerned about the phase-out of coal in the Belledune generating station by 2030. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
Daniel Guitard, the Liberal MLA whose Restigouche-Chaleur riding includes Belledune, says the coal phase-out is on the minds of many of his constituents.

"People are concerned, no question," he said. "It's 100 jobs in our region."

He said he's confident the government "will come up with a solution for Belledune" but he also hinted that Enbridge or another private company is key to saving the plant.

"If we can get help from the private sector, that would be very interesting for the region," he said. "As the MLA, yes, I'd like to see natural gas in the north. That being said, it has to be viable. It has to make sense business-wise."

People are concerned, no question.- Daniel Guitard, MLA

When she announced the coal phase-out last month, federal environment minister Catherine McKenna said she would work with New Brunswick to "announce local solutions" that would bring new investment to the province through a green infrastructure fund.

Those solutions would "create and maintain jobs both in communities economically impacted by accelerated emissions reductions and throughout New Brunswick," she said.

Gourley wouldn't comment on how the possibility of federal funding might help Enbridge.

'Too many factors'

"At this point there really are just too many factors and technical options to take into consideration when determining feasibility of these solutions," she said.

"Enbridge will not speculate on these options without being formally engaged to explore it."

Other possible ways to get natural gas to Belledune would be to truck compressed gas in cannisters or bring it in by ship to a liquefied natural gas terminal.

Enbridge will not speculate on these options without being formally engaged to explore it.- Sara Gourley, Enbridge spokesperson

Trucking would less expensive up front, but would cost more to operate day-to-day than a pipeline.

Any conversion of Belledune would also have to go before the Energy and Utilities Board for approval.

No other company could provide natural gas to Belledune because Enbridge regained its exclusive franchise for new gas customers in New Brunswick in its recent legal settlement with the province.

The previous PC government had taken that exclusivity through legislation. But the settlement of Enbridge's $820 million lawsuit over that bill included a requirement that the Liberals restore the exclusive franchise.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.