Energy is produced in British Columbia from natural gas, crude oil, hydropower, biomass, wind and coal.
In 2010, BC's energy accounted for about five per cent of BC's gross domestic product.
While most of the natural gas and virtually all of the coal produced in BC are exported, the province imports most of its petroleum products and, in some years, is a net importer of electricity.
Approximately 31,000 people, about one per cent of BC's population, were employed in the oil and gas, coal and utilities industries in 2010.
In February 2007, British Columbia announced a new energy plan designed to make the province energy self-sufficient. The plan also precludes the use of nuclear power in the province to generate electricity. A progress report was issued in April 2009 that detailed the work that has been done to implement the energy plan.
Discover the key energy facts about British Columbia.
By the numbers (1MB PDF)
The first oilfields in British Columbia were developed near Fort St. John in the early 1950s. More than 40 oilfields have been developed since.
At year-end 2009, reserves totalled 113.3 million barrels of crude oil and 62.7 million barrels of condensate. Production in 2010 averaged 21,799 barrels of oil per day and 13,757 barrels of condensate and pentanes plus.
In 2009, the province received $1.6 billion from the petroleum industry for the use of British Columbia’s oil and gas resources.
Although 14 exploratory wells were drilled offshore in the late 1960s, moratoria imposed in 1972 halted further offshore activity. However, part of the BC Government’s 2007 Energy Plan includes “ensuring offshore oil and gas resources are developed in a scientifically sound and environmentally responsible way.”
British Columbia is Canada’s second largest producer of natural gas.
The British Columbia natural gas industry began in the early 1950s near Fort St. John in the northeast region of the province. Unlike other petroleum producing provinces, natural gas has become more economically important than crude oil.
Natural gas reserves totalled 18.9 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2009.
Gross production in 2010 averaged 3.37 billion cubic feet per day with major contributions from the Ladyfern, Greater Sierra, Monkman and Horn River fields. Deliveries of marketable gas averaged 2.9 billion cubic feet per day.
Natural Gas Pipelines
Spectra Energy operates a 2,500-kilometre natural gas gathering system and a 2,800-kilometre transmission system extending from northeast British Columbia to Huntington/Sumas on the BC-US border. The system’s capacity is 2.4 billion cubic feet per day.
TransCanada’s gas transmission system extends 170 kilometres from Alberta’s western border to Kingsgate on the BC-US border. Capacity is approximately three billion cubic feet per day.
Fortis BC, formerly Terasen Gas, delivers natural gas to approximately 940,000 customers in Brtitsh Columbia.
Crude Oil Pipelines
Pembina Pipeline Income Fund operates three crude oil gathering systems upstream of Taylor, BC and an 820-kilometre transmission pipeline from northeast B.C. to the Prince George refinery and to Kamloops for transmission to the west coast. The transmission pipeline carried an average 19,300 barrels per day in 2009.
Kinder Morgan’s 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline transports 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined products from Edmonton, Alberta to marketing terminals and refineries on the west coast.
Refineries & Upgraders
There are two refineries in British Columbia.
Husky Energy’s Prince George refinery was built in 1967 and has been operated by Husky since 1976.
Current capacity is 12,000 barrels per day of light oil from northeast BC, which is refined into unleaded gasoline, seasonal diesel fuels, mixed propane and butane, and heavy fuel oil for BC markets. The refinery employs 85 people.
Chevron’s Burnaby refinery was built in 1935 and daily processes crude and synthetic oils, condensate and butanes from northeast BC and Alberta into 50,000 to 55,000 barrels of motor gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, asphalts, heating fuels, heavy fuel oils, butanes and propane.
British Columbia generates about 90 per cent of its electricity from hydro power.
The province has 71 hydro electric generating stations – two on the Peace River, three near the northwest coast, 23 in the Columbia/Kootenay area, 26 on the Lower Mainland and 13 on Vancouver Island and four others elsewhere in the province.
The largest is the 2,730-megawatt G. M. Shrum generating station on the Peace River. Total installed hydro capacity for the province is about 11,700 megawatts.
Electricity generation in 2009 totalled 62,200,000 megawatt-hours, or enough to supply 6.2 million homes.
BC Hydro has completed public and stakeholder consultation and is now conducting an environmental and regulatory review regarding possible construction of a third dam and generation facilities on the Peace River. Known as Site C, the facility would have an installed capacity of 1,100 megawatts and could generate up to 5,100,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, or enough for about 510,000 homes.
There are an estimated 23 billion tonnes of coal resource in British Columbia, of which 804 million are considered proved and probable reserves.
In 2010, there are ten active mines in three coal-producing areas – the Fording River, Greenhills, Line Creek, Elkview and Coal Mountain mines in the East Kootenay Coalfield; the Trend,, Brulé, Perry Creek and Willow Creek mines in the Peace River Coalfield; and the Quinsam mine in the Comox Coalfield on Vancouver Island.
Production in 2010 totalled 28.6 million tonnes, most of which was exported to Japan, Korea, Europe and South America.
These three coalfields, along with 10 others may contain up to 230 trillion cubic feet of coalbed methane.
British Columbia has a 102- megawatt wind farm near Dawson Creek and a 144-megawatt wind farm near chetwynd, as well as a single 1.5 megawatt wind turbine at Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver.
Thermal Electricity Generation
British Columbia has four natural gas fired thermal generating facilities with a total installed capacity of 1,163 megawatts. The largest, at 950 megawatts installed capacity, is the Burrard generating station near Vancouver.
Two generating stations, Taylor and Fort Nelson, in northeast British Columbia provide electricity to Alberta’s electricity grid.
There are also six facilities in British Columbia that generate thermal electricity from woodwaste. The total installed capacity from these operations is 190 megawatts.
Thermal electricity facilities can generate power several different ways, including natural gas (represented by circles on the map), oil/diesel generation (squares), coal (triangles) and biomass (diamonds).