The map below illustrates the various mines, pipelines, railways, refineries, and ports that constitute British Columbia's fossil fuel infrastructure. Oil and gas wells are not included as there are several thousand of them, they are however all clustered in the Peace region near the natural gas processing plants in the province's northwest corner.
Scroll down beneath the map to read about the role each piece of the fossil fuel infrastructure plays in its national, continental, and global context.
Gateway Oil Pipeline
Nat. Gas Transmission Line
Nat. Gas Distribution Line
Nat. Gas Processing Plant
Coal Transport Railway
Coal Export Port
Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Descriptions
Located on a man-made peninsula jutting several kilometres miles into the Strait of Georgia, Westshore is the largest coal export facility in North America. Nearly 600 rail cars deposit their coal here every day, around 21 million tons worth a year. This is the off loading point of much of the coal mined in British Columbia's southeast, as well as some quantities of coal mined in the United States. The export of coal is a subject of heated environmental debate in Washington and Oregon, and American companies export from Canada's Westshore bypasses domestic protesters. The Canadian Pacific Railway handles most of the Canadian coal shipping, while Burlington Northern Santa Fe brings in the American coal.
Westshore has been in the news in recent years because many Tsawwassen residents next door complained they'd often awaken to find their homes covered by a fine layer of coal dust. These complaints have been backed up by scientific evidence, with a 2001 study arguing that 715 metric tons of coal a year are blown off the port's enormous heaps and onto Tsawwassen every year. This is double the amount that occurred in 1977.
While Westshore is larger, Port Riddell handles more coal. Most of the coal that is mined at the three mines in the province's northeast is exported to Asia through Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert. The massive automated terminal can load 9,000 tons of coal onto a ship in a single hour. This comes out to about 24 million tons in a year. Because of the high latitude of the port, shipping times to Asia are up to 35 hours shorter than the Robert's Bank Superport in Vancouver. In addition its proximity to vast untapped quantities of coal (such as Klappan Mountain) mean this port is popular with investors and likely to see expansion in the years ahead.
Located on the Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, around 8 million tons of coal leaves Canada through the Neptune Port every year. Owned in part by Teck, a coal mining giant, much of the coal comes from their mines in Southeast B.C. and Alberta, though other commodities such as sulphur are exported through this port.
Burnaby Oil Refinery
The Burnaby oil refinery is the province's largest, refining 50,000 to 55,000 barrels of oil a day. It is supplied by the Kinder Morgan Pipeline which stretches across the province to the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, where all of B.C.'s commercial oil and gas is currently produced. The refined products are either used in populous southern B.C., exported across the Pacific to Asian markets or piped south to the United States.
Prince George Oil Refinery
This comparatively small oil refinery is operated by Alberta's Husky Energy and refines around 12,000 barrels of oil a day. The petroleum products produced here are used locally and are sufficient to meet most of central and northern B.C.'s needs.
The aptly named Coal Mountain is a 2,521 hectare coal mine of which only 650 hectares are currently being mined or scheduled to be mined. Owned by Teck mining, around 2.7 million tons of coal are extracted every year by 175 employees. The mountain's coal reserves are expected to be exhausted in 2018.
Elkview is a huge 27,000 hectare property owned and operated by Teck, in addition to small shares owned by Japanese and Korean steel producers. Thus far 3,600 hectares of Elkview has been mined or will be mined in the near future, though around 900 hectares of have already been reclaimed. The high-quality coal produced here is used primarily for coking in making steel, but small amounts are thermal coal used in coal-fired power plants. Around 5.6 million tons of coal were extracted in 2009 by the mine's approximately 700 employees. At this rate the mine has an expected reserve life of 55 years.
The Line Creek property consists of 8,183 hectares of coal lands of which approximately 2,267 hectares are currently being mined or are scheduled for mining. With production hitting 2.5 million tons a year in recent years, the commercial quantities of coal in this region are expected to be exhausted by 2022.
Operated by Teck and the Canadian arm of POSCO, a Korean steelmaking company, Greenhills mine primarily produces steelmaking coal. The mine's capacity of four million tons of coal a year means it has an expected lifespan of 25 years. So far 400 hectares of the land disturbed by coal extraction has been reclaimed.
Fording River produces more coal than any other mine in the province, with an annual extraction capacity of eight million tons. The mines operator, Teck, employs 880 workers at Fording River and estimates that mining can continue at the current rate for 41 years.
Run by Western Canada Coal, Brule opened in 2007 and has boosted its production to 1.4 million tons of coal. A 2009 assessment outlined the potential for an expansion of capacity to four million tons of coal a year, which, if reached, would exhaust the property's commercial coal reserves within 15 years.
The Perry Creek mine, owned by a group of investors called the Wolverine Group, expanded its production by a third in 2010 to 1.5 million tons of coal. With permits to produce three million tons a year, it is expected to continue expansion in the years ahead. Current estimates put 70.4 million tons of coal beneath this property, meaning this mine will stay open well into the 21st Century.
The Roman Mountain mine is expected to open in 2013, and preparations for the opening of the mine are ongoing. Production is forecast to yield three million tons of coal a year for ten years.
Opened in 2005, the Trend Mine is producing around two million tons of coal a year, and is expected to remain in operation till 2015.
Quinsam Coal Mine
Quinsam is the only underground coal mine in the province, in addition to being the only mine currently operating on Vancouver Island. Around half a million tons of thermal coal are extracted here each year. Most of it is used along the West Coast for cement production or to provide power at small coal plants that run pulp and paper mills. The coal is shipped out through Campbell River's Middlepoint Barge Loading Facility.