If you need more proof that the decarbonization of the economy is derailing in Quebec, here it is.
We learned last week that the Beaconcore Industrial Park will be powered by natural gas. In this park, the Legault government wants to manufacture the “world’s greenest” battery components for electric cars.
Gas burning to prevent cars from burning gas – this raises questions, to say the least.
The problem is that answers are hard to come by.
Is natural gas really necessary on site? If so, why not impose less polluting renewable natural gas there? How will we achieve carbon neutrality if new industrial systems also add to our emissions?
Good luck figuring this out. Independent experts, environmentalists, government, Energir… no one has the same vision or the same interpretations.
In these screens, we have already advocated a state company to oversee the energy transition1. A firm that provides independent advice on the best ways to achieve our climate goals while maximizing economic and social benefits.
Events at Beaconcore reiterate the need for such an agency.
According to current plans, the Bécancour battery sector will consume 30 to 53 million cubic meters of natural gas each year. It produces GHGs equivalent to those emitted by at least 10,000 gas-powered cars.
Admittedly, it’s not much. According to Quebec, the GM-POSCO plant in Beaconcore will eventually produce components that could power between 150,000 and 300,000 electric vehicles a year. It is also true that similar installations in North America are very polluting.
Yet are these emissions inevitable?
Good luck evaluating it.
Quebec says the battery sector involves industrial processes that are “impossible” to electrify, thus requiring the burning of natural gas.
However, we know how handy the word “impossible” can be when we don’t want to bother reviewing good old practices.
Jacques Harvey, a consultant in energy and industrial decarbonisation, sees only one industrial process that will be difficult to electrify in Beconcore’s future industrial park: lithium hydroxide production, which Nemaska Lithium will take care of.
Énergir told us that the site already has six potential customers. Many factories require gas to be available for “redundancy” in the event of a power failure. Aren’t there other less polluting solutions?
No one, in any case, appears to have attempted to reduce natural gas consumption at Beaconcore. In 2023, this is a violation – especially for such a project, which should be an environmental demonstration.
Another contentious issue concerns renewable natural gas.
This gas, produced from food waste, has a much smaller footprint than natural gas of fossil origin. Currently, it accounts for less than 2% of natural gas flowing through Energir’s network.
Many experts believe it should be earmarked for non-electrification uses such as lithium hydroxide production at Beaconcore.
However, Énergir does exactly the opposite. It wants to impose renewable natural gas on all its new residential, commercial and institutional customers from 2024. However, they have an alternative solution: electric heating.
Énergir disputes this, but it seems to us a very funny way of allocating resources. Again, independent lighting is valuable.
Finally, let’s underline the irony of seeing the Quebec government hand off green hydrogen to supply Beaconcore. Too expensive and too greedy of electricity, we’re told. However, long ago, François Legault saw this solution in his soup – proof that political discourse is not always based on rigorous analysis.
The Legault government repeats that it wants to make Quebec “the first carbon neutral state in North America.” In this context, it is common for flags to be raised when new factories add emissions without a decarbonisation strategy.
A strong conductor for energy transformation.