OPINION: Europe’s gas crisis could be the spark that finally ignites Eastern Canada’s liquefied natural gas scene.

Given the gas resources discovered offshore Newfoundland & Labrador — some 12 trillion cubic feet to date — it has always been a puzzle why they have never been commercialised.

Admittedly, developing 8 Tcf of gas on the Grand Banks and 4 Tcf offshore Labrador will be technically challenging due to icebergs, sea ice and seabed conditions, but it has always seemed myopic that the oil-focused provincial authorities have never incentivised gas exploitation.

If these resources were in Norway, for example, there is little doubt the forward-thinking Oslo government would have already found a way to develop at least some of the gas.

Although Norway has always had a ready market on its doorstep so gas could easily be piped to Europe, the country did not sit on its laurels when gas was found at the Snohvit complex in the harsh Barents Sea.

State-controlled Statoil — now Equinor — picked up the gauntlet and came up with an innovative project feeding gas from subsea wells to an onshore LNG plant.

Some will argue you cannot compare Norway to Newfoundland & Labrador, partly because the Grand Banks’ resources are held mainly as associated gas in multiple fields, while the non-associated Labradorian gas is also distributed among multiple fields.

Developing gas gathering systems to tap these resources would not normally be a problem, but the bete noire for offshore engineers has always been to prevent pipelines being damaged by icebergs drifting south from Greenland.

Nevertheless, stimulated by Europe’s need for alternative supplies, a scheme to tap Grand Banks’ gas is now gaining traction, helped by the shipping distance between Eastern Canada and Western Europe being about 4000 nautical miles (7400 kilometres) shorter than from the US Gulf.

When it comes to LNG exports, Newfoundland & Labrador is drinking at the last chance saloon — it’s now or never.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)

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