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Big in Japan - AltaGas, Vopak Look to Expand Propane Exports from Canada’s West Coast

Canada has been exporting propane from marine terminals in British Columbia (BC) to Asian markets since May 2019 and, despite modest propane production volumes, it has become an integral part of the global market — Japan, for example, depends on Canada for one-ninth of its LPG. Now, the companies that co-own the larger of BC’s two LPG export terminals are planning yet another facility next door that would enable Canadian propane exports to Asia to double over the next few years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the AltaGas/Royal Vopak plan and its implications for Canadian producers and LPG consumers in Canada, the U.S. and Asia.

You’d think that exporting hydrocarbons from Western Canada to Asia would be a no-brainer. After all, Western Canada offers enormous crude oil, natural gas and NGL resources and Asia — a straight shot across the Pacific Ocean — has seemingly unquenchable demand. But efforts to export energy products from Canada’s West Coast to Asian markets were thwarted time and again — at least until May 2019, when propane was first exported from AltaGas and Royal Vopak’s jointly owned (70/30) Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal (RIPET; green pentagon in Figure 1), which is located south of Prince Rupert, BC. Starting with an initial nameplate export capacity of 40 Mb/d, which has since been expanded to 80 Mb/d, the terminal has been in steady operation since, relying on propane supplies railed in from the producing areas of northeastern BC and Western Alberta (CN Rail shown by the red dotted line). RIPET was joined two years later in 2021 by Pembina Pipelines’ new, 25-Mb/d Prince Rupert Export Terminal (PRET; blue pentagon), which is located a short distance from RIPET on Watson Island. PRET’s supplies also are railed in from the same production areas. (By the way, you can track propane exports from these two terminals in our NGL Voyager Report.)

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