Recent media articles express concerns about potential effects of thermal discharge to a marine environment. The Commission has compiled the following to outline B.C.’s legal requirements and how the Commission regulates the lifecycle of oil and gas activities, including LNG facilities.
The Environmental Management Act (EMA) 6 (2) and (3) prohibits the discharge of waste from a prescribed industry, trade or business unless it is authorized as per EMA 6 (5).
The definitions of prescribed industries can be found in the Waste Discharge Regulation (WDR). LNG liquefaction facilities are under the Schedule 1 list of prescribed industries.
Authorizations under EMA include permits, approvals, order, regulations (and codes of practice) and waste management plans. In this case, a permit is the appropriate required authorization for the discharge of thermal effluent (waste) to the marine environment.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) has authority under EMA to issue permits and approvals for activities related to the oil and gas industry. All applications are reviewed to ensure any permitted or approved activity will comply with and support the EMA.
If a permit is issued, the Commission oversees that project throughout its lifecycle and until the land used is remediated. The Commission works to make sure industry understands, respects and meets or exceeds all the regulations and standards that apply. Industry is encouraged to develop best management practices and the Commission works with industry to share lessons learned from elsewhere, advances in science and technology, and community knowledge.
The permit application process is outlined here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=1653E566D9E84CCE81FB33F2819D350E
Permit requirements will include maximum limits on effluent parameters including flow rate and temperature. Monitoring requirements are also usually specified, depending on the details of the effluent quality and receiving environment.
As part of its application, industry must submit a technical assessment report to determine what effect the effluent discharge will have on the receiving environment. The assessment must include information about the source of the waste, the discharge quality and quantity along with details about the potential environmental impacts.
The assessment should define the Initial Dilution Zone (IDZ), outline the expected water quality at the edge of the IDZ and determine whether or not it will meet the BC Water Quality Guidelines and Objectives. In addition, effluent should not be acutely toxic to fish at the “end of pipe.”
Guidance on the preparation of Technical Assessments for permits under EMA can be found here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/DownloadAsset?assetId=7AD12B8CF1B94CF29619BD9871FB5740&filename=assessment.pdf
More information on effects assessments can be found in the Municipal Wastewater Regulation Documents, specifically, Section 1.3 of the Guidelines for Environmental Impact Studies found here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=7A4B2F3C732544548A9B53862EB7F138&title=Municipal%20Wastewater%20Regulation
General information on water quality guidelines for BC can be found in the BC Water Quality Guidelines (Criteria) Reports found here: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/wq_guidelines.html
Help with guidance for the derivation and application of BC water quality objectives (including determining the Initial Dilution Zone) can be found here: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/pdf/wqo_2013.pdf
This is the specific the link to the BC Water Quality Guidelines for Temperature: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/water/waterquality/wqgs-wqos/approved-wqgs/temperature-or.pdf
More information about how the Commission regulates the oil and gas industry is available as printable fact sheets at http://www.bcogc.ca/public-zone/fact-sheets.