Woodfibre addresses the question of a possible terrorist attack on Squamish location

Company president says he takes potential seriously but assures Squamish council that LNG vessels are "very robust"

Rendering of planned Woodfibre LNG plant | Submitted/BIV files

With the Sea to Sky Gondola’s cable being cut a second time, the uncomfortable prospect of domestic terrorism has once again become a consideration that Woodfibre LNG has had to face.

It was one of the topics that were raised during the company’s update to municipal council during their meeting on Oct. 27.

David Keane, the president of Woodfibre LNG, said it was a threat the company is taking seriously.

“I’m concerned about terrorist activity in Squamish. And it concerns me for the health and safety of my employees. It concerns me about the health and safety of the facility,” said Keane.

He characterized LNG vessels as “very robust.”

The level from the waterline up to the deck is 40 to 50 feet, so it’s hard for a person to come up from a boat and climb up the tanker, Keane said.

If someone were to come up with a boat bomb, two of them would be required, he added. The first would explode and open up the outer hull, while a second would be required to detonate and cause internal damage.

He said that there have been cases where tankers were hit by missiles but didn’t explode.

“Even if it got hit by a missile, and there was an LPG — which is much more volatile than LNG — ship that was hit by a missile in the Middle East about two decades ago, and it didn’t blow up,” Keane said.

He added he did not see it as something that would practically happen.

With respect to the missile hit, it was unclear what case Keane was referring to, but more recently in October 2019, a missile attack punched two holes in an Iranian oil tanker near Saudi Arabia.

Quoting state media, The Financial Times reported that the tanker was in stable condition and the crew was safe. However, oil was spilling into the Red Sea.

Back in 2004, The Associated Press unearthed a U.S. government report that pegged an LNG tanker spill from a terror attack as a low-probability but a high-consequence event, which could create massive injuries and property damage.

Keane said commercial shipping of LNG started in 1964 with no significant incidents involving an LNG carrier.

The probability of catastrophic damage from a crash due to engine failure would also be low, Keane said.

The ships will be accompanied by tugs, so the risk of them crashing due to engine failure is very small, he said. In the case of tanker engine failure, a tug would pull the ship.

Coun. Chris Pettingill, however, noted that up until recently an attack on the gondola was unprecedented as well.

During his presentation ts o council, Keane also provided a new timeline on the long-awaited final investment decision. This would mark an official commitment from Woodfibre LNG’s ownership to start the project.

Keane estimated that the investment would come early in the summer of 2021, with construction starting in the third quarter of that year. If the investment decision goes ahead, it will put to end an over four-year-long wait.

Back in 2016, then-premier Christy Clark held a press conference with Woodfibre at its Howe Sound site, declaring the LNG facility would be going ahead.

The company has since kicked the start date of its project further down the timeline.

During his presentation, Keane also floated the idea of hosting roundtable chats with Mayor Karen Elliott about how to best reduce carbon emissions in line with provincial goals.