Quentin Casey

SAINT JOHN – Shawn Graham’s call for a Maritime Energy Accord would increase regional co-operation necessary for success in the developing liquid natural gas industry, a noted energy consultant said Tuesday.

“Certainly acting together in the region’s best interest will help Atlantic Canada have first-mover advantages in this new market,” said Angela Tu Weissenberger.

“Co-operation is the key. If everybody can focus on the long-term benefits for the region, rather than only focusing on the short-term, local benefits – that would be a major success factor.”

Tu Weissenberger will be in town Thursday speaking at the Imperial Theatre. Her talk will be part of a reception in honour of Repsol and Canaport employees, relocating to the city.

“We have a chance to really celebrate a true growth story in the Saint John area,” said Tim Curry, a spokesman at the Atlantica Centre for Energy, one of five groups organizing the event.

He said Spanish-owned Repsol, which will deliver the cooled gas to port, is providing major investment of about $750 million, as well as an infusion of skilled, foreign workers who will add a cultural flare to the city.

Tu Weissenberger’s comments come on the heals of an apparent rift between Graham and Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald. MacDonald said recently the proposed 145-kilometre Emera pipeline linking the Canaport facility directly to the U.S. could hurt the chances of two planned projects in his province.

On Monday, Graham dismissed those concerns, saying the project is solely a private sector issue. Though he noted the difference of opinion highlighted the need for a joint panel of premiers and energy ministers to help find common ground.

Tu Weissenberger praised Graham’s plan.

“I think that’s a move in the right direction,” she said. “It would certainly help the process and bring the region closer to realizing the potential benefits.

“I would encourage some co-ordination and open discussion of the benefits and concerns. Sometimes things can be worked out in open dialogue and it’s much more efficient.”

Tu Weissenberger said there about 60 similar natural gas proposals across North America, but only a need for about a dozen.

“The question is: will Atlantic Canada be amongst them?” she said. “With a window of opportunity that has a time frame, it can only benefit the region if the three provinces and ministers get together.”

She noted the region is ahead of the competition because two of the three Maritime projects, including Irving-Repsol, have much of the regulatory red tape behind them.

“Atlantic Canada has this window of opportunity, and the region is almost there,” she said. “However, it’s not a done deal.”

Tu Weissenberger, who is based in Calgary, authored a paper earlier this year that detailed both the possibilities and pitfalls of liquid natural gas development in Atlantic Canada.

“Atlantic Canada’s significant advantage is proximity to markets, mainly the northeast U.S.,” Tu Weissenberger said. “But that prized market is also a target for other projects.”

She noted all provinces have to be supportive, no matter how many of the projects actually get off the ground.

“The region needs to recognize the long-term benefits of just having even one project,” she said.

Curry echoed that sentiment in regard to the Saint John facility.

“It’s not just a win for Saint John,” he said, “it’s good for the region.”