Evidence of meeting #37 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was gas.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jonathan Burke  Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Okay. Great.

What I found really interesting was what was mentioned about biogas, that renewable source. How much of the research being done in your facilities is oriented towards those renewable sources?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

Jonathan Burke

Given the fact that we are selling this product both on its economic merits and on its environmental merits, we've put a lot of effort into making sure that all of our engines meet the minimum requirements or limits set by biogas producers as well.

So all of our engines are biogas-compliant, in that so long as the fuel at the nozzle meets certain minimum standards, we can use biogas in our vehicles. That has been an important part of our product in places like California, where biogas and renewable natural gas has been an area of focus because of things like the low carbon fuel standard. We've focused a lot of our attention on making sure the engines and the vehicle systems meet the requirements of being able to accept biogas.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Are there more costs involved in extracting the gas from more traditional sources or in going towards the biogas avenue?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

Jonathan Burke

It depends. For example, in some jurisdictions, it may be less costly to use biogas because of the alternative cost of the fugitive methane emissions and what they need to pay for those. It depends on what the total value proposition is for that particular project.

For example, if you operate a large landfill in California, you're going to be paying some cost for your methane emissions. So by offsetting those methane emissions, capturing them, defraying the cost of diesel fuel, and instead using that fuel in your vehicles, it may be more cost effective than just doing some alternative method.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

What's your evaluation of the situation in Canada for biogas?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

Jonathan Burke

I don't know the upstream side of it terribly well. That would be best posed to someone in the production side of biogas. For example, Gaz Métro, FortisBC, and some of the other gas utilities are involved in that.

I do know that there are some challenges around reinjection of biogas into the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, but I think that's being resolved for the most part at the provincial level, under the utilities commissions in each province.

I think there has been widespread acceptance of biogas and the use of it, so there has not been much opposition. At the federal level, I don't think there have been any regulatory issues with regard to biogas.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

How much time do I have left?

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Two minutes.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

My colleague touched a bit on the shale gas issue. How big in the market do you think shale gas could become in the next few years with the state of the market right now?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

Jonathan Burke

At the end-user side, I can't speak to what the end product will be going into the vehicle. That's a bit of a challenge, although unconventional gases, be it shale, tight gas, or other unconventional gases, are starting to represent a larger share of the market.

I can't speak to what the end-user share or proportion of the market would be, because we have natural gas coming into North America from several different streams. We have it coming in through import LNG terminals. We have it coming in from conventional sources—for example, northern Alberta and elsewhere. It's hard to determine where that specific molecule comes from that goes into the vehicle in the end use.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Okay. So there aren't more challenges for your industry to use any type of natural gas being extracted in many different ways...?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.

Jonathan Burke

No, not at this point. On a semi-annual basis we do an evaluation of the upstream footprint of natural gas, because there's a lot of research and there's a lot of stuff in the news around the greenhouse gas footprint around unconventional gas.

In collaboration with the U.S. DOE and with NRCan, we do a scientific study that goes into their models for actually determining the greenhouse gas footprint of the fuel as it goes into the vehicle. We haven't seen a dramatic change in the upstream footprint of that gas such that it's going to negatively impact our greenhouse gas emission reductions at the tailpipe. The bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from a vehicle occur at combustion. Once the fuel is already on board, the bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions emerge when it gets used.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Holder.

May 15th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank our guest for attending this morning.

I've learned more about methane emissions, frankly, than I've ever wanted to know. I'm not sure if we want to call that “cow power” or “sow power”.

Forgive me, because I come from an urban centre. It happens to be the tenth largest city in Canada, but we don't have agriculture in my particular riding, although we are all beneficiaries of it.

I appreciate the renewability aspect of it, but how sustainable is this alternative methane emission as a legitimate source of power?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Global Market Development, Westport Innovations Inc.