Canada-Asia LNG Link on Track Even as Oil Slumps: Clark

Canada’s ambition to become a top LNG exporter is on track even with oil’s plunge as investment decisions on two mega-projects are set to come next year, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said.

Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto’s RGE Group are poised to proceed with plans to chill and ship gas to Asia from Canada’s westernmost province before the end of 2015, Clark said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York.

“Our goal is to be the second-largest exporter of LNG in the world,” Clark said. Australia is set to overtake Qatar as the biggest LNG exporter. “We are where we want to be.”

Petronas, as the Malaysian state-owned producer is known, earlier this month followed BG Group Plc in pushing back a decision on LNG plans in British Columbia as oil trades at five-year lows. Delays in Canada contrast with projects in the U.S. and Australia that are already under construction.

Clark said she’s confident three terminals will be built by 2020 among at least five over the long term as she seeks to eliminate the province’s debt with revenues from the nascent industry.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, has fallen more than 43 percent since a June high, to $60.96 at 3:14 p.m. in New York, because of a glut. Brent oil, a global grade, has dropped about 44 percent to $64.30.

Oil Sands

Lower crude prices reduce cash flow for energy companies and decrease LNG prices that are linked to oil. For new LNG projects focused on the long term, the current crude slump may offer an advantage by reducing competition for labor with Alberta’s oil sands and decreasing other input costs, Clark said.

The C$36 billion ($31 billion) Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG and RGE’s Woodfibre LNG are among 18 proposals in British Columbia.

Pacific NorthWest LNG will probably start operating as planned by 2019 even after the investment decision was postponed, Clark said. Woodfibre LNG, a smaller project, is poised to come online in 2017, and the larger Royal Dutch Shell Plc-led LNG Canada will probably be built by the end of the decade, she said. She expects Shell and its partners to decide on development by the end of 2016.

Gulf Coast

While lower oil prices may allow contractors with less work to reduce cost estimates for Pacific NorthWest LNG, the project is grappling with competition from Gulf Coast supplies, Michael Culbert, chief executive officer of the project, said last week in an interview.

BG Group in October said it would pause development of its Canadian LNG project as it assesses global supplies, with U.S. volumes set to rise and prices falling.

Pacific NorthWest LNG is working to make the first deliveries in 2019 and plans to decide on the project in 2015, Culbert said. Woodfibre LNG is scheduled to start operating in 2017, according to the project’s website. Woodfibre LNG and Shell representatives didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and calls for comment on the timing for the projects.

The C$36 billion estimate for Pacific NorthWest LNG includes the terminal as well as drilling, the construction of a pipeline and the acquisition of a gas producer in 2012. Almost 4,000 workers will be employed at the height of construction, according to project regulatory filings.

LNG Priority

British Columbia will prioritize LNG over a proposed hydroelectric dam, the C$8.5 billion Site C project, if labor estimates show it will put LNG projects at a disadvantage in securing workers, Clark said. The power project can probably go ahead when the government decides on it by the end of 2014, she said.

“LNG is our priority in British Columbia and we don’t need to do Site C in order to fuel up the LNG industry,” Clark said, adding she ran for office on a pledge to establish the sector. “Hopefully, we will find a way to do both, but if it’s one or the other, I’m choosing LNG.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.