Shell’s go slow approach to Kitimat LNG project means little action before 2015

Energy Environment

When Royal Dutch Shell Canada purchased the Methanex/ Cenovus Energy plant and marine terminal in Kitimat Wednesday, company spokesman Paul Doolan told the media that Shell “is now exploring the potential for an LNG export terminal on the site,” but refused to give any time line for the project.

Now sources have confirmed to Northwest Coast Energy News that at this time it looks as if there will be no major developments in the Shell project until  2015.

Employees of Cenovus were told after the sale announcement that the plant’s condensate operations would be “business as usual” until sometime in  2015.

(After the sale, Cenovus told the media it doesn’t expect changes in
the regular shipments of condensate to change “for the foreseeable
future.” )

As anyone who has gone through a takeover or similar management transition knows, a company’s new management may have ideas that they haven’t discussed with the old regime.

The 2015 date is logical,  however, since 2015 is the projected launch date for the first project, KM LNG partners’ Kitimat LNG project.

There are already two projects in the “pipeline” so to speak, the Kitimat LNG and BC LNG projects. As discussions during the June National Energy Board hearings that led to the approval of the KM LNG export licence last week showed, the two companies must come to an agreement on some of the pipeline capacity coming into Kitimat, sharing “the molecules,” that favourite phrase of natural gas analysts.

Shell will also have to go through the National Energy Board process for granting an export licence.

With energy companies rushing to exploit the shale gas resources in northeastern BC and in Alberta. and growing demand for the natural gas in Asia, transportation of the natural gas is a big question, since it appears Shell and its partners will have to build new pipelines since the existing pipelines into the Kitimat region will be at full capacity.

Where will that new pipeline be built? How will that new pipeline be built? That question is already being widely debated in Kitimat. Ever since Enbridge has announced that it too is interested in joining the natural gas export boom, the question has been: could a natural gas pipeline replace the proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline or does Enbridge intend to build two pipelines? If it is the latter, Enbridge, and possibly Shell, can expect years of hearings, protests and delays because while people in northwestern BC are generally accepting of natural gas projects, there is fierce and still growing opposition to the bitumen pipeline.