LNG Canada says the Kitimat liquified natural gas project “has been delayed and not cancelled” with a Final Investment Decision possible in the next 18 to 24 months, Director of External Relations Susannah Pierce told a company sponsored community pizza party at Riverlodge on Tuesday October 18, 2016.
She paid tribute to the support for the project from Kitimat and the Haisla Nation, saying, “Thanks to you we were very close to have our shareholders take the Final Investment Decision in the New Year,” but she then added, “You also know there were some things we couldn’t control like the state of the marketplace.”
Pierce used the analogy of someone saving up to buy a car and believing that they have enough money in the bank and then the conditions change. “That is what happened to us,” she said. “You still want the car, but you just have to wait a little longer.”
Pierce said that the current program of site preparation will pause for the winter and holidays in mid-December. After that “work will begin to wind down over the next few months and then we will preserve the site until we are ready to make the Final Investment Decision.” She said LNG Canada is studying ways to make site preservation cost effective.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our pencils sharp and keep the community informed so that when the project is approved we are ready,” she added.
She pointed out that LNG Canada has already built a fisheries habitat offset in preparation for full development of the site.
LNG Canada and its partner shareholders are keeping a close eye on the developments of the natural gas market in Asia and Pierce said, “We do expect to be sending LNG to the Asian market in the next decade, so 2023 and beyond is what we’re talking about.”
She said that the Final Investment Decision when it comes will bring opportunities for Kitimat, the province and the whole country.
“Everyone in this room and everyone at LNG Canada is working to make this project real,” Pierce said.
“For those who are staying with us, we’re here, we’re not going anywhere and we’re going to be available to the community for an number of events. Let’s make it happen. We do have a shot at making it real but it may not happen as soon as you’d like it.”
Monday’s decision by LNG Canada to postpone the all-important Final Investment Decision for the Kitimat liguified natural gas project came as a momentary shock—but no real surprise. After the Brexit vote, you could see the hold button blinking from across the Atlantic.
Andy Calitz CEO of LNG Canada and a long time, experienced, executive with the lead partner, Royal Dutch Shell blamed the current market conditions for natural gas in both a news release and an investors’ conference call. However, the turmoil in the world economy brought about by Britain’s (largely unexpected) vote to leave the European Union made the postponement inevitable.
Immediately after the vote on June 23, when the now not so United Kingdom voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent, to leave the European Union, financial analysts predicted that given the uncertainty, companies based in the United Kingdom would immediately begin to adjust their long term planning.
The stock market has stabilized and reached new highs, at least for now, but the British pound remains weak.
Most important, according to reports in the business press around the world, many long term projects by companies not only in the UK but everywhere are being re-examined, postponed or cancelled. All due to the long term uncertainty in world markets.
Even without Brexit, the situation with long term planning for the natural gas market is complicated, as LNG Canada’s External Affairs Director Susannah Pierce explained in this interview on CKNW ‘s Jon McComb show. ( It is an informative interview. Autoplays on opening the page)
“ Postpone investment decisions”
Royal Dutch Shell is one of the world’s largest corporations. It is based in the United Kingdom although its corporate headquarters are in the Netherlands (also a member of the European Union).
From June 24 to July 11 was just enough time for the bean counters and forecasters in London, Vancouver, Calgary, Tokyo and Beijing to crunch the numbers and decide that the prudent move would be to put the LNG Canada project on hold.
Rio Tinto is also a dual national company, listed on both the London and Australian stock exchanges and with its headquarters in London. (More about Rio Tinto later.)
Although both Shell and Rio Tinto are giant transnationals with operations worldwide, the turmoil in the United Kingdom, in the corridors and cubicles of the home offices, is having a psychological and personal, as well as professional, impact, meaning more of the work in those towers of London will be focused on Brexit.
The decision doesn’t mean that the LNG Canada Final Investment Decision will be on hold forever. Of all the world’s energy companies, Shell is one of the oldest and it has a solid reputation for better long term planning than some of its competitors.
In the news release, Calitz noted
I can’t say enough about how valuable this support has been and how important it will be as we look at a range of options to move the project forward towards a positive FID by the Joint Venture participants.
The news release goes on to say
However, in the context of global industry challenges, including capital constraints, the LNG Canada Joint Venture participants have determined they need more time prior to taking a final investment decision. decision.
How much time? Well, as Theresa May became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the New York Times noted, like other media, that investment decisions are on hold:
Ms. May does not plan to depart the union quickly because it could put Britain’s negotiators under pressure, and at a disadvantage…
And the longer Britain drifts, the greater the uncertainty for businesses that could postpone investment decisions until things are clearer, potentially pushing the nation into a recession.
The extrication of Britain from Europe will likely be more in the character of the Greek financial collapse, a seemingly endless process where each event and each piece of news has the power to set off a new round of financial fears.
And like the Greek crisis, each piece of bad news will compound fears in markets that were nervous for other reasons.
So once (and when) Theresa May invokes Article 50 that opens a two year window for Britain to leave the European Union, starting negotiations for Brexit. Then it gets complicated, if Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom or if Northern Ireland also demands a dual referendum in both the Republic and the North on a united Ireland (as permitted under the Good Friday Peace Agreement).
Although May says she will continue to the UK`s next fixed date election, what if May calls a snap general election, with an uncertain outcome, perhaps another minority government, with seats split among several parties, including those who advocate remaining in the EU?
The price of oil is still low compared to a few years ago. That price is expected to remain low with all that the Saudis are pumping to retain market share, the Iranians want to recover from sanctions, and according to Pittis in another column, that means everyone else is pumping as well
The main thrust for Canadian producers is to build more pipelines so they can expand capacity and push ever more of their relatively expensive oil into the world supply chain. If that’s the strategy for high-cost producers, how could anyone think the world’s lower-cost producers wouldn’t be doing the same thing?
There is the glut of natural gas currently in Asian markets and no one knows what Brexit will mean. Unless there’s a drastic change in the marketplace, energy project investment will remain on hold for years to come. (So forget any dreams of a refinery anywhere on the coast. )
Brexit is also going to be a problem for London based Rio Tinto—and for the current negotiations with the Unifor local in Kitimat. Rio Tinto’s bottom line is weak because the price of iron ore, its main source of income, has been dropping. After completing the $4.8 billion Kitimat Modernization Project, Rio Tinto is spending huge amounts of money on its Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold and other minerals mine in Mongolia, a project that many analysts believe could provide up to 60 per cent of Rio Tinto profits as commodity markets recover.
Add to that US presidential election. Donald Trump has threatened to halt imports of both steel and aluminum into the United States if he actually gets to sit in the White House.
Given the flood of steel and aluminum on the global markets, however, it points to the fact that free trade also has to be fair trade.
That means if Hilary Clinton becomes president, she will also be looking at the state of aluminum imports to the United States market.
World conditions are a warning for the Unifor negotiating team in Kitimat. One reason for last year’s prolonged municipal strike was that Unifor spent a good deal of time planning for negotiations with the District but failed to adjust its contract demands when the price of oil unexpectedly collapsed, which meant the District had less money and a lot less flexibility.
In its negotiations with Rio Tinto, Unifor cannot make the same mistake again. There were a handful of unexpected layoffs down at Smeltersite on June 30; there could be more layoffs in the future. Mandatory overtime is a major sticking point—but that overtime demand is coming from the bean counters in Montreal and London, calculating that the overtime costs are, in the long term, less expensive than a lot of new hires.
Media reports show that Rio Tinto is in tough negotiations with its employees around the world. With LNG on hold, disgruntled employees can’t just turn off Haisla Boulevard to the old Methanex site before reaching Rio Tinto’s property line. That means Unifor should be tough but very realistic in its talks with Rio Tinto, knowing that the powers that be that hold the strings in London are more worried about what Brexit will do to the company bottom line than any temporary shutdown of the smelter by a strike.
What does this mean for Kitimat?
So the boom and bust cycle once again moves to bust.
the Haisla nation has been working to get its people jobs in the construction of the facility and related infrastructure, as well as full-time jobs once the plant opens…This was our first chance as Haisla to be a part of the economy, to be part of the wealth distribution in our area. To witness the wealth generation in our territory for the last six years but to not be a part of it, and now to continue to not be a part of it, is really distressing to us, because we had built up our entire future around this.
Mayor Phil Germuth in the same interview said
There’s no doubt that there’s going to be a little bit of hurt for a while, but we still fully believe that Kitimat is by far the absolute best location anywhere on the West Coast [for] a major LNG export facility… We are absolutely confident that it will come.
There’s time in this bust for everyone in town to recover from the hangover of the past few years of the fight over Northern Gateway and the heady hopes of the LNG rush. Demand for natural gas is not going to go away, especially as climate change raises the pressure to eliminate coal, so it is likely that LNG Canada will be revived.
It’s time to seriously consider how to diversify the Valley’s economy, making it less dependent on the commodity cycle. It’s time to stop chasing industrial pipe dreams that promise a few jobs that never appear.
Like it or not, the valley is tied to globalization and decisions made half way around the world impact the Kitimat Valley.
Who knows what will happen in 2020 or 2025 when the next equivalent of a Brexit shocks the world economy?
Suppose, as some here would wish, that all the opposition to tankers and pipelines suddenly disappeared overnight. Does that mean that the projects would then go ahead?
The corporate planners would decide based on their projections for the world economy and the viability of the project for their profit picture. Enbridge was never really able to secure customers for its bitumen. Chevron had no customers for Kitimat LNG. LNG Canada is a partnership, and the partner customers in Asia decided that at this time, the investment is too risky, even if LNG Canada’s longer term prospects are good.
Promoting tourism should now be the priority for Council, for Economic Development, for the Haisla Nation Council, for the local business.
Beyond tourism, it’s time for some innovative thinking to come up with other ideas that would free Kitimat from the commodity cycle. At the moment there are no ideas on the horizon, but unless everyone starts looking for new ideas, practical ideas, the commodity cycle will rule.
The Shell-led LNG Canada project unveiled its commitments to Kitimat at a ceremony at the community information centre at the old Methanex site on October 7, 2014.
LNG Canada has forged the commitments in a sheet of aluminum that is bolted to the wall of the community information centre. Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan unveiled the aluminum sheet, assisted by Kitimat Fire Chief Trent Bossence. Afterward, Susannah Pierce, Director, External Affairs, LNG Canada, signed the sheet, followed by Mayor Mongahan, Chief Bossence, other LNG Canada officials and members of the community.
LNG Canada’s Community Commitments
LNG Canada is proud to outline its commitments to the community, created through a collaborative effort with local residents. In April, June and September 2014, LNG Canada met with the Kitimat community to develop and refine the commitments our company will meet to ensure we are a valued member of the community throughout the lifetime of our project. We are grateful to the many individuals who took part and shared their wisdom and experience.
Our Commitments to the Community
1) LNG Canada respects the importance residents place on companies being trusted members of their community. We aspire to gain this trust by proactively engaging with the community in an honest, open and timely manner; by listening and being responsive and accessible; and by operating in a safe, ethical and trustworthy way.
2) LNG Canada understands that the ongoing well being of the community and the environment are of paramount importance. LNG Canada will consider the health and safety of local residents, employees, and contractors in every decision it makes.
3) LNG Canada recognizes that the environment and natural surroundings are vital to the community. We will be dedicated to working independently and with the community to identify and carry out ways to reduce and mitigate the impact of our facility footprint on the natural surroundings – in the Kitimat Valley, the Kitimat watershed and the Kitimat airshed.
4) LNG Canada is aware of the importance to the community of maintaining and improving access to outdoor recreational opportunities. We will work with the local community to facilitate the creation of new projects that protect or enhance the natural environment and that provide access to the outdoors and the water.
5) LNG Canada recognizes it will be one company among other industrial companies operating in the community. We will work with other local industry leaders to manage and mitigate cumulative social and environmental impacts, and create opportunities to enhance local benefits associated with industrial growth.
6) LNG Canada acknowledges that the commitments we make are for the long term. We will work with the community to develop an environmental, social and health monitoring and mitigation program that meets regulatory requirements and we will share information on the program with the public for the life of our project.
7) LNG Canada understands the need for the community to benefit from our project and values the contributions all members of the community make to the region. We will work with the community to ensure that social and economic benefits from our project are realized and shared locally.
8) LNG Canada acknowledges the importance the community places on our company being an excellent corporate citizen and neighbour that contributes to the community. In addition to providing training, jobs and economic benefits, we will make social investments important to the community to positively impact community needs and priorities.
The final investment decision for the LNG Canada project is 18 to 24 months ahead, Andy Calitz, CEO LNG Canada said Wednesday.
Calitz said that the project must go through a series of what are called “stage gates” before the respective corporate boards of the partners make that decision. Calitz said the project has already completed three stages, identifying the project, testing the idea, selecting what exactly the proponents are going to do. “Then there is the so-called design stage when all the design experts come in. We are hundred per cent certain we are tackling the next phase.” It is when the design phase is complete and then depending on world market conditions, that the final investment decision will be made.
Caltiz also pointed to one reason that while the LNG Canada project is moving ahead slowly,it appears to be moving faster than the rival Chevron-Apache Kitimat LNG project. That’s because the four investors in the LNG Canada project, Shell, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and KoGas (Korea Gas) are the customers, shipping their own product via the proposed TransCanada Coastal Gaslink pipeline, to the jointly owned terminal that will be built on the old Methanex site in Kitimat.
Caltiz’s comments came at a Vancouver news conference called to announce a joint venture agreement between the four partners. Under today’s agreement, Shell has increased its stake in the project to 50 per cent from 40 per cent; PetroChina will hold 20 per cent and each of Kogas and Mitsubishi Corporation holding 15 per cent. PetroChina and Shell increased their holdings by buying from the other partners.
Calitz said, “They each bring their own gas, they each put their own capacity in the pipeline to be transported by Transcanada, they together own the energy plant, then they lift the cargo in the same proportion, taking in to their own potrfolios, for every cargo that is produced, say for every 100,000 cubic metres, 15 will go Kogas 15 to Mitsubishi 20 will go Petrochina and 50 will go to Shell.”
One reason, along with the volatility and uncertainty of the liquified natural gas market that the Chevron Apache Kitmat LNG project appears to have stalled is a lack of customers. Kitimat LNG has said it is looking for equity partners similar to what was said today about the LNG Canada project.
Asked a general question about environmental concerns, Calitz singled out local concerns about the air shed quality in the Kitimat valley and similar concerns up in Prince Rupert, saying, “We are at all times very sensitive to our environmental impact… In the case of the airshed around the LNG plant, it is being quantified, it;s being looked at cumulatively in Prince Rupert, in Kitimat. We also make sure that we work with the government about the sensitivity of air shed impact to the communities of Terrace and Kitimat. I can confirm your point it is high on our agenda. We understand the issues we all developed energy projects before and will continue to be vigilant.”
He said there were three main concerns that would affect the final investment decision: “Where does the Asian gas price go? Two will we have enough labor and what will the labor rates and labor productivity be and three between the various companies that have a lot of experience in Canada specifically TransCanada pipelines into Kitimat, and the other pipeline company going into Prince Rupert, we need to get those pipelines through the mountains.”
While it may be reading too much into one statement, it appears that LNG Canada and its partners are taking a more careful approach to pipeline construction than the Enbridge Northern Gateway project where that company was always certain its plans for crossing the rugged northwest BC mountains would yield few problems.
The other major factor governing any decision on LNG plants in British Columbia is the volatile marketplace.
Reporters at the Vancouver news conference asked Caltiz about reported talks between China and Russia where Russia, now facing economic sanctions for its actions against Ukraine, would ship natural gas to China and if that would affect BC plans to export LNG to China.
“One can always draw linkages between any two subjects but I would say the linkage is between very weak and non existant,” Calitz said. “The closeest that anyone can come to a linkage is do the events in Europe and Ukraine increase the likelihood of a major pipeline between Russia and China, that’s for Russia and China to decide, but apart from that very very weak linkage.”
That state of prices remains a concern among reports that several Asian nations including the giants India and China plan to form a sort of buyers club, to drive down the high price of natural gas, which in Asia is a percentage of the price of crude oil, while in North America, market conditions have driven the price of natural gas much lower.
“There is a very active daily debate about prices paid for LNG in Asia. That debate, I am sure, will continue as long as the Henry Hub [the North America market price] is at $4 and Europe is at $8 and Asia based is somewhat from 12 to 18 dollars, depending on whether its contract or spot.
“If you ask is that of concern, then every project here will be affected by changes in price, whether the price goes up or down. will impact the final investment decision and it will impact in the way say the Pacific Northwest or the Kitimat LNG project.
“We as an energy project in British Columbia, like all other energy projects, like even from East Africa are looking at production costs and what the Asian prices are. So by 2015, what happens to that price and what happens in those negotiations will feature in the decisions of all the players.”
In a prepared statement, Calitz said,”“While we are in the early evaluation process and a decision to build the project is still a while away, this agreement reinforces our commitment to developing an LNG facility in British Columbia and allows us to proceed with the next steps in our project assessment, We will need to continue to work closely with the provincial and federal government to ensure that the project is economically viable, as well as working closely with First Nations, the local communities, and regulatory agencies, and move forward on a number of commercial agreements and contracts. We remain cautiously enthusiastic about the potential opportunity in B.C. and look forward to exploring it further.”
Premier Christy Clark, who made a brief appearance at the news conference before leaving to a prepare for another sales trip to Asia, was more optimistic, saying: “The private sector doesn’t make billion dollar investment decisions if they don’t think there isn’t going to be a return on it. It’s not for me … to determine what the market looks like, it’s the private sector that does that and I think the answer to them is you would not see those major companies taking the next step signing a joint venture agreement today if they didn’t think there was a market for BC gas.
“The other advantage that BC has that we will never sacrifice is our reputation as a dependable, reliable, honourable trading partner. When people do business in British Columbia on natural gas, they know we won’t play politics with them.They know we will keep our promises about where the tax levels will be and how they’re going to be treated as trading partners. That is a tremendous advantage for us in an unstable world.”
Temporary foreign workers
Asked by a reporter about LNG projects using temporary foreign workers, Clark replied. “The thing about temporary foreign workers is that temporary workers should come for temporary jobs, And in the process of building these huge facilities and pipelines with peaks in construction that we will not be able to meet within British Columbia or even Canada. There’s no question about that.
“Our view is very much British Columbians first, and the way to do that is to make sure people have all the skills training that they need to take advantage of those jobs, second reach out to the rest of the country and then third work with the unions and other organizations when needed to support temporary foreign workers coming in.
“We’ve had remarkable consensus with the trade unions, recognizing the need for some temporary foreign workers at some point in the construction of these projects. That’s why we’ve gone about planning it so carefully because we want to make sure when we will need workers in what skill set in what month and what years. We’re really breaking it down so we can be sure we have exhausted British Colunbia’s potential to fill those jobs before we start to look across the country or around the world.”
Projects on the go
The news release listed the many LNG projects under way from the four partners.
Shell currently has ten LNG projects in operation with approximately 26.1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) operational LNG capacity, in nine countries, and two projects
with an additional 7.5 mtpa under construction. Shell is also one of the largest LNG vessel operators in the world, with interests in around a quarter of the LNG vessels in operation.
Phoenix Energy Holdings Limited (an affiliate of Petro-China Investment (Hong Kong) Limited) (“PetroChina”) is China’s largest oil and gas producer and supplier, as well as
one of the world’s major oilfield service providers and a contractor in engineering construction. PetroChina officially launched three LNG projects in June 2004, two of
which started operations in the first half of 2011.
Kogas Canada LNG is the world’s largest LNG importer. As the nation’s sole LNG provider, KOGAS currently operates three LNG terminals and a nationwide pipeline network, supplying natural gas fromaround the world to power generation plants, gas-utility companies and city gas companies throughout the country.
Since pioneering the first LNG import to Japan from Alaska in 1969, Mistubishi handles 40 per cent of Japan’s LNG imports and has successfully built a portfolio of LNG export investments across Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Oman, Russia and North America.
With the joint venture agreement, the group has incorporated a new federal corporation, LNG Canada Development Inc. The project’s corporate offices will continue to be located in Vancouver and Calgary, with the project office based in Kitimat.
Although pegged as a “major milestone” in the development of LNG Canada, the Kitimat social media rumour mill was correct in speculation Tuesday that the news conference concerned a corporate name change and sale of assets. The event was probably more a kickoff for Christy Clark’s upcoming tour of Asia.
LNG Canada has called a news conference in Vancouver early Wednesday morning to “announce a project milestone.”
BC Premier Christy Clark, BC LNG Minister Rich Coleman, LNG Canada executives and delegations from the joint venture partners, Shell Canada Energy, Diamond LNG Canada, an (“affiliate” of Mitsubishi), Korea Gas Corporation and Phoenix Energy (an “affiliate” of PetroChina) will be present at a downtown hotel.
The Coastal Gaslink pipeline proposal to bring natural gas to Kitimat for the Shell LNG Canada project is now entering the 45 day public comment environmental assessment period. It opens on March 21, 2014 and closes May 5, 2014.
Coastal GasLink Pipeline is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines. The company is proposing to develop an approximately 650 kilometre pipeline to deliver natural gas from the area near the community of Groundbirch, B.C., to the LNG Canada gas liquefaction facility proposed to be developed by Shell Canada Ltd. and its partners in Kitimat.
An electronic copy of the Application and information regarding the British Columbia environmental assessment process are available at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.
The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office, with the support of Coastal GasLink, will host four open houses in northern B.C. communities during the comment period.
The proposed Project would have an initial capacity of about two to three billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas per day with the potential for expansion up to about five billion cubic feet per day. The company says the expansion scenario assessed in the application does not involve the construction of additional pipeline; the number of potential future compressor stations would change.
The proposed pipeline is subject to review under British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Act.
Starting on March 21, there are 45 days for the submission of comments by the public in relation to the Application. All comments received during this comment period will be considered. The intention of seeking public comments is to ensure that all potential adverse effects – environmental, economic, social, heritage and health – that might result from the proposed Project are identified for consideration as part of the assessment process.
LNG Canada says it will now continue to gather information and complete studies in support of developing our Environmental Assessment Application.
The company intends submit to the Environmental Assessment Application to the the B.C. EAO later this year.
LNG Canada will hold its next public meeting, an “LNG Demonstration and Presentation” on March 6, 2014 at the Mount Elizabeth Theatre starting at 6 p.m. The company says the event is to “to share information and answer questions about liquefied natural gas (LNG).” Starting at 7 pm there will be a a live demonstration using LNG to explain the science behind liquefaction and the properties of LNG.
For more information about the project’s EA process, www.eao.gov.bc.ca and look for our project under the “Proposed EAs” sections.
The other partners in the LNG Canada project are Diamond LNG Canada, an (“affiliate” of Mitsubishi), Korea Gas Corporation and Phoenix Energy (an “affiliate” of PetroChina).