Why the media coverage of the Tim Hortons boycott is a double double failure

The headline on Thursday’s CBC.ca coverage of the sudden controversy over a boycott  in British Columbia of Tim Horton’s over the Enbridge ads sums up everything that’s wrong about media coverage not only of the boycotts, but of northwest energy and environment issues overall.

“Tim Hortons yanks Enbridge ads, sparks Alberta backlash.” The anger at Tim Hortons across northwest British Columbia over those Enbridge ads, the calls for a boycott have been building for more than two weeks but no one in the media noticed despite widespread posts on Facebook and other social media.

CBC.ca

As usual, the concerns of the northwest didn’t really become a story until Alberta got involved and  the story has become the “Alberta backlash.”  Now, there’s a backlash on social media to the Alberta backlash, with northwestern British Columbians tweeting and posting their displeasure, angry at the usual blinkered views of Alberta-centric coverage of energy issues.

Let’s make one thing clear– despite the outraged cries of the usual suspects like Defence Minister Jason Kenney, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who represents Calgary Centre-North and Kyle Harrietha, the Liberal candidate for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake that the boycott was aimed  at Alberta’s entire energy industry and the province’s views of a manifest destiny as an energy super power, the doughnut boycott was really aimed specifically at Enbridge, and the company’s arrogance and incompetence.

This morning Wildrose party leader Brian Jean has joined the Alberta boycott and is demanding the Enbridge ads be reinstated. “I’ll pick up my Tim’s coffee again when they decide to apologize for taking jabs at our industry, which is so important to Albertans,” Jean is quoted on CBC.ca.

Of course Jean, like most Albertans, isn’t  looking at the bigger picture. The question that Jean should really be asking, is the continuing unquestioning support for Enbridge actually harming the rest of the Alberta energy industry by increasing the resistance in northwestern BC to other energy projects? When are Alberta politicians, whether federal or provincial, ever actually going to show even a Timbit of respect for the issues in northwestern British Columbia?

Look at what Enbridge is doing

There is strong support (with some reservations) for the liquified natural gas projects. There is a level of support for pipelines that would carry refined hydrocarbons to the coast, something that the new premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley is seriously considering.  But it is so typical of Alberta, the Alberta media and most of the Canadian media, to believe that the boycott was an attack on the entire energy industry.

Ask any executive of an energy company that wants to do business in northwestern British Columbia and they’ll come  up with the a joke that is now so old and so often repeated that it’s become a cliché, “We look at what Enbridge is doing and then do the exact opposite.”

timmysamos

The fact is that Enbridge has been dealing with northwestern British Columbia for more than ten years and they still can’t do anything right. Shell, Chevron, Petronas (and before them Apache) and even TransCanada make more efforts to listen to the people, First Nations and non-Aboriginal residents alike, than Enbridge ever has or ever will (despite their claims in their PR campaigns).

While these energy giants may not agree with what they hear, they are respectful and depending on their corporate culture are making genuine efforts to come up with ways to make their projects work. After a decade of blunders, however, Enbridge still hasn’t shown that much respect for anyone here. Those touchy feely ads that appear on television and at Tim Horton’s are just another example of how not to run a public relations campaign.

There are those who oppose any bitumen sands extraction who signed the online petition, but the core of opposition, as always, comes from northwestern BC and the issue is an ill-conceived pipeline.

Enbridge has been successful in one area of its public relations strategy. They’ve convinced Albertans that Enbridge and the Northern Gateway pipeline is an essential part of not only the Alberta economy but Alberta culture. Any attack on Enbridge becomes an attack on Alberta. Hence the unreasoned anger when after Tim Hortons pulled the ads.

The big blame America lie

The other Big Lie we keep hearing from the Harper Government, is that this all orchestrated by American NGOs and activists. Again this shows Alberta-centric contempt for British Columbia. It’s very easy and convenient to keep believing that everyone in northern British Columbia are dumb and stupid and are being led by the ear by those nasty green Americans who have it in for the efforts to make Canada an energy superpower. That idea, promoted by the more conservative Canadian media has always been animal waste. The battle to protect the environment of northwestern British Columbia while at the same time attracting resource projects that have recognized and obtained social licence to operate has always and will always in BC on a case by case, community by community basis.

Macleans

The only media that so far has managed to get it half right is Jason Kirby writing in MacLean’s who notes that the trouble began on May 18 when Enbridge put up the Tim Hortons ad on their own website. (Did I mention that Enbridge is both incompetent and arrogant?) and it was immediately noticed by those individuals and activists that monitor the Enbridge website.

A morning shock with your morning coffee and Timbits

Social media across northwestern British Columbia, mostly Facebook, began spreading the news within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys. There were angry posts from individuals who had walked in Tim Hortons and saw the ads.

Post in the Kitimat Politics Facebook group.
Post in the Kitimat Politics Facebook group.

Why didn’t the media get the story?

So why wasn’t the story covered by the media at least ten days ago?

That’s because in this age of tight budgets, it’s considered easy and economical to try to all of northern BC cover from either Vancouver or Calgary; that means covering from far away both the coast where the pipelines and tankers may or may not operate to the east near the Rockies where the natural gas extraction is on going

If you look at map of northern BC, and the two federal ridings Skeena Bulkley Valley and Prince George–Peace River–Northern Rockies, the population is about 200,000 spread over an area about half the size of Europe. Both ridings in this region are supposedly vital to the future of the Canadian economy, but you wouldn’t know it from most of the media. (The Globe and Mail is an exception, with more ongoing coverage of northern BC than you will find in either The Vancouver Sun or The Province).

Elections Canada map showing just how big the two northern BC ridings are.  (Elections Canada)
Elections Canada map showing just how big the two northern BC ridings are. (Elections Canada)

As for CBC, there are just eight radio staff, two in Prince Rupert and six in Prince George to cover all the apparently vital issues across half the province. ( Almost all the staff work mostly for the Daybreak North morning show which dominates the regional rates but it looks like with the latest CBC cutbacks that at least one of those positions will be eliminated). CBC TV and Global cover the region from Vancouver.

At least the Vancouver based media make efforts to cover the north from time to time. The Alberta media, however, especially the Calgary Herald, is hopeless, and so biased against British Columbia and so dismissive of the issues here, that the coverage across Alberta is completely unreliable about 90 per cent of the time—it’s no wonder that the majority of Albertans have no understanding of British Columbia culture and issues.

Then there are the punditi, pontificating from their cubicles in Ottawa and Toronto without a clue, without doing the basic journalism of picking up the phone (or writing an e-mail) to actually find out what’s going on.

coyne1

coyne2

Andrew Coyne, for example, made these rather silly two tongue-in-cheek tweets Thursday night. While Coyne’s tweets do often exhibit a sense of humour, his excellent coverage of the decline of our democratic parliament has to be compared with his blind, unchecked ideological assumptions about the issues of the northwest, which are simplistic, cubicle bound and far off the mark. The same can be said for Jeffrey Simpson in his occasional writing about this region. Neither the view from the Hill, where you can see as far as the Queensway, nor from Bloor Street, where you can see part of the Don Valley, are vantage points to understand what is going in northern British Columbia.


Update: Rex Murphy, writing in the National Post,  has now joined the fray, no longer making a secret of his absolute disbelief in climate change and support for Enbridge. However, if you read his column, it is scathing in its contempt for the working men and women of British Columbia who want sustainable environmentally safe resource projects. It appears that to Murphy the only people in this country who actually work for a living in Canada are in Alberta and Newfoundland and no where else.   Kitimat has been an industrial town since it was founded in the 1950s, Kitimat rejoiced when former Mayor Joanne Monaghan succeeded in bringing a Timmys to Kitimat and the majority of Kitimat residents voted in the plebiscite against Enbridge.  But, of course, all those facts are irrelevant to Murphy and the other conservative pundits who never come within a thousand kilometres of northwestern BC, who believe we can’t think for ourselves and are easily misled by American environmentalists.  No wonder journalism is in a death spiral.


Error checks

So let’s look at the specific errors in the media coverage of the Tim Horton’s story.

globetimmys

Both Shawn McCarthy in the Globe and Mail and Kyle Bakyx on CBC.ca seem to accept without question that SumofUs, was the instigator of the petition. Like many issues in northwestern BC, the Lower Mainland or US based activist groups follow the lead of northwestern BC and jump on the bandwagon, not the other way around. Jason Kirby in MacLean’s says the boycott movement began a week ago. Here in Kitimat, it began within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys and was picked up on activist social media groups before the SumofUs petition site.

McCarthy repeats the conventional wisdom: “The Conservatives and oil industry supporters have been waging a public relations war with the environmental groups that oppose expansion of the oil sands and construction of new pipelines.”

When is the media ever going to learn that opposition to Enbridge is widespread across most of northern British Columbia, from First Nations to city and regional councils to a plurality of residents? When is the media going to drop the stock phrase “First Nations and environmentalists”? Does anyone remember the vote in Kitimat last April against the Northern Gateway project?

CBC.ca quotes Alan Middleton of York University “Enbridge, of course, is not just pipelines and oilsands; they are a whole range of products including heating people’s homes. Tims should have thought about that.” Again a mistake. I lived in Toronto for many years. A company called Consumers Gas supplied natural gas to homes until it was taken over by Enbridge, so Enbridge does heat the homes in Toronto. But what has that got to do with northwestern British Columbia? Why didn’t CBC.ca call the University of Northern British Columbia? Easier to call York (which by the way is where I got both my BA and MA)

McCarthy quotes Rempel as saying, “One has to wonder whether head office talked to their franchise owners in Alberta before making the decision. I imagine those calls are being made this afternoon – certainly there are a lot of people voicing their displeasure.”

The question that should have been asked whether or not Tim Hortons consulted their franchise owners in British Columbia before ordering them to play the ads. People here were “voicing their displeasure” from the moment the first Kitimatian walked into the local Timmys for an early morning coffee and had to stand in line while being told how wonderful Enbridge is.

Of course, if Albertans force Tim Hortons into reinstating the ads, that will only trigger a bigger boycott in British Columbia.  As Maclean’s asks, “what were they thinking?”

Jason Kenney, flying in, flying out

As for Jason Kenney, who is quoted by the CBC as tweeting:  “I’m proud to represent thousands of constituents who work for Enbridge & other CDN energy companies,” if Kenney aspires to be Prime Minister one day, he had better start thinking about representing more Canadians than just those employed by the energy industry—a mistake that his boss Stephen Harper keeps making.

Jason Kenney did visit Kitimat for a just a few hours in February 2014  for a tour of the Rio Tinto modernization project and an obligatory and brief meeting with the Haisla First Nation council. If Kenney had actually bothered to stick around a few more hours and talk to the community, everyone from the environmentalists to the industrial development advocates, he might not have been so quick on the trigger in the Twitter wars.

Not one of the major media who covered this story, not The Globe and Mail, not CBC.ca, not MacLean’s, no one else, once bothered to actually call or e-mail someone who lives along the Northern Gateway pipeline route in British Columbia, the area where the boycott movement actually began to ask about Enbridge’s track record in this region. The media still doesn’t get it. This morning’s stories are all about Alberta. As usual, my dear, the media doesn’t give a damn about northwestern British Columbia.

That is why the coverage of the Tim Hortons boycott is a double double failure of the Canadian media.

timmyskpoljune4




Where else the media is failing northwestern BC

Full disclosure. Since I took early retirement from CBC in 2010 and returned to Kitimat, I have worked as a freelancer for CBC radio and television, Global News, Canadian Press, The National Post, The Globe and Mail and other media.

However, largely due to budget cuts, freelance opportunities, not only for myself, but others across the region have dried up. The media seems to be concentrating more on the major urban areas where there is larger population base and at least more of the ever shrinking advertising dollar. I am now told more often than I was a couple of years ago that “we don’t have the budget.”

Now this isn’t just a freelancer who would like some more work (although it would be nice). If the media these days actually had environmental beats for reporters the boycott of Tim Hortons in northwest BC would have been flagged within a couple of days, not almost two and half weeks and later only when Alberta got hot under its oily collar.

So as well as the Tim Horton’s boycott here are two major ongoing stories from Kitimat that the media haven’t been covering.

100 day municipal strike

-Kitimat’s municipal workers, Unifor 2300, have been on strike since February 28. Three rounds of mediation have failed, the union has refused binding arbitration, the pool, gym and community meeting halls have been closed since February, the municipal parks and byways are now returning to the wilderness. Only essential services are being maintained (but residents still have to pay their property taxes by July 2, taxes that are skyrocketing due to increased assessments for home values based on LNG projects that haven’t started) By the time most people read this the strike will have been on for 100 days. There is no settlement in sight and both sides, despite a mediator ordered blackout, are fighting a press release war on social media. Can you imagine any other place that had a 100 day municipal workers strike with no coverage in the province’s main media outlets, whether newspaper or television? Local CBC radio has covered the strike, as has the local TV station CFTK.  (Update: District of Kitimat says in a news release that the mediator has now approved the DoK news releases.)

Of course, in the bigger picture the media concentrates on business reporting. There haven’t been labour reporters for a generation.

Kitimat air shed hearings

-The environmental hearings on the Rio Tinto Alcan proposal to increase sulphur dioxide emissions in the Kitimat Terrace air shed, after two weeks in Victoria, where there was no media coverage, are now continuing in Kitimat, where again there is little media coverage. CFTK is covering the hearings; otherwise the main coverage comes from the activist group DeSmog, hardly a credible or unbiased source. I made the decision not to cover the hearings either. I can’t afford any longer to sit around for two weeks, unpaid, no matter how vital the hearings are to the community.

So if most Canadians were surprised that there was a boycott of the unofficial national symbol, Tim Hortons, it’s because of that double double media fail and as the media continues to decline, as budgets are cut, as “commodity news” disappears, expect more surprises in the future. Oh by the way Kitimat is vital to the national economy but we can cover it from a cubicle in Toronto.

Final disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker. When I go to Timmy’s I prefer a large steeped tea and an apple fritter.

Another LNG shake up: Shell reported to be in talks to acquire BG Group

Shell logoNumerous media sources are saying that Royal Dutch Shell is in talks to acquire the BG Group.

Shell is developing the LNG Canada project in Kitimat,  while BG had been developing an LNG proposal for Prince Rupert.  BG announced last fall it was delaying further development of the Prince Rupert project due to uncertainty in the liquified natural gas market.

An initial report came from Bloomberg, which said:

Buying BG would be Shell’s largest acquisition since the $60.3-billion (U.S.) merger of its Dutch and U.K. parent companies in 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It would unite the U.K.’s first- and third-largest natural gas producers….BG posted a record $5-billion loss in the fourth quarter, mainly due to writing down the value of its Australian assets as commodity prices fell.

BBC News quotes the Wall Street Journal as matching the report.

A Shell spokesman told the BBC: “We’re not making any comment.”
No-one from BG Group was immediately available to confirm or deny the WSJ’s report.

Last fall, when BG put the Prince Rupert project on hold, with a financial investment decision postponed until 2019, the Financial Post, quoted BG executive chairman Andrew Gould as saying, “We’re not abandoning Prince Rupert, we’re pausing on Prince Rupert to see how the market evolves particularly in function of total supply that will come out of the U.S.”

At the time, analysts noted that unlike Shell, Chevron and Petronas, BG had no gas extraction assets in Canada. BG is a privatized spinoff of the once nationalized British Gas company in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long term outlook good for North American LNG, consultant predicts


A US-based engineering and consulting firm, Black & Veatch has issued an optimistic outlook for liquified natural gas exports from both Canada and the United States.

Black & VeatchLooking at the the number of LNG export licenses issued to projects “that are likely to proceed,” Black & Veatch  raised its forecast for LNG exports by 2020 from the U.S. and Canada to 10 to 14 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d).

The report mainly concerns the United States, where the race for LNG exports is as fierce as it is in Canada.

“Tens of billions of dollars in capital are targeted for the seven LNG export terminals currently granted licenses by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE),” said Deepa Poduval, Principal Consultant with Black & Veatch’s management consulting business. “Infrastructure construction, real estate transactions and other services associated with these projects are expected to spur significant levels of economic activity throughout the value chain.”

As far as Canada is concerned, Poduval said, “proposed projects continue to suffer from regulatory and environmental delays, high costs and fiscal uncertainty that have hindered development on all but a couple of frontrunners.”

The report was based on experts surveyed by the company. Respondents were asked to select their expectation of the volume of natural gas that will be exported from the United States and Canada as LNG by 2020.

Nearly 37 percent of respondents said they believed exports would total more than 6 Bcf/d by 2020. In 2013, less than 25 percent of respondents expected exports at this level. In 2014, 60 percent of respondents said they expected LNG exports to be less than 10 Bcf/d by 2020. Less than 7 percent of respondents put the figure at more than 10 Bcf/d.

Poduval  said that as less expensive U.S. gas becomes more viable, Asian buyers are increasingly pushing back on higher cost supplies from their suppliers in Asia, Australia and the Middle East, Poduval said.

This pushback is stalling some of the more expensive LNG projects in Canada, Australia and East Africa, with Asian buyers holding back on long-term purchase commitments from these projects in pursuit of more favorable price terms… One of the dangers for U.S. LNG exports continues to be that they could shrink the very price spread that makes them attractive.

Poduval said the first trains at Sabine Pass in Louisiana are expected to go online starting in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Poduval noted the announcement of  the 30-year $400 billion agreement for Russia to supply natural gas to China via a new pipeline was considered by some as the “Holy Grail” of international natural gas agreements following stalemated negotiations for more than 10 years between the two countries.

The deal could provide much-needed market diversity for Russia, which exports 80 percent of its natural gas to an increasingly unfriendly Europe that is pursuing other sources of supply. In addition, Russia would potentially supplant some LNG demand from China by supplying about 3.5 Bcf/d of natural gas under this agreement.

Her report also says that an Alaska LNG pipeline project that has been on and off for the past 30 years is now in a pre-FEED (Front End Engineering and Design) stage.

If it goes ahead, the project, which would be the largest in North America, with a capital cost estimate of $45 billion to $65 billion, will bring gas from the North Slope along an 800-mile pipeline to south-central Alaska, where it will be liquefied for shipping to Asian markets.

“But the marketplace continues to be subject to geopolitical events and regional economics,”  Poduval said.

RELATED REPORTS

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting Shell shelves Arrow LNG project in Queensland with North American projects “a priority.”

Royal Dutch Shell has finally ditched plans for a new $US20 billion-plus liquefied natural gas project in Queensland,making it the latest casualty of the oil price slump.

Global chief executive Ben van Beurden said the proposed greenfield Arrow LNG project with PetroChina was “off the table”, while other ventures would be slowed as priority was given instead to Shell’s North American LNG projects.

“We are prioiritising North America LNG options in that timeframe, LNG Canada and Elba,” he explained, referring to Shell’s LNG export projects in western Canada and the US state of Georgia.

Shell logoShell is also a partner in  the Woodside Petroleum-led Browse floating LNG project, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.   Woodside recently announced it will buy Apache’s stake in the Chevron-led Kitimat LNG project.  Shell says:

the timing for starting engineering and design had already been deferred by six months to mid-2015. While the Shell chief executive’s words place some uncertainty whether the oil major wants to proceed in that timeframe, the company has still listed Browse among final investment decision “choices” for the 2015-16 period.

There are new owners for the Douglas Channel LNG project, according to this news release.

The Douglas Channel project, which contemplates a floating LNG project at the old log sort half way between Kitimat harbour and the Chevron-led Kitimat LNG project at Bish Cove is a now partnership between EXMAR, “an independent Belgium-based company with 35 years’ experience in LNG shipping,” EDF Trading (“EDFT”) a subsidiary and wholesale market operator of Electricite de France S.A., an international energy company with over 39 million customers and AIJVLP, “a limited partnership between AltaGas Ltd. (“AltaGas”) and Idemitsu Kosan Co.,Ltd. (“Idemitsu”). Idemitsu is a Japan-based global leader in the supply of energy and petroleum. AltaGas is the parent company of Pacific Northern Gas which supplies consumers in Kitimat.

The news release says the  “Consortium has also executed long-term lease agreements with the Haisla Nation regarding land and water tenure, and with Pacific Northern Gas Ltd. (PNG) for long-term pipeline capacity to supply gas.”

 

 

Wet’suwet’en First Nation signing on to Coastal GasLink pipeline project, province says

The elected council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation  have signed an agreement with British Columbia for the proposed Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project,  a news release from the province says.

The news release says:

Wet'suwet'enThe Wet’suwet’en First Nation will receive approximately $2.8 million from the Province at three different stages in the CGL project: $464,000 upon signing the agreement, $1.16 million when pipeline construction begins, and $1.16 million when the pipeline is in service.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation will also receive a yet-to-be-determined share of $10 million a year in ongoing benefits per pipeline. The ongoing benefits will be available to First Nations along the natural gas pipeline routes. The B.C. government anticipates signing similar agreements with other First Nations in the near future.

Provincial benefit-sharing offers First Nations resources to partner in economic development, complements industry impact benefit agreements that provide jobs and business opportunities, and is a way for government and First Nations to work together to help grow the LNG industry.

John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation  says in the release,  “Too many First Nation communities have been left out of economic growth in B.C. for far too long. It’s exciting to be able to partner with First Nations like the Wet’suwet’en so they can share in the benefits of a new LNG export industry – stronger economies, good-paying jobs and collectively working to establish environmental legacies made possible by LNG development.”

The release quotes Chief Karen Ogen, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, as saying, “Pipeline benefits agreements are just one vehicle driving our participation in LNG development. While these agreements ensure First Nation communities share in the economic benefits of LNG, we are working collaboratively with the Province and other First Nations to ensure environmental priorities are addressed as well.”

The release also quotes Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development  as saying, “Our government continues to build strong partnerships with First Nations as LNG development gains momentum. Pipeline benefits agreements like this one pave the way for job creation and economic growth as we work together to further the potential of our natural gas sector.”

The news release says the Wet’suwet’en First Nation is among the 15 First Nations located along the Chevron/Apache Pacific Trail Pipeline route that have already signed agreements that will provide $32 million in benefits to First Nations once construction has started.

British Columbia issued an environmental assessment certificate for the proposed CGL project this fall. In addition to meeting conditions set out in the environmental assessment certificate, the project will now require various federal, provincial and local government permits to proceed.

When the certificate was approved in October, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents hereditary leadership issued a release saying:

B.C. ‘s approval of Coastal GasLink Pipeline project does not mean the project is a go.   The Wet’suwet’en still have the right to determine the use of the land and our future.

Not enough information has been made available through the regulatory process to determine environmental impacts nor infringements to Wet’suwet’en rights title and interest.

Current benefits offered by the province and pipeline companies do not take into account the impacts and infringements to our lands, culture and community well-being, for today and into the future.

 

One group, the Unist’ot’en Camp,  representing one house of the Wet’suwet’en continues to camp out in the bush, and the group says they are determined to block any pipeline construction within their traditional territory.

In its news release, BC says,  benefits agreements are separate and different than industry impact benefit agreements. Pipeline benefits agreements are made between the Province and First Nations, exclusive of proponents. Impact benefit agreements are made between proponents and First Nations, exclusive of the Province.

 

Phil Germuth, Enbridge’s “What the….” moment and what it means for British Columbia

Phil Germuth
Councillor Phil Germuth questions Northern Gateway officials about their plans for leak detection, Feb. 17, 2014 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Enbridge Northern Gateway officials are loath (to put it mildly) to speak to the media but sometimes they let things slip. Earlier this summer, at a social event, I heard an Enbridge official (probably inadvertently) reveal that when the company’s engineers came before District of Kitimat Council earlier this year they were surprised and somewhat unprepared to fully answer the detailed technical questions from Councillor Phil Germuth on pipeline leak detection.

In January, 2015, Phil Germuth will take the centre chair as mayor at the Kitimat Council Chambers.

The results of the municipal election in Kitimat, and elsewhere across BC show one clear message; voters do want industrial development in their communities, but not at any price. Communities are no longer prepared to be drive by casualties for giant corporations on their road to shareholder value.

The federal Conservatives and the BC provincial Liberals have, up until now, successfully used the “all or nothing thinking” argument. That argument is: You either accept everything a project proponent wants, whether in the mining or energy sectors,  or you are against all development. Psychologists will tell you that “all or nothing thinking” only leads to personal defeat and depression. In politics, especially in an age of attack ads and polarization, the all or nothing thinking strategy often works. Saturday’s results, however, show that at least at the municipal level,  the all or nothing argument is a political loser. Where “all politics is local” the majority of people are aware of the details of the issues and reject black and white thinking.

Ray Philpenko
Northern Gateway’s Ray Philpenko gives a presentation on pipeline leak detection to Kitimat Council, Feb. 17. 2014. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The Enbridge official went on to say that for their company observers, Germuth’s questions were a “what the…..” moment.  As in “what the …..” is this small town councillor doing challenging our expertise?

But then Enbridge (and the other pipeline companies) have always tended to under estimate the intelligence of people who live along the route of proposed projects whether in British Columbia or elsewhere in North America, preferring to either ignore or demonize opponents and to lump skeptics into the opponent camp. The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel also lost credibility when it accepted most of Northern Gateway’s arguments at face value while saying “what the ……” do these amateurs living along the pipeline route know?

Pro Development

“I am pro-development,” Germuth proclaimed to reporters in Kitimat on Saturday night after his landslide victory in his campaign for mayor.

On the issue of leak detection, over a period of two years, Germuth did his homework, checked his facts and looked for the best technology on leak detection for pipelines. That’s a crucial issue here where pipelines cross hundreds of kilometres of wilderness and there just aren’t the people around to notice something is amiss (as the people of Marshall, Michigan wondered at the time of the Line 6B breach back in 2010). Enbridge should have been prepared; Germuth first raised public questions about leak detection at a public forum in August 2012. In February 2014, after another eighteen months of research, he was ready to cross-examine, as much as possible under council rules of procedure. Enbridge fumbled the answers.

So that’s the kind of politician that will be mayor of Kitimat for the next four years, technically astute, pro-development but skeptical of corporate promises and determined to protect the environment.

Across the province, despite obstacles to opposition set up by the federal and provincial governments, proponents are now in for a tougher time (something that some companies will actually welcome since it raises the standards for development).

We see similar results in key votes in British Columbia. In Vancouver, Gregor Roberston, despite some problems with policies in some neighborhoods, won re-election on his green and anti-tankers platform. In Burnaby, Derek Corrigan handily won re-election and has already repeated his determination to stop the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through his town. In Prince Rupert, Lee Brain defeated incumbent Jack Musselman. Brain, who has on the ground experience working at an oil refinery in India, supports LNG development but has also been vocal in his opposition to Northern Gateway.

The new mayor in Terrace Carol Leclerc is an unknown factor, a former candidate for the BC Liberal party, who campaigned mainly on local issues. In the Terrace debate she refused to be pinned down on whether or not she supported Northern Gateway, saying,  “Do I see Enbridge going ahead? Not a hope,” but later adding, “I’d go with a pipeline before I’d go with a rail car.”

 

election signs
Kitimat election signs. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Plebiscite confirmed

Kitimat’s mayor and council elections also confirm that Northern Gateway plebiscite vote last April. Kitimat wants industrial development but not at the price of the community and the environment. The unofficial pro-development slate lost. A last minute attempt to smear Germuth on social media was quickly shot down by people from all sides of the Kitimat debate. Smears don’t usually work in small towns where everyone knows everyone.

Larry Walker, an environmentalist with a track record in municipal politics as an alderman in Spruce Grove, Alberta, won a seat. Together with Rob Goffinet and Germuth, that is three solid votes for the environment. The other new councillor is Claire Rattee who will be one to watch. Will the rookie be the swing vote as Corinne Scott was?

Mario Feldhoff who came to third to Goffinet in the overall vote (Edwin Empinado was second) is a solid councillor with a strong reputation for doing his homework and attention to detail and the unofficial leader of the side more inclined to support development. Feldhoff got votes from all sides in the community.

During the debates, Feldhoff repeated his position that he supports David Black’s Kitimat Clean refinery. But as an accountant, Feldhoff will have to realize that Black’s plan, which many commentators say was economically doubtful with oil at $110 a barrel, is impractical with oil at $78 a barrel for Brent Crude and expected to fall farther. Any idea of a refinery bringing jobs to Kitimat will have to be put on hold for now.

LNG projects are also dependent on the volatility and uncertainty in the marketplace. The companies involved keep postponing the all important Final Investment Decisions.

There are also Kitimat specific issues to deal with. What happens to the airshed, now and in the future? Access to the ocean remains a big issue. RTA’s gift of land on Minette Bay is a step in the right direction, but while estuary land is great for camping, canoeing and nature lovers, it is not a beach. There is still the need for a well-managed marina and boat launch that will be open and available to everyone in the valley.

Germuth will have to unite a sometimes contentious council to ensure Kitimat’s future prosperity without giving up the skepticism necessary when corporations sit on a table facing council on a Monday night, trying to sell their latest projects. That all means that Germuth has his job cut out for him over the next four years.

LNG Canada unveils community commitments

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 ceremony
Guests at the unveiling of LNG Canada’s commitment to the Kitimat community watch a video prior to the unveiling ceremony. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

 

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.

LNG Canada unveiling
Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan,
Susannah Pierce, Director, External Affairs, LNG Canada and Fire Chief Trent Bossence after the ceremony unveiling the community commitment. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Controlling land and pipelines key to Haisla LNG future NEB filing says

The Haisla Nation’s plan for entering the LNG business is based on the idea that “it is anticipated that the Haisla Projects will be developed using a business model based on controlling two components of the value chain: land and pipeline capacity” according to its application to the National Energy Board for a natural gas export licence.

Cedar LNG Development Ltd., owned by the Haisla Nation, filed three requests for export licences with the NEB on August 28, under the names Cedar 1 LNG, Cedar 2 LNG and Cedar 3 LNG.  Another name used in the application is the “Haisla Projects.”

The 25-year export licence request is standard in the LNG business; it allows export of natural gas in excess of projected North American requirements. Thus like the NEB hearings for the Kitimat LNG and LNG Canada projects it is not what is called a “facility” licence which is what Enbridge Northern Gateway requested.

The project anticipates six “jetties” that would load LNG into either barges or ships at three points along Douglas Channel, one where the present and financially troubled BC LNG/Douglas Channel Partners project would be.

A second would be beside the BC LNG project, which may refer to the Triton project proposed by  Pacific Northern Gas parent company Altagas.

Both are on land now owned by the Haisla Nation in “fee simple” land ownership under Canadian law.

Map of Haisla LNG sites
Map from the Haisla application to the NEB showing that the Haisla Projects Region will allow for a total of six LNG jetty sites. One of these, on DL99, is currently ear-marked to be used for a project involving a consortium (BCLNG) One will be situated on the DL309 Haisla fee simple land and the other four jetties are to be  situated on the Haisla leased lands that surround the Chevron-led LNG development at Bish Cove. The map also shows that the Haisla own land at Minette Bay.

The other four would be on land surrounding the current Chevron-led Kitimat LNG project along Douglas Channel and in the mountains overlooking Bish Cove which the Haisla have leased.

Ellis Ross
Haisla Nation Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross at Bish Cove, June 19, 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The move last week and the revelation of the Haisla’s plans for the land are a cumulation of Haisla Nation Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross’s idea of restoring more of the First Nation’s traditional territory by buying or leasing the land using standard Canadian land law and at the same time getting around some of the more restrictive provisions of the Indian Act that apply to reserve land.

Just how the Haisla will go into the pipeline business is not as clear as the First Nation’s acquisition of the land. The application says:

The pipeline capacity required to transport sourced LNG to the Haisla Projects will include a mix of new and existing pipeline and infrastructure. The Haisla are in the advanced stages of negotiating and drafting definitive agreements with the major gas producers and pipeline transmission companies located in the vicinity with respect to securing pipeline capacity. It is expected that the Haisla Projects will rely on the Haisla’s business partners or customers to source gas from their own reserves and the market.

With the Haisla basing their business strategy on land and pipelines, the First Nation’s strategy is looking for  flexibility in what is a volatile and uncertain market for LNG.

The application says the Haisla “are currently in advanced stage discussions and negotiations with a number of investors, gas producers, LNG purchasers, pipeline transmission companies, technology providers and shippers. As such, the particular business models have yet to be finalized. However, it is anticipated that between the various Haisla Projects, multiple export arrangements may be utilized.”

As part of the idea of flexibility, the actual LNG infrastructure will be constructed and operated with potential partners. That is why there are three separate applications so that each “application will represent a separate project with independent commercial dealings with investors, gas producers, LNG purchasers, pipeline transmission companies, technology providers and shippers.”

The Haisla say that they are “working with a number of entities to develop business structures and partnerships to provide transaction flexibility, adequate financing, modern technology, local knowledge, and marketing expertise specific to Asian targets. The separate projects will accommodate expected production and demand and will also allow for a number of midlevel organizations to be involved with the various projects as well as traditional major gas producers and LNG purchasers.”

The Haisla are working with the Norwegian Golar LNG which had been involved in the stalled BC LNG project, using a Golar LNG’s vessels and technology, using a new design that is now being built in Singapore by Keppel Shipyard.

Golar LNG uses PRICO LNG  process technology developed by Black & Veatch,  (Wikipedia entry) “which is reliable, flexible and offers simplified operation and reduced equipment count.”

The filing says the project will “be developed using either barge-based or converted Moss-style FLNG vessels. The terminals will consist of vessel-based liquefaction and processing facilities, vessel-based storage tanks, and facilities to support ship berthing and cargo loading”

The jetties to be used for the Haisla Projects may be either individual FLNG vessels or “double stacked”, meaning that the FLNG vessels are moored side-by-side at a single jetty. The Haisla have conducted various jetty design work and site /evaluation studies with Moffat and Nichol.

The Haisla Projects anticipate that the construction will be in 2017 to 2020, “subject to receiving all necessary permits and approvals” and is expected to continue for a term of up to twenty five years. There is one warning, “The timelines of the Haisla Projects will also depend on the contracts and relationships between the Applicant and its partners.”

The filing goes on to say:

Haisla Nation Council and its Economic Development Committee are committed to furthering economic development for the Haisla. The Haisla’s business philosophy is to advance commercially successful initiatives and to promote environmentally responsible and sustainable development, while minimizing impacts on land and water resources, partnering with First Nations and non-First Nations persons, working with joint venture business partners, and promoting and facilitating long-term development opportunities.

The Haisla Applications will allow the Haisla to be directly involved as participants in Canada’s LNG industry, rather than having only royalty or indirect interests. The Kitimat LNG and LNG Canada projects, and the associated Pacific Trails Pipeline and Coastal Gas Link Pipeline, have increased economic opportunities in the region and the Haisla are very supportive of these projects locating within the traditional territory of the Haisla. The support of the Haisla for these two projects reflects a critical evolution of the Haisla’s economic and social objectives.

You can see the filing on the NEB projects page at http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/pplctnsbfrthnb/lngxprtlcncpplctns/lngxprtlcncpplctns-eng.html

Map from the Haisla Nation application to the NEB showing the proposed LNG developments in relation  to Douglas Channel.
Map from the Haisla Nation application to the NEB showing the proposed LNG developments in relation to Douglas Channel.
Bitumen map
Map from the Enbridge filing with the Joint Review Panel showing the same area with the proposed Northern Gateway bitumen terminal.

 

 

Kitimat Modernization costs jump to $4.8 billion; dock deal dependent on LNG Canada FID

The cost of the Kitimat Modernization Project has jumped to $4.8 billion US, Sam Walsh CEO of  Rio Tinto, the parent company of Rio Tinto Alcan said Thursday as the company released its results for the first six months of 2014.

Rio Tinto Alcan logoIn its report. Rio Tinto said.

In February 2014, the Group announced that a review of major capital projects had identified a project  overrun in relation to the Kitimat Modernisation Project. The overrun evaluation is now complete and has identified the requirement for additional capital of $1.5 billion to complete the project. This was approved by the Board in August 2014, taking the total approved capital cost of the project to $4.8 billion. First production from the Kitimat Modernisation Project is expected during the first half of 2015.

The weakening Canadian dollar appears to have improved the overall bottom line for the RT aluminum division, with underlying earnings of $373 million 74 per cent higher than in the first half of 2013:

The main drivers were growing momentum from the cost reduction initiatives, a weaker Australian and Canadian dollar and a further rise in market and product premiums, with 61 per cent of the Group’s primary metal sales sold as value added product generating a superior price. This was achieved despite a nine per cent decline in LME prices over the period which lowered earnings by $265 million.

LNG deal

The report also contains details of the deal between Rio Tinto Alcan and LNG Canada for the old Eurocan dock, indicating that LNG Canada will not likely commit to a deal until the Final Investment Decision is made:

On 12 February 2014, Rio Tinto entered into an option agreement with LNG Canada, a joint venture comprising Shell Canada Energy, Phoenix Energy Holdings Limited (an affiliate of Petro-China Investment (Hong Kong) Limited), Kogas Canada LNG Ltd. (an affiliate of Korea Gas Corporation) and Diamond LNG Canada Ltd. (an affiliate of Mitsubishi Corporation) to acquire or lease a wharf and associated land at its port facility at Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada. LNG Canada is proposing to construct and operate a natural gas liquefaction plant and marine terminal export facility at Kitimat. The agreement provides LNG Canada with a staged series options payable against project milestones. The financial arrangements are commercially confidential.

Read the full Rio Tinto report:
Rio Tinto first half 2014 report  (PDF)

“Good bits”

According to The Australian other aluminum operations aren’t  doing so well, and the newspaper says that RT is starving under performing units in favour of the “good bits.”

The qualifier is that there is still much work to do on the aluminium front, Rio having splurged $US38bn on the acquiring Alcan in 2007.

Aluminium’s contribution to underlying earnings increased from the $US214m in the previous corresponding period to $US373m. But returns remain miserable, and that is from the good bits.

The underlying loss was $US182m, an increase from the $US158m loss previously. At least the bad bits of aluminium are being starved of capital expenditure, with Walsh putting them on the private equity-type approach to running a business.

But is has to be wondered how much longer the pain will be endured. And there is increasing chatter that closures are on the cards, with the long-term future of Rio’s Australian smelters the real concern.

Making money

Overall Rio Tinto is making money with earnings up 21 per cent, according to the report:

Sam Walsh said “Our outstanding half year performance reflects the quality of our world-class assets, our programme of operational excellence and our ability to drive performance during a period of weaker prices. These results show that our current strategic and management focus is making a meaningful contribution to cash flow generation.

“During the first half we have increased underlying earnings by 21 per cent to $5.1 billion and enhanced operating cash flow by eight per cent. We delivered what we said we would, exceeding our $3 billion operating cash cost reduction target six months ahead of schedule while producing record volumes and driving productivity improvements across all our businesses.

“We have decreased net debt by $6.0 billion compared with this time last year, through our stronger operating cash flows, sharply reduced capital spend and proceeds from divestments. We are confident Rio Tinto’s low cost, diversified portfolio will continue to generate strong and sustainable cash flows over the coming years. This solid foundation for growth will result in materially increased cash returns to shareholders, underscoring our commitment to deliver greater value.”

Net income increased 156 per cent to $4.4-billion while revenues were $24.3-billion. Rio Tinto said it reduced operating costs by $3.2-billion, exceeding its $3-billion target six months ahead of schedule.

New boss?

Despite the good news, the financial press is already speculating that Sam Walsh who is 64, may not last long as boss of Rio Tinto. His contract expires at the end of 2015. The Financial Times is quoting analysts as saying despite Walsh’s desire to stay on, the company is already looking for a successor.

According to the FT these include

Andrew Harding, head of iron ore, holds the job that was previously Mr Walsh’s, running Rio’s most important division, and for that reason is probably a front runner. Aged 47, he is a 21-year Rio veteran and previously ran its copper business. Chris Lynch, finance director since 2013, is the only executive on Rio’s board other than Mr Walsh and is another industry veteran, but at 60 is only a few years younger than Mr Walsh.

Alan Davies, head of diamonds and minerals, and Harry Kenyon-Slaney, head of energy, also have important operational experience across commodities and lengthy Rio careers but like Mr Harding are relatively new to their current roles. The heads of the other mining businesses are also relatively new to Rio. Jean-Sébastien Jacques, head of copper, joined Rio in 2011 from Tata Steel while Alfredo Barrios came to the group from BP only in June and is running aluminium.

Chevron sticks with Kitimat but no final investment decision until customers sign

Chevron is sticking with the Kitimat LNG project but won’t make a Final Investment Decision until it has signed sales and purchase agreements for between 60 and 70 per cent of the natural gas, Chevron’s vice-chairman and executive vice-president of upstream operations, George Kirkland told investment analysts in a conference call Friday.

Kirkland said that decision will happen “irrespective of what happens with Apache,” which has decided to completely exit the project.

Chevron Logo“We need to get partnership resolved and Apache has to move through the issues s and we need to get a new partner in. That needs to happen. That’s quite obvious,” Kirkland added.

Other factors, Kirkland told the call, are final test results from the Liard and Horn River natural gas play in northeast British Columbia and finalization of the “pipeline corridor.”

Kitimat-Liard-Horn package

Although the residents of Kitimat are focused on the LNG terminal at Bish Cove, remarks both by Kirkland today and by Apache CEO Steve Farris Thursday, it appears that energy industry views Kitimat LNG as part of a “package” (a term used by both) that includes the Liard and Horn River gas fields and the connecting Pacific Trails Pipeline.

Kirkland also said Chevron has no interest in any further investment beyond the 50 per cent it already holds. “We have 50 per cent of the interest in Kitimat-Liard-Horn River assets. That’s right in the middle of the sweet spot where we like to be where we’re committing people to run the projects and operations. We don’t want more than 50 per cent but we do have available some small amount of working interest that we would provide to a LNG buyer.

“There’s always been a plan for us and Apache to have some working interest that could be sold down to buyers, so they would be part of the development and they would be in the value chain. That has not changed.”

Kitimat LNG’s rival project LNG Canada, run by Shell, has buyer partners in KoGas, Mitsubishi and PetroChina.

Bish Cove
Kitimat LNG under construction at Bish Cove, September 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Final Investment Decision

One analyst asked Kirkland if the Final Investment Decision would come at the end of 2014, as previously announced, or in 2015. Instead, Kirkland said, “We will reach FID shortly after having 60 to 70 per cent gas committed to an SPA- a sales and purchase agreement. That is the critical decision maker and for both timing and the investment decision, irrespective of what happens with Apache. We’re driven, once again, by having a sales contract or sales contracts that gives us 60 to 70 per cent of the gas committed at an economic price.”

On the Kitimat terminal, Kirkland said, “We’ve got work going on, FEED [Front End Engineering and Design] work on the plant itself.

“We have to understand cost and schedule on that plant… We’re not spending huge money but it is a lot of money in terms of  hundreds  of millions of dollars.  Now that is critical for us to have all that so we can deal knowledgeably with buyers. We have to understand cost. We have to understand resource,  so we can deal with the particulars of pricing.

“We are not going to do a project unless it’s economic. We’ve always told you we’re not going to build that project unless we have 60 per cent of the gas sold. If you understand the project it makes sense.”

“I am not concerned if Apache leaves,” Kirkland said. “I think we could easily step in and be the operator of the upstream. I am confident there. Apache has been very good to work with in the early stages of the assessment of Liard.

“I think we’re in good shape but we need clarity, we need to get closure on the partnership and as I mentioned we have to do the work where we deal with buyers and understand costs and understand economics. We are very value driven, we are not going to go FID until we understand the economics of that sale.”

Confident on assets

Kirkland said that the company is confident about the assets in the Liard and Horn River regions but is waiting for final results from some test wells in the Liard.
“We can check off our confidence level on the Horn River. Resources are already high. We’ve already done that appraisal. So the focus on the resource sector is on the Liard,  with some appraisal there and getting some production work. The wells where we need to get some production data  will be complete by the end of the year. So that’s a really important step forward.”

Kirkland also hinted at the potential problems with the Pacific Trails Pipeline, where there is still a dispute with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. “We’re going to focus on the pipeline and the end of the pipeline corridor. That’s important and we’re putting some money into that to finalize the pipeline routing, get all our clearances and then we’ve got work going on.”

Chevron slide
Slide from the Chevron second quarter results presentation showing other LNG projects (Chevron)

Overall Kirkland was enthusiastic about other liquified natural gas projects in Australia and elsewhere in the world. Chevron Corporation reported earnings of $5.7 billion for the second quarter 2014, compared with $5.4 billion in the 2013 second quarter. Sales and other operating revenues in the second quarter 2014 were $56 billion, compared to $55 billion in the year-ago period.

Company CEO John Watson said a news release, “In Australia, our Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects continue to reach important interim milestones. Gorgon remains on track for expected start-up in mid-2015. We are also advancing the development of our liquids-rich, unconventional properties in the United States, Canada and Argentina.”

Dump out of Kitimat, New York hedge fund tells Apache

A New York hedge fund, also known as an aggressive activist investor, which just bought a huge stake in Apache, is urging the company to get out of the Kitimat LNG project.

Numerous media reports say that Jana Partners recently bought a one billion dollar stake in the Houston and Calgary based oil and natural gas producer. Jana Logo

Bloomberg reports that Jana is a $10 billion hedge-fund firm run by Barry Rosenstein “known for pushing corporate managements to make changes”

According to both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Jana wants Apache to get out of LNG projects in both Canada and Australia and concentrate on the United States. Bloomberg says

Jana said it has “engaged in discussions with management” and urged Apache to sell its international businesses to focus on U.S. shale opportunities, exit its investment in liquefied natural gas, and be more forthcoming about how much oil and gas lie beneath its holdings in West Texas’s Permian basin, among other demands.

The Wall Street Journal says Jana believes that Apache should free up cash flow:

by exiting two major projects in Canada and Australia that aim to export natural gas, which will take years and billions of dollars to fully develop. If the company doesn’t take further steps to increase its value,

“Investors are unimpressed by [Apache]’s global diversification and have voted with their feet,” Jana wrote in a letter to investors on Monday that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Investors apparently consider the Kitimat project a drain on Apache’s capital, so far costing $2 billion in 2014. Apache CorporationThe hedge fund said the company had poor performance compared with rivals, several of which are pure-play companies that drill exclusively in U.S. shale formations such as the Permian Basin. Jana also wants Apache to consider selling itself.

According to the Wall Street Journal,  Apache raised $10 billion from selling assets around the world. In both February and May Apache said it is looking for a buyer for some of its stake in Kitimat LNG.

In Australia,Bloomberg says Apache is in early discussions with potential buyers for its stake in the $27-billion Wheatstone LNG project in Western Australia, which like Kitimat LNG it operates in partnership with Chevron. First LNG deliveries from Wheatstone are expected in 2016.

Bloomberg quotes a Jana newsletter as saying that selling Wheatstone and its stake in Kitimat would free $3 billion to $4 billion cash to fund share buybacks and reduce future spending risks.

A Calgary-based spokesman for Apache told the Financial Post said joint marketing efforts for LNG by the company and Chevron on the project are progressing, but did not offer detail. It is well known that Kitimat LNG has had a problem finding customers for the project, due to the increasing volatility of the LNG marketplace.

The Shell-led LNG Canada project has customers in the partners, KoGas, Mitsubishi and PetroChina but is also under pressure due to growing costs.

Barron’s quoting a Deutschebank analyst says Apache stockholders will likely welcome Jana’s demands.

Apache management has been active over the past 12+ months managing the portfolio. Since the February 2014 analyst meeting where the baseline expectation was that the LNG business would be retained (selling down the 50% interest in Kitimat has been a consistent goal), there has been a change in Apache’s messaging on the topic. Recent investor presentations and press articles have suggested all or part of Wheatstone could be monetized (we remove LNG capex from our EV/DACF target multiple valuation as a result). From this perspective, Jana’s proposal is likely to reach more sympathetic ears at Apache (today relative to 6 months ago), in our view. The good news for current shareholders is that the substance of the activist proposal has likely already been substantially evaluated by management and a process to this end could already be underway, if not nearing completion.

According to the Hedge Fund Letters, Jana is a very aggressive investment company

Jana Partners’ core investment strategy is primarily based upon a value-oriented (interestingly towards both value and growth stocks) and event-driven investment methodology with the ever-present tagline being “ignore the crowd”. Mr. Rosenstein…is often an activist investor, using Jana Partner’s capital (sometimes combined with others’, most famously with Carl Icahn) infusion into a company to promote change against management directives that he perceives as detrimental to shareholders.

LINKS

Wall Street Journal
Jana Partners Wants Changes at Apache: Activist Investor Wants Oil Producer to Exit Some Projects to Free Up Cash Flow

Barron’s
July 22, 2014, 10:28 A.M. ET
Apache: Not a ‘Hard Conversation’ With Jana, Deutsche Bank Says

Calgary Herald
Hedge fund Jana invests $1 billion in Apache Corp. Bloomberg

Financial Post
Apache faces breakup in Jana’s US$1-billion activist stake

Bidness Etc
Jana Partners call for Change’s in Apache’s Strategy