Numerous 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.
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, theFinancial 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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
The 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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 theWall 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. The 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.
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.
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.
1. Why was the study suddenly released after the province said it was “privileged?”
2. Did the apparently rushed release mean that the study, as far as the public is concerned, is incomplete?
3. While most people in Kitimat believed that the study would be a wide ranging look at all parameters of industrial development in the valley, it was limited to just two factors, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
4. It appears that everyone involved were consulted prior to the release with one key execption, the District of Kitimat. Why?
5. The study appears to have changed in its criterion from the time of the request for proposal and the final release one issue—an oil export terminal, which went from “crude” in the request for proposal to refined in the final report.
While the study is spun has a showing that industrial development in the Kitimat Valley can proceed as long as the environment is properly managed, the gaps and the spin will likely bring doubt to the results. That means that a wider ranging and truly independent study of the air shed is needed so that both residents and industry can then make the proper decisions.
In October 2013, the Ministry of the Environment issues a “request for proposal” to “study potential cumulative effects to environment and human health from existing and proposed industrial facilities in the Kitimat airshed.” to be filed by March 31, 2014.
The Province will fund a $650,000 scientific study to help inform regulatory and policy development for future industrial activity in the Kitimat area. The goal is to ensure the potential impacts from industrial air emissions are clearly understood prior to new projects being approved and in operation.
The Kitimat Airshed Impact Assessment Project will look at the cumulative effects of existing and proposed industrial air emissions in the airshed. These include emissions from: an existing aluminium smelter, three proposed LNG terminals, a proposed oil refinery, a crude-oil export facility, and gas-turbine-powered electrical generation facilities. The study will focus on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from these facilities.
The study will assess the impact of emissions through a number of scenarios, including their potential effects on water and soil, as well as on vegetation and human health from direct exposure.
With that news release, it appears that many people assumed that “cumulative effects of existing and proposed industrial air emissions in the air shed,” would include all possible scenarios and contaminants.
The report, when it was released on Friday, covered just the “focus” sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide and no other factors in air quality.
Crude or refined oil export?
As Northwest Coast Energy News noted that the report, as released, doesn’t include any references to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, even though Northern Gateway is a source of “proposed industrial air emissions in the air shed.” The request for proposal also mentions “a crude-oil export facility” but the report as issued concerns a marine terminal for Black’s refinery
The products will be exported via a marine terminal on the Douglas Channel. Projected volumes include 320,000 barrels per day of diesel fuel, 110,000 barrels per day of gasoline and 60,000 barrels per day of jet fuel.
The map in the main report clearly shows that the study concerned the “Kitimat Clean Refinery Port” not a crude oil export facility—in other words likely Enbridge Northern Gateway.
On October 21, 2013, District of Kitimat Council endorsed a motion by former Councillor Corinne Scott:
“The BC Government has recently announced a budget of $650,000 to study the cumulative effects on the air quality due to the proposed industrial development in the District of Kitimat. It would be beneficial to have a representative from the District of Kitimat as an active participant on the committee to provide input and feedback as the study progresses.”
At the time Chief Adminstrative Officer Ron Poole told council that the minister’s office had called and promised to “involve the District.”
At that meeting, Councillor Mary Murphy reported that member were “vocal” at the Union of BC Municpalities that it was essential that Kitimat be involved. Councillors suggested that the study be wide ranging and include emissions already in the area and residual emissions left over from the closed Eurocan and Methaex operations.
The provincial final air shed report makes no mention at all of the District of Kitimat, Eurocan or Methanex.
In April, 2014, after the March 31, reporting deadine, the District and Council had heard nothing from the province. So in April, District Council passed a motion asking for a report on the status of the study.
In June, the province refused to release the report to lawyers involved in a suit against the Environmental Assessment Board which is challenging Rio Tinto Alcans’ permit to increase sulphur dixoide emission in the valley. According to the Globe and Mail, Dennis Doyle, a lawyer with the Ministry of the Attorney General, in the RTA suit, wrote to the Environmental Law Centre in Victoria
In a follow-up letter dated June 12, Mr. Doyle said, “On the matter of the Kitimat Airshed Study I am instructed that this report was prepared to guide development of government policy on industrial development in the Kitimat area and to assist the executive council in its ongoing deliberations. It is not a report that was prepared for the Respondent and played no part of the decision-making process for the permit amendment which is now under appeal.”
The EAB told the province to respond to that question by July 18. Instead there was a hastily called news conference and the report was released. However, a close look at the report shows that it was likely rushed to meet the EAB deadine and was incomplete—rather surprising for a report that was supposed to be complete by March 31.
What evidence is there that the report was rushed out by the Ministry of the Environment? The most compelling indication is that instead of a public-friendly Summary Report with an executive summary and clear conclusions, there was nothing more than a short Power Point presentation.
Most people in Kitimat who follow the energy debate are familiar with the approach of combining a readable summary with technical data. It is most evident in the report of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review, which issued a relative short summary, Connections along with the long technical report, Considerations.
Let’s take as a prime example, the original report on the Kitimat airshed commissioned by Rio Tinto Alcan. In that case, ESSA Technologies Ltd of Vancouver, the company hired by the RTA Kitimat Modernization Project to study the effects of increased sulphur dioxide emissions in the Kitimat Valley, issued three documents, an easy to understand 37-page summary report, a much longer 456 page Technical Assessment Report and a third 332 page volume of appendices, technical data and tables.
It was the same company, ESSA Technologies, that was retained by the province to do the much larger study of the airshed. However, the only public-friendly information was the 16 page highly simplified Power Point presentation.
The ESSA summary report for RTA shows in plain language, the reasons for its conclusions that the increased sulphur dioxide from KMP on human health “is characterized as moderate, an acceptable impact, but in need of closer scrutiny with moderate monitoring.” That report also outlines the limitations and uncertainties of the study.
There was no similar plain language summary released for the overall provincial air shed study, even though it was produced by the same company and came to similar conclusions. To find any limitations or uncertainties in the provincial air shed study you have to do a computer search for those key words.
So it is apparent that intended audience for the report is not really those who live in Kitimat, where over the past five years there is wide knowledge that a summary release along with a technical report is considered a standard procedure.
Kitimat not consulted
At the Friday news conference, reporters asked Environment Minister Mary Polak several times about the delay in releasing the report, and then why it was suddenly released.
In answer to the initial question, Polak said, “We had always intended to release it.” She refused to comment on the claim of cabinet privilege, saying that was the responsibility of government lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General. She said that the government had received the March 31 report “by the end of April and “it went through quite a rigorous and thorough review by different agencies… we are satisfied now that the findings have been given the kind of rigorous overview and we’re pleased with what has resulted from that.”
Polak said the Haisla Nation were consulted before the commissioning of the report.
Asked again about who the BC government consulted during the review period, she replied, “There were a number of other groups involved in technical review, so not just Ministry of Environment, you’ll be aware of Northern Health authority, but Ministry of Natural Gas Development, Health Canada, Environment Canada and also specialist reviewers from the Province of Quebec, the University of Helsinki, UBC, also private consultants. Then we spent some time going over and having a technical review with Gitga’at and Coastal Coastal First Nations. So it was a matter of ensuring that we had done the very best review of the work before the occasion on which we released it.”
Which leaves one big question, why was the Province of Quebec and the University of Helsinki consulted and Kitimat, despite requests, was not?
Not in the report, not my department
The provincial government called for a report on the “cumulative effects of existing and proposed industrial air emissions” and noted it would focus “ focus on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from these facilities.” It is clear that the report did not go beyond the narrow focus on those two substances.
At the Vancouver news conference, a reporter asked Polak why green house gases were not included.
She replied, “That’s not what this study was intended to look at. This department deals with pollutants and pollution and protecting our environment from it, whereas GHG [green house gas] emissions are dealt with in our department around climate change and climate action. These particular substances have an immediate impact on human health and vegetative health and the receiving environment generally unlike GHGs which are a more global impacted and of course have an impact on climate change. This study only looked at those pollutants sulphur doixide and nitrogen dioxide
Then a second reporter asked here about particulate matter, to which Polak replied, “Coming from the Fraser Valley I am very aware of the impact of particulate matter. Any industrial development that we permit in British Columbia or receives an environmental assessment certificate, particulate matter and the release of particulate matter is one of the things that gets evaluated as we determine whether or not to grant those permits. Or to put stipulations on those permits in order to ensure a reduction or management of particulate matter. That’s where that’s dealt with and we have some pretty good understanding of how that operates. We also have some modelling from this study.
“The reason this study didn’t report on that because we hadn’t asked them to. We specifically wanted to get at the issue of sulphur disoxide and nitrogen dioxide but please do not take frm that because it’s not in the study, it doesn’t get looked at. It simply gets looked at in a different process. In this case it was the understanding of the Kitimat air shed with respect to sulphur dixoide and nitrogen dioxide that we needed to have a better answers and better information.”
In other words, despite what the original proposal said: “The goal is to ensure the potential impacts from industrial air emissions are clearly understood prior to new projects being approved and in operation,” the provincial government is content to wait until the permit phase to consider particulate matter, rather than include particulate matter in the long term planning for the air shed.
And for green house gases, the same attitude seems to apply, either it’s not her department or it will be dealt with sometime in the future.
What’s going on in the air shed?
Although the provincial government has been able to spin that the air shed report clears the way for more industrial development in the region, the report isn’t much help for long term planning for those both for and against industrial development in the valley.
First one has to wonder just how comprehensive was the study, even when it comes to sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide?
The report for Rio Tinto Alcan for just one substance—sulphur dixoide—from one industry—aluminum smelting–led to a 456 page technical report with 332 pages of appendices.
The provincial technical report adds one more substance, nitrogen dioxide, and adds four LNG facilities, an oil refinery, different export terminals for those industries, and two hydro generating stations plus related shipping, including a passing mention of vehicular and train traffic. The new report is 363 pages, including the appendices. (It should be noted that the air shed report does reference some of the information in the RTA report)
The various studies for the Enbridge Northern Gateway, which often contained material on air emissions, included a much longer list of what in industry jargon are called CPOC “chemicals of potential concern,” including chemicals that might be released in trace amounts from the Northern Gateway terminal, but may be of more concern from LNG projects. Who knows unless those substances are studied?
As was required by the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge also studied potential problems from accidental release of air-borne contaminants from the Northern Gateway project. There is no mention of accidental release in the current air shed study.
Although the increase in truck traffic in Kitimat is clearly visible to people who live in the town, the air shed report also speculates that with LNG and a possible refinery, there will also be a significant increase in rail traffic coming into Kitimat, hauled, of course, by diesel locomotives, which the report says is “expected to be conservatively captured within the background concentration adjustment.”
Can the Valley “handle industrial expansion”
Stakeholders in the region from the District of Kitimat to the Gitga’at First Nation to various environmental groups asked for a comprehensive review of what is going to happen in the Kitimat air shed with industrial expansion.
So the answer to the question can the valley “handle industrial expansion” after the flawed and limited report from the provincial government is not “yes,” but “we don’t know yet.”
It appears that the report is part of Christy Clark’s ongoing campaign that LNG will save the provincial economy.
There are two factors the report ignores.
First the energy companies are going to make their final investment decision on cold hard facts, including their own assessment of the potential problems from the air shed, not spin from the provincial government.
Second, until there is a proper air shed study, the First Nations, including the Haisla in Kitimat, the Gitga’at at Hartley Bay, the Kitselas in Terrace will not have solid evidence to make a decision on the details of the LNG or refinery development on their traditional territory and increased ship traffic along the coast and that will come into immediate conflict with the Supreme Court ruling on the Tsilhqot’in decision and the finding that “Whether a particular use is irreconcilable with the ability of succeeding generations to benefit from the land will be a matter to be determined when the issue arises.”
There is a new Orwellian phrase used by both the federal and provincial government. Every report is “independent” and “science-based,” although all they all tend to support the policy of the commissioning agency.
What the Kitimat Valley, Douglas Channel and the Terrace region need is a truly independent and truly science based and truly comprehensive evaluation of the air shed. At the moment, that doesn’t exist. It should whether it comes from industry or if the local governments can find the budget to fund a proper study or some combination of the two.