Chevron will not be making a final investment decision on the Kitimat LNG project in 2015, Pat Yarrington, the company’s vice president and chief financial officer told the first quarter earnings conference call Friday, May 1.
All FIDs for Chevron projects around the world, with one exception, are on hold for this year Yarrington said.
“In terms of other FID projects, part of the reduction that we took in our capital spending from 2014 to 2015 really did relate to the pacing of other major capital projects,” Yarrington said. “Kitimat is a primary one there, we moved spending on that out considerably. We are only limiting ourself to appraisal work and continuing to look at the design and the cost structure. “
Overall, in all aspects of the company’s operations, Yarrington said Chevron is “aggressively pursuing cost reductions” by reopening contracts with suppliers, resulting in $900 million in agreed reductions around the world.
Meanwhile, two of Chevron’s LNG projects in Australia have reached “key milestones,” she said. As for the Gorgon project in Western Australia, she said. “We’re on schedule for Gorgon startup in the third quarter of this year and first commercial cargo before the end of the year.”
The Gorgon Project is a joint venture between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 percent), ExxonMobil (25 percent), Shell (25 percent), Osaka Gas (1.25 percent), Tokyo Gas (1 percent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 percent) supplied by the Greater Gorgon Area gas fields. It includes the construction of a 15.6 million tonne per annum (MTPA) liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Barrow Island and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day to Western Australia.
“We’re on schedule for Wheatstone,” Yarrington said. “We’ve had seven of 24 major process modules delivered on site, the trunk line is installed and hydro tested, the dredging is complete, the piling has been completed, the roofs are on both of the LNG tanks. We continue to make good processs both on shore and off shore.”
The Wheatstone Project is an LNG and domestic gas operation near Onslow, in the West Pilbara region of Western Australia. The project’s initial capacity is expected to be 8.9 million metric tons per year of LNG.
Chevron promotional video showing Gorgon is one of the world’s largest natural gas projects and the largest single resource development in Australia’s history. (Kitimat residents note the cruise ship docked at the project)
As well, Chevron in Australia has announced new gas discoveries as a result of further drilling success in the Greater Gorgon Area located in the Carnarvon Basin, a premier hydrocarbon basin offshore northwest Australia.
The Isosceles-1 exploration discovery well encountered approximately 134 metres (440 feet) of net gas pay in the Triassic Mungaroo Sands in 968 metres of water (3,175 feet). The well fulfilled the second year work commitment in the exploration program. It is located in the WA-392-P permit area approximately 95 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia.
“This discovery is a continuation of our exploration success and further positions our company as a key supplier for future liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Melody Meyer, president, Chevron Asia Pacific Exploration and Production Company
Overall Chevron (NYSE: CVX) reported earnings of $2.6 billion ($1.37 per share – diluted) for first quarter 2015, compared with $4.5 billion ($2.36 per share – diluted) in the 2014 first quarter. Foreign currency effects increased earnings in the 2015 quarter by $580 million, compared with a decrease of $79 million a year earlier.
Sales and other operating revenues in first quarter 2015 were $32 billion, compared to $51 billion in the year-ago period.
A news release from Woodside says “the bonds will be issued by Woodside Finance Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Woodside Petroleum Ltd, and will consist of US$1 billion of 10 year bonds with a coupon of 3.65 per cent. The bonds will be guaranteed by Woodside Petroleum Ltd and its wholly owned subsidiary, Woodside Energy Ltd.”
Bloomberg notes that Woodside paid $2.75 billion to Apache for its stakes in the Kitimat LNG and the Australian Wheatstone LNG project.
Woodside agreed in December to pay $2.75 billion to Apache Corp. for stakes in two natural gas projects, and it expects to spend about $6.2 billion in 2015.
Even after its agreement with Apache, Woodside has a strong balance sheet that may allow the company to make another acquisition and take advantage of low crude oil prices, according to a Feb. 18 report from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Woodside has $6.8 billion in cash and available debt facilities, the energy producer said in a presentation that same day.
Woodside said last week that full-year net income rose 38 percent to $2.41 billion, helped by its Pluto project. Brent crude oil prices have tumbled 44 percent over the past 12 months.
In January, Australian Mining reported that Woodside had reached an “non-binding contract… as an agreement between Woodside Petroleum and Adani Enterprises to cooperate in developing commercial initiatives for long-term supply of gas to the Indian market.”
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 Australian Business Review is reporting that Woodside Petroleum, a cash rich Australian energy company, has its eye on Apache’s 50 per cent stake in the Kitimat LNG project. As part of any deal, Woodside would probably also have to buy Apache’s stake in the Australian Wheatstone LNG project, which is also up for sale.
The months-long process by Apache to find a new home for its West Australian domestic gas business and its stake in the under-construction Wheatstone LNG project — as well as its stake in the Kitimat LNG project in Canada — has drawn plenty of interest from parties in that neck of the woods.
The cashed-up, project-hungry Woodside Petroleum has been interested from the outset in the Kitimat stake, but is also said to be prepared to make an offer on Wheatstone if Apache is determined to sell the assets together
Earlier, another Australian newspaper, The Age reported that Woodside’s petroleum and LNG operations had “revenue of $US5.3 billion for the first nine months of 2014. Compared with the corresponding period in 2013, revenue was 28.7 per cent higher for the 2014 period.”Part of the money came from selling natural gas assets in the United States.
According to The Age:
Woodside’s LNG production rose to a record 5.1 million tonnes for the first nine months of Woodside’s fiscal 2014. The record production represents a rise of 17.6 per cent on the same period for 2013. Behind the result was the operational performance of the Pluto LNG facility (Woodside’s interest is 90 per cent). Pluto lifted LNG production by 24.3 per cent on the corresponding period in 2013, to 3.1 million tonnes. Pluto also produced 2.2 million barrels of condensate for the first nine months of 2014. Oil production rose by a mammoth 33.3 per cent on the same period in 2013, to 8.8 million barrels.
On November 6, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Woodside’s CEO Peter Coleman warned that the Asian customers for LNG who are holding out for cheaper prices could face a “supply crunch” and “By holding out for a cheaper price, customers are potentially exacerbating project FID [final investment decision] delays and may unwittingly help bring on a supply crunch.”
He called on suppliers and customers to work together to ensure supply projects went ahead.
The Woodside website describes the company as “Australia’s largest independent dedicated oil and gas company and one of the world’s leading producers of liquefied natural gas.”
It goes on to say
As we aspire to become a global leader in upstream oil and gas, we are guided by the Woodside Compass. The Compass links Woodside’s core values – respect, integrity, working sustainably, working together, discipline and excellence – with our vision, mission and strategic direction.
Woodside has an extensive portfolio of facilities which we operate on behalf of some of the world’s major oil and gas companies.
We have been operating the landmark Australian project, the North West Shelf, since 1984 and it remains one of the world’s premier liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.
With the successful start-up of the Pluto LNG Plant in 2012, Woodside now operates six of the seven LNG processing trains in Australia.
Apache will “completely exit” the Kitimat LNG project, company CEO Steven Farris told investors Thursday as the company reported its second quarter results.
The pull out from Kitimat is part of a plan by Apache to spin off assets that are not part of its “base business” so it can concentrate on its “North American onshore assets.”
“We have said for some time that Canada is part of our North American onshore portfolio,” Farris told analysts in a conference call.
“Certainly we have two businesses up there. [in Canada] We have a business which is a base business with respect to the Duverney Shale and Monteny shale and some of the other things we working on there. We also have the Kitimat-Horn River- Liard. Kitimat -Horn River -Liard is part of our LNG project which we reindicated today that we intend to exit.”
The Horn River and Liard natural gas fields would have served the LNG project. The divesture could either be as a complete package or sold separately perhaps through the capital markets. The Duverney Shale and Monteny shale plays are considered North American assets, while the Horn RIver Liard plays are considered international because the product from there would be sold in Asia via an LNG terminal.
Chevron, the 50 per cent partner with Apache in Kitimat LNG, said it would have no comment on the Apache move until its own investor conference call Friday morning.
Apache also intends to divest its stake in the Australian Wheatstone LNG project, where Chevron is also a partner.
It was about 18 months ago, Farris said, that Apache changed its focus to “enhancing its North American onshore resource base… We’ve also made it clear that there are no sacred cows as our efforts continue.”
Change in company strategy
Farris and other executives repeatedly emphasized on the call that the Kitimat and Wheatstone sales were part of an overall change in company strategy.
“I have to honestly say that the complete exit by Apache will not have an impact on Kitimat going forward one way or another,” Farris said.
“Whether we’re in it or not, they will contact with world class reserves and frankly Chevron and Apache are way a head of anybody else in that arena. We’ve always been in a position that we felt we could not be in these LNG projects. I think it’s important that we state that.”
Some other financial analysts on the call seemed a little skeptical about the move, with a couple of questions focused on whether Apache was giving up long term investments.
“In terms of business and priority of capital and time frame of LNG specifically Kitimat it make sense for someone to own it who has a different timeline,” Farris said.
As for the timing of the sale, both Farris and Chief Financial Officer, Alfonso Leon, would not give specifics. “We haven’t decided on a specific timeline, we are working on a number of different opportunities,” Leon said. “Each of them has a different timeline associated with it. So we will make decisions as we reach decision points. Specificaly on the separation work flow…it is not something that will be executed on an imminent basis. Work has been underway but there is still significant work ahead of us.”
The executives would not say how much Apache has spent on Kitimat LNG so far, but it has been estimated at $2 billion just this year.Upgrading the old forest service road to a modern highway capable of supporting heavy truck traffic was estimated to cost $25 million Kitimat LNG officials said late last year.
As for the selling price, Farris said that company will hold out for the best deal, saying that Apache has got a “fair price” for international assets that is has already sold, adding that when it comes to Kitimat and Wheatstone. “We won’t sell at prices that don’t make sense,” whether that comes from a package deal with the northeast BC shale assets or through the capital markets.
Overall, Apache Corporation is making money, announcing second-quarter 2014 earnings of $505 million Net cash provided by operating activities totaled approximately $2.3 billion in second-quarter 2014, compared with $2.8 billion in the prior year, with cash from operations before changes in operating assets and liabilities totaling $2.2 billion, compared with $2.6 billion in second-quarter 2013.
In the quarterly report news release, Farris said, “Record-setting performance by our Permian Region continues to drive strong results for the company… Apache’s onshore North American liquids production increased 18 percent on a pro forma basis in the second-quarter 2014 compared with the same period a year ago”
Although some enviromental groups and First Nations are claiming victory in the Apache divestiture, it is clear that those activities had negiligble impact on the decision, which was driven in part by the demands of a New York hedge fund and by the growing uncertainty in the LNG market as Asian countries seek natural gas at much lower North American prices. As the old Godfather movies often said, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
Apache’s exit, however, does increase the uncertainty in both the short term and long term development of LNG export terminals in northwestern BC, and clearly shows that Premier Christy Clark made a mistake in promising that the provincial economy will boom thanks to LNG.
Both Premier Clark and LNG Minister Rich Coleman were unavailable to the media Thursday. Coleman’s office did send an e-mail tothe media saying, “With 16 LNG proposals involving over 30 partners, we recognize partnerships will change over time, as companies make decisions that make commercial sense for their business. It’s the nature of the business and the energy sector.”
Little noticed in the media attention over Apache, was the fact Royal Dutch Shell also issued its quarterly report early Thursday. Unlike Apache, Shell is still investing in LNG projects around the world, and getting returns from existing LNG projects, while divesting under performing natural gas assets both upstream and downstream. There is no mention of LNG Canada and Kitimat in the report. In a statement issued with the quarterly report Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden commented in part:
I am determined to get a tighter grip on business performance management in the company, and improve thebalance between growth and returns. Our financial performance for the second quarter of 2014 was more robust than year-ago levels but I want tosee stronger, more competitive results right across the company, particularly in Oil Products and NorthAmerica resources plays….
Sharper accountability in the company means that we are targeting our growth investment more effectively,focusing on areas of the business where performance improvement is most needed, and driving asset sales innon-strategic positions….
We see attractive growth opportunities there such as natural gas integration and liquids-rich shales. We are taking firm actions to improve Shell’s capital efficiency by selling selected assets and making tougher project decisions. We have completed some $8 billion of asset sales so far in 2014. This represents good progress towards our targets to focus the portfolio, and to maintain the financial framework in robust health.
Tropical fish are migrating into what were once temperate water as a result of ocean warming and that poses a serious threat to the areas they invade, because they overgraze on kelp forests and seagrass meadows, according to a new study from the University of New South Wales in Australia
The study says the harmful impact of tropical fish is most evident in southern Japanese waters and the eastern Mediterranean, where there have been dramatic declines in kelps.
There is also emerging evidence in Australia and the US that the spread of tropical fish towards the poles is causing damage in the areas they enter.
“The tropicalisation of temperate marine areas is a new phenomenon of global significance that has arisen because of climate change,” according to the study lead author, Dr. Adriana Verges, of the University of New South Wales.
“Increases in the number of plant-eating tropical fish can profoundly alter ecosystems and lead to barren reefs, affecting the biodiversity of these regions, with significant economic and management impacts.”
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
As the oceans have warmed and the climate has changed, hotspots are developing in regions where the currents that transport warm tropical waters towards the poles are strengthening.
Increased flow of the East Australian Current, for example, has meant waters south-east of the continent are warming at two to three times the global average.
Tropical fish are now common in Sydney Harbour during the summer months.
Japan, the east coast of the US, northern Brazil and south eastern Africa are also strongly influenced by coastal currents that transport warm tropical waters.
“In tropical regions, a wide diversity of plant-eating fish perform the vital role of keeping reefs free of large seaweeds, allowing corals to flourish. But when they intrude into temperate waters they pose a significant threat to these habitats. They can directly overgraze algal forests as well as prevent the recovery of algae that have been damaged for other reasons,” Dr Verges said.
Tropical fish expanding their ranges into temperate areas include unicornfish, parrotfish, and rabbitfish.
The study authors include researchers from Australia, the US, Spain, Singapore, the UK and Japan.
Kelp disappears in southern Japan
The study reports that more than 40 per cent of the kelp and algal beds have disappeared since the 1990s, a phenomenon known in Japan as isoyake.
Tropical species including rabbitfish and parrotfish appear to be mainly responsible.
Although these fish have been present for a long time, their annual grazing rates have increased dramatically as ocean temperatures in winter have risen. Corals now dominate the ecosystem in many locations. The changes have led to the collapse of the abalone fishery.
Rabbit fish expand in eastern Mediterranean
Tropical fish moved into the eastern Mediterranean from the Red Sea after the opening of the Suez Canal. In recent decades, rabbitfish numbers have increased, resulting in hundreds of kilometres of deforested areas and a 40 per cent decrease in the variety of marine species.
As the Mediterranean warms the rabbitfish are expanding their range westward, putting other shallow ecosystems at risk.
Gulf of Mexico
There has been a more than 20-fold increase in the number of parrotfish in the Gulf of Mexico – a species which consumes seagrass at five times the rate of native grazers. The number of plant-eating green turtles and manatees has also increased.
In Western Australia, emerging evidence suggests that increases in the number of tropical fish are preventing the recovery of kelp forest damaged by a heat wave in 2011.
In eastern Australia, kelp has disappeared from numerous reefs in the past five years and Dr Verges’ research suggests intense grazing by tropical fish on the kelp preceded this.
Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly
Haisla First Nation Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross says the Haisla made the proposal to the KM LNG project, a partnership of Chevron and Apache, to use the marine clay to cover the thousands of logs at the bottom of Clio Bay after years frustration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the BC provincial government, which for decades ignored requests for help in restoring almost fifty sunken log sites in Haisla traditional territory.
The problem is that remediation of the hundreds of sites on Canada’s west coast most containing tens of thousands of sunken logs has been so low on DFO’s priority list that even before the omnibus bills that gutted environmental protection in Canada, remediation of sunken log sites by DFO could be called no priority.
Now that the KM LNG has to depose of a total of about 3.5 million cubic metres of marine clay and possibly other materials from the Bish Cove site, suddenly log remediation went to high priority at DFO.
The controversy is rooted in the fact that although the leaders of the Haisla and the executives at Chevron knew about the idea of capping Clio Bay, people in the region, both many residents of Kitimat and some members of the Haisla were surprised when the project was announced in the latest KM LNG newsletter distributed to homes in the valley.
In a statement sent to Northwest Coast Energy News Chevron spokesperson Gillian Robinson Ridell said:
The Clio Bay Restoration Project proposed by Chevron, is planned to get underway sometime in early 2014. The proposal is fully supported by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Haisla First Nation Council. The project has been put forward as the best option for removal of the marine clay that is being excavated from the Kitimat LNG site at Bish Cove. Chevron hired Stantec, an independent engineering and environmental consulting firm with extensive experience in many major habitat restoration projects that involve public safety and environmental conservation. The Haisla, along with Stantec’s local marine biologists, identified Clio Bay as a site that has undergone significant environmental degradation over years of accumulation of underwater wood debris caused by historic log-booming operations. The proposal put forward by the marine biologists was that restoration of the marine ecosystem in the Bay could be achieved if marine clay from Chevron’s facility site, was used to cover the woody debris at the bottom of the Bay. The process outlined by the project proposal is designed to restore the Clio Bay seafloor to its original soft substrate that could sustain a recovery of biological diversity.
Non-aboriginal residents of Kitimat are increasingly worried about being cut off from both Douglas Channel and the terrestrial back country by industrial development. These fears have been heightened by reports that say that Clio Bay could be closed to the public for “safety reasons” for as much as 16 months during the restoration project.
The fact that Clio is known both as a safe anchorage during bad weather and an easy to get to location for day trips from Kitimat has made those worries even more critical.
There is also a strong feeling in Kitimat that the residents were kept out of the loop when it came to the Clio Bay proposal.
In a letter to the District of Kitimat, DFO said:
Clio Bay has been used as a log handling site for decades which has resulted in areas of degraded habitat from accumulations of woody debris materials on the sea floor. The project intends to cap impacted areas with inert materials and restore soft substrate seafloor. The remediation of the seafloor is predicted to enhance natural biodiversity and improve the productivity of the local fishery for Dungeness crab. The project area does support a variety of life that will be impact and therefore the project will require authorization from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the Harmful Alteration, Disruption or Destruction (HADD) of fish and fish habitat.
The letter avoids the controversy over the use of marine clay but saying “inert material” will be used. That can only increase the worries from residents who say that not only clay but sand, gravel and other overburden from Bish Cove and the upgrade of the Forest Service Road may be used in Clio Bay. (The use of “inert material” also gives DFO an out if it turns out the department concludes the usual practice of using sand is better. That, of course, leaves the question of what to do with the clay).
Although Ellis Ross has said he wants to see large numbers of halibut and cod return to Clio Bay, the DFO letter only mentions the Dungeness Crab.
Try to search “remediation” on the DFO site and the viewer is redirected to a page that cites the omnibus bills passed by the Conservative government and says
On June 29, 2012, the Fisheries Act was amended. Policy and regulations are now being developed to support the new fisheries protection provisions of the Act (which are not yet in force). The existing guidance and policies continue to apply. For more information, see Changes to the Fisheries Act.
On April 2nd, 2013 the Habitat Management Program’s name was changed to the Fisheries Protection Program.
So, despite what communications officers for DFO and the Harper government may say, there was no policy then and there is no policy now on remediation of log sites. Given Harper’s attitude that LNG and possibly bitumen export must proceed quickly with no environmental barriers, it is likely that environmental remediation will continue to be no priority—unless remediation becomes a problem that the energy giants have to solve and pay for.
On the other hand, the State of Alaska and the United States Environmental Protection Agency spent a decade at a site near Ketchikan studying the environmental problems related to sunken logs at transfer sites
Those studies led Alaska to issue guidelines in 2002 with recommended practices for rehabilitating ocean log dump sites and for the studies that should precede any remediation project.
The Alaska studies also show that in Pacific northwest coast areas, the ecological effects of decades of log dumping, either accidental or deliberate, vary greatly depending on the topography of the region, the topography of the seabed, flow of rivers and currents as well as industrial uses along the shoreline.
The Alaska policy is based on studies and a remediation project at Ward Cove, which in many ways resembles Clio Bay, not far from Kitimat, near Ketchikan.
The Alaska policy follows guidelines from both the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers that recommend using thin layers of “clean sand” as the best practice method for capping contaminated sites. (The Army Corps of Engineers guidelines say that “clay balls” can be used to cap contaminated sites under some conditions. Both a spokesperson for the Corps of Engineers and officials at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation told Northwest Coast Energy News that they have no records or research on using marine clay on a large scale to cap a site.)
The EPA actually chose Sechelt, BC, based Construction Aggregates to provide the fine sand for the Ward Cove remediation project. The sand was loaded onto 10,000 tonne deck barges, hauled up the coast to Ward Cove, offloaded and stockpiled then transferred to derrick barges and carefully deposited on the sea bottom using modified clam shell buckets.
The EPA says
Nearly 25,000 tons of sand were placed at the Ward Cove site to cap about 27 acres of contaminated sediments and 3 other acres. In addition, about 3 acres of contaminated sediments were dredged in front of the main dock facility and 1 acre was dredged near the northeast corner of the cove. An additional 50 acres of contaminated sediments have been left to recover naturally.
A report by Integral Consulting, one of the firms involved at the project estimated that 17,800 cubic metres of sand were used at Ward Cove.
In contrast, to 17,800 cubic metres of sand used at Ward Cove, the Bish Cove project must dispose of about 1.2 million cubic metres of marine clay at sea (with another 1.2 million cubic metres slated for deposit in old quarries near Bees Creek).
Studies at Ward Cove began as far back as 1975. In 1990 Alaska placed Ward Cove on a list of “water-quality limited sites.” The studies intensified in 1995 after the main polluter of Ward Cove, the Ketchikan Paper Company, agreed in a consent degree on a remediation plan with the Environmental Protection Agency in 1995. After almost five years of intensive studies of the cove, the sand-capping and other remediation operations were conducted from November 2000 to March 2001. A major post-remediation study was carried out at Ward Cove in 2004 and again in 2009. The next one is slated for 2015.
Deaf ears at DFO
“We need to put pressure on the province or Canada to cleanup these sites. We’ve been trying to do this for the last 30 years. We got nowhere,” Ellis Ross says. “Before when we talked [to DFO] about getting those logs and cables cleaned up, it fell on deaf ears. They had no policy and no authority to hold these companies accountable. So we’re stuck, we’re stuck between a rock and hard place. How do we fix it?”
Ross says there has been one small pilot project using marine clay for capping which the Haisla’s advisers and Chevron believe can be scaled up for Clio Bay.
Douglas Channel studies
The one area around Kitimat that has been studied on a regular basis is Minette Bay. The first study occurred in 1951, before Alcan built the smelter and was used as a benchmark in future studies. In 1995 and 1996, DFO studied Minette Bay and came to the conclusion that because the water there was so stagnant, log dumping there had not contributed to low levels of dissolved oxygen although it said that it could not rule out “other deleterious effects on water quality and habitat`from log dumping.”
That DFO report also says that there were complaints about log dumping at Minette Bay as far back as 1975, which would tend to confirm what Ross says, that the Haisla have been complaining about environmentally degrading practices for about 30 years.
Ross told Northwest Coast Energy News that if the Clio Bay remediation project is successful, the next place for remediation should be Minette Bay.
A year after the Minette Bay study, DFO did a preliminary study of log transfer sites in Douglas Channel, with an aerial survey in March 1997 and on water studies in 1998. The DFO survey identified 52 locations with sunken logs on Douglas Channel as “potential study sites.” That list does not include Clio Bay. On water studies were done at the Dala River dump site at the head of the inlet on Kildala Arm, Weewanie Hotsprings, at the southwest corner of the cove, the Ochwe Bay log dump where the Paril River estuary opens into the Gardner Canal and the Collins Bay log dump also on the Gardner Canal.
In the introduction to its report, published in 2000, the DFO authors noted “the cumulative effect of several hundred sites located on BC coast is currently unknown.”
Since there appears to have been no significant follow-up, that cumulative effect is still “unknown.”
In 2000 and 2001, Chris Picard, then with the University of Victoria, now Science Director for the Gitga’at First Nation did a comparison survey of Clio Bay and Eagle Bay under special funding for a “Coasts Under Stress” project funded by the federal government. Picard’s study found that Eagle Bay, where there had been no log dumping was in much better shape than Clio Bay. For example, Picard’s study says that “Dungeness crabs were observed five times more often in the unimpacted Clio Bay.”
Although low oxygen levels have been cited as a reason for capping Clio Bay, Picard’s study says that “near surface” oxygen levels “did not reliably distinguish Clio and Eagle Bay sediments.” While Clio Bay did show consistent low oxygen levels, Eagle Bay showed “considerable interseasonal variation” which is consistent with the much more intensive and ongoing studies of oxygen levels at Wards Cove.
It appears that Chevron was taken by surprise by the controversy over the Clio Bay restoration. Multiple sources at the District of the Kitimat have told Northwest Coast Energy News that in meetings with Chevron, the company officials seemed to be scrambling to find out more about Clio Bay.
This is borne out by the fact, in its communications with Northwest Coast Energy News, Chevron says its consulting firm, Stantec has cited just two studies, Chris Picard’s survey of Clio Bay and a 1991 overview of log-booming practices on the US and Canadian Pacfic coasts. So far, Chevron has not cited the more up-to-date and detailed studies of Ward Cove that were conducted from 1995 to 2005.
Chevron says that Stantec marine biologists are now conducting extensive field work using divers and Remote Operated Vehicle surveys to “observe and record all flora and fauna in the bay and its levels of abundance. Stantec’s observations echoed the previous studies which determined that the massive amount of wood has harmed Clio Bay’s habitat and ecosystem.”
Reports in the Australian media seem to bare out Chevron’s position on environmental responsibility. Things seem to be working at Barrow Island.
Robinson went on to say:
Those same high environmental standards are being applied to the Kitimat LNG project and the proposed Clio Bay Restoration project. The proposed work would be carried out with a stringent DFO approved operational plan in place and would be overseen by qualified environmental specialists on-site.
The question that everyone in the Kitimat region must now ask is just how qualified are the environmental specialists hired by Chevron and given staff and budget cuts and pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to downgrade environmental monitoring just how stringent will DFO be monitoring the Clio Bay remediation?
Alaska standardsIn the absence of comprehensive Canadian studies, the only benchmark available is that set by Alaska which calls for:Capping material, typically a clean sand, or silty to gravelly sand, is placed on top of problem sediments. The type of capping material that is appropriate is usually determined during the design phase of the project after a remediation technology has been selected. Capping material is usually brought to the site by barge and put in place using a variety of methods, depending on the selected remedial action alternative.
Thick capping usually requires the placement of 18 to 36 inches of sand over the area. The goal of thick capping is to isolate the bark and wood debris and recreate benthic habitat that diverse benthic infauna would inhabit.
Thin capping requires the placement of approximately 6 – 12 inches of sand on the project area. It is intended to enhance the bottom environment by creating new mini-environments, not necessarily to isolate the bark and wood debris. With thin capping, surface coverage is expected to vary spatially, providing variable areas of capped surface and amended surface sediment (where mixing between capping material and problem sediment occurs) as well as limited areas where no cap is evident.
Mounding places small piles of sand or gravel dispersed over the waste material to create habitat that can be colonized by organisms. Mounding can be used where the substrate will not support capping.
Could the future of northwestern British Columbia’s hoped for natural gas boom depend on the outcome of this weekend’s Australian general election?
While the mainstream media in North America has mostly been following the personal feud between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott or speculating whether or not Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s party will make a ripple or a splish, a natural gas crisis has rocketed high on to the Australian election agenda.
I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about Aussie politics, but I couldn’t ignore all the LNG and natural gas Australian election related stories that suddenly started showing up in my alerts.
Chevron and its partners in the Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island are expected to postpone work on detailed design and engineering of a fourth processing line at the mega project until at least next year as they battle to contain the soaring cost of the foundation development.
As reported by WestBusiness at the weekend, Chevron’s latest internal cost review is understood to have placed a final cost on Gorgon’s three-train venture of up to $US59 billion ($65.6 billion), or 13 per cent above the last confirmed budget revision of $US52 billion.
Chevron is refusing to discuss the status of the cost review and is understood to have told its Gorgon team to “value engineer” in the hope of substantially reducing the latest overrun on a project that was originally supposed to cost $US37 billion to complete.
Raw logs all over again
For a resident of northwestern BC, one thought comes to mind from the media reports on the LNG situation in the Australian election, it’s raw logs all over again.
It appears from those media reports that while Australia has huge reserves of shale-based natural gas, the way the country has structured its LNG boom, major industries and consumers are becoming alarmed that domestic natural gas prices for both will soon skyrocket. There are calls for whatever party wins the election to pass legislation that would create “domestic gas reservation” so that Australians won’t see the gas exported while they pay higher prices for what’s left over.
Most of the shale gas reserves are in Western Australia, while the population—and industry– are concentrated far away on the east coast.
That is leading to another controversy, demands that eastern Australia develop its coal gas reserves, which, of course, brings to mind Shell’s decision to forgo development of coal gas deposits in the Sacred Headwaters and the ongoing fight by the Tahltan First Nation to stop Fortune Minerals’ open pit coal mine in the Sacred Headwaters at Klappan.
Then there’s another vexing issue that northwestern BC is facing and soon have to deal with. In the election, some Australian politicians and unions are calling for curbs on the use for temporary (and not so temporary) foreign workers.
Another factor is the growing cost of natural gas extraction and LNG export, which has, in the midst of the election campaign, pitted Chevron against Australian unions, with Chevron executives (as they did in other contexts before the election call) pointing to Canada—that means Kitimat, folks — as the cheaper alternative.
The Australian has reported that a poll, commissioned by the nation’s manufacturers, so it is somewhat suspect, that:
Manufacturers will today claim that most Australians want a policy of domestic gas reservation and that this would sway voter intentions, a move set to renew the acrimonious debate over rising gas prices.
Manufacturing Australia will release a survey it commissioned where 35 per cent of people said it was “quite likely” and 13 per cent “extremely likely” that it would sway their decision at the election if a party made a policy pledge on the issue.Those uncertain stood at 21 per cent.
Bob Katter flew through Gladstone as fast as the wind whistled through Spinnaker Park on Monday, where he told local media he wanted to reserve a domestic gas supply for Australia and scrap the 457 visas that bring foreign workers into the country….
Mr Katter said mineral processing was under enormous pressure in Australia with copper processing wiped out in northern Queensland and to counter that, the Katter Australia Party would reserve 1% of the gas supply for Queensland.
“Because of the escalating skyrocketing cost of coal, gas and electricity in the past eight years, one per cent of the gas will be reserved for the benefit of the people in Queensland if not Australia,” he said.
“That gas will be used to produce electricity at prices our retirees can afford, and young families can afford, and most importantly that our mineral processing plants have prices for processing they can afford.”
THE NSW gas industry has warned of higher gas prices, job cuts and a significant risk to the state’s energy security if the coal-seam gas sector is not developed.
James Baulderstone, vice-president of eastern Australia at Santos, said without indigenous gas of its own, NSW had no ability to control its energy supply security.
“NSW faces prospective gas shortages as long-term contracts underpinning the state’s gas supply expire over the next two to three years, the very time in which the commencement of LNG exports from Queensland will see annual gas demand in eastern Australia triple,” he said.
“Looming natural gas shortages in NSW could be avoided by the timely and balanced development of the state’s already discovered reserves of natural gas.”
Also embroiling the election is the growing dispute between Chevron and the Australian unions. As the Australian Financial Review reported, Chevron is claiming that high costs are slowing the LNG projects and blaming the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The federal government has rejected claims from Chevron that Australia’s high-cost economy is threatening the nation’s biggest energy project, Gorgon, even as the Maritime Union of Australia demands a 26 per cent pay rise and more than 100 other benefits for its members, including Qantas Club memberships and iTunes store credits.
As Chevron’s $52 billion Gorgon project became embroiled in the election campaign, trade union officials accused Chevron of seeking to dodge responsibility for poor labour productivity and high costs.
The union’s demands for employees working for 19 offshore oil and gas contractors around Australia include a 26 per cent raise over four years, no foreign labour without consultation, union control of hiring and four weeks holiday for every four weeks work.
(Note there are accusations of biased reporting during this election, especially from the media owned by Rupert Murdoch. I could find no independent confirmation of union demands for airline memberships and iTunes credits)
The Australian Labour minister, Gary Gray, who is from Western Australia, and according to reports, in a tough re-election fight, is blaming Chevron and the other energy companies for “failing to control the costs of their staff and contractors.”
“We do need our companies to get better in managing their productivity issues,” he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he had studied China’s latest five-year economic plan and concluded Australia’s industrial relations system wasn’t hurting the industry.
Boom or bust?
The Australian Financial Review quotes Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski as saying Australia has a two-year window to get policy settings right and fix industrial relations and productivity or risk losing out on billions of further investment in liquefied natural gas projects.
It goes on to make a reference to Shell and operations in Canada—again that’s Kitimat folks.
after the unprecedented rush of LNG investment in the past four years, Australia has become the most costly place worldwide for new plants, while new competition is emerging in North America and east Africa.
Shell, which has slowed its $20 billion-plus Arrow LNG project in Queensland, said construction costs in Australia are now up to 30 per cent higher than in the US and Canada.
Mr Krzywosinski said LNG projects are “long-term projects that transcend governments” and Chevron would work with all sides of politics to get policy settings right.
The investment surge in LNG – often favourably compared with the Apollo moon program in its magnitude – is in some ways a bubble. Firms have rushed in, extrapolated an endless supply/demand imbalance for their product, ignored global competition, over-paid for assets and developed with little thought to what others were doing, grossly inflating input costs in the process.
The blogger goes on to say
This fallout is typical of the “built it and they will come” attitude that seized energy and mining executives in the final stages of the “commodity super cycle” boom. A similar story, with different dynamics, is playing out in coal and next year in iron ore.
The unions are largely not to blame for the cost blowouts even if they are a party to them. They are, after all, unions. What does capital think will happen if it hands them such a card to play?
Sound familiar? Australia a mirror of the BC election?
Again it appears from this far off shore, that the Australian election is somewhat mirroring the recent BC provincial election and not only because of the issue of LNG. The Labour PM Kevin Rudd returned to power after three years on the back benches, coming back after the party dumped PM Julia Gillard.
Like BC, the Australian Liberal Party is really conservative. The Liberal Leader Tony Abbott, wants to abolish Australia’s carbon tax but Abbott is also threatening to fine companies that don’t lower prices if (or when) the carbon tax is abolished.
The polls show that the Liberal Party is leading, but that Kevin Rudd is more popular than Tony Abbott. Rudd is running an attack campaign against Abbott, warning of the consequences of an (conservative) Liberal victory. Sounds a bit like Christy Clark.
Given the split in the polls, with the leader of one party more popular than the leader of the party that is leading the polls, this video of the editors of The Australian which accompanies this story shows their senior editors are awfully confident, perhaps over confident, about the polls. I know given what happened in BC, Alberta and even Israel, I’d be a lot more skeptical.
We’ll know the outcome of the Australian election by this time next week. As for LNG, given the volatility of the market, who knows?
(Editor’s Note: Tony Abbott and the Australian Liberal Party won a landslide victory in the weekend vote)
(Note some of the Australian media sites appear to be metered and allow only one viewing)
Kitimat LNG is in a “horse race” with an LNG project in Western Australia–and at this point, according to the Australian media–Kitimat is winning, even though the Australian Gorgon project is much further ahead while the Kitimat LNG project at Bish Cove hasn’t really started.
The Brisbane Times is quoting Chevron as saying that expansion of the Gorgon “will be in direct competition with exports from North America, which have a cost advantage.”
Chevron has a 47.3 per cent stake in Gorgon. Shell which is developing its own project at Kitimat, LNG Canada, has a 25 per cent stake in Gorgon. ExxonMobil holds 25 per cent.
”In the case of Gorgon train four … we are happy to see both of them move forward,” Chevron vice-chairman George Kirkland told analysts late last week, referring to the competition with Kitimat. ”[There is] a bit of a horse race between them at this point.”
Shipping gas to north Asia from Canada is cheaper than exports from Australia, he said, although the challenge is to find markets for the gas. ”The development cost at Kitimat … may end up being less than in the case of Gorgon,” he said, which ”has the benefit of [being a] brownfield development on the plant side”.
”We’re going to offer volumes … and interest in the plant as a combination,” Mr Kirkland said of the Kitimat marketing plans. ”We think that’s a big advantage.
”Our goal is to maintain our … first-mover advantage … We have had some initial discussions with Asian buyers.”
According to Wikipedia, the Gorgon area of Western Australia is the site for a number of liquified natural gas projects. The projects are off shore and close to the export terminals, much different from British Columbia where the gas fields are in the Peace River district in the northeast of the province.
The Gorgon field is centered about 130 kilometres (81 mi) off the north-west coast of Western Australia, where the water depth is approximately 200 metres (660 ft). Other fields in the group lie to the north, such as Jansz-Io, which covers an area of 2,000 square kilometres (770 sq mi), in a water depth of 1,300 metres (4,300 ft).
It is one of the world’s largest natural gas projects and the largest single resource development in Australia’s history.
The Gorgon Project is developing the Gorgon and Jansz-Io gas fields, located within the Greater Gorgon area, between 130 and 220 kilometres off the northwest coast of Western Australia.
It includes the construction of a 15.6 million tonne per annum (MTPA) liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Barrow Island and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day to Western Australia.
Gorgon LNG will be off loaded via a 2.1 kilometre long loading jetty for transport to international markets. The domestic gas will be piped to the Western Australian mainland.
The Gorgon joint venture is investing approximately $2 billion in the design and construction of the world’s largest commercial-scale CO2 injection facility to reduce the project’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by between 3.4 and 4.1 million tonnes per year. The Australian Government has committed $60 million to the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project as part of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.
In May, Reuters reported that the $52 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) development was 60 per cent complete. At the time, Reuters said Chevron planned to start engineering and design work for an expansion by the end of the year.
Parts of the Gorgon project are in an environmentally sensitive area, Barrow Island, which has been a nature reserve in Australia since 1910.
Barrow Island’s ecology. The island is a Class A nature reserve, and home to theflatback turtle (classified as a vulnerable species) and numerous other animals not found on the Australian mainland. Other concerns are related to the adequacy of quarantine procedures on Barrow Island to protect against the introduction of non-endemic species, and risks associated with geological sequestration of CO2.It was reported in November 2011 that native animals on Barrow Island had been accidentally killed daily with a known total of 1550 since construction began.
The Gorgon Project is being undertaken in accordance with strict environmental standards to preserve the island’s ecology.
Central to the Gorgon Project’s commitment to protect the conservation values of Barrow Island is the Quarantine Management System (QMS), which directs
the Project’s quarantine operations. The QMS is the largest non-government quarantine initiative in the world and was considered to be “likely world’s best practice” by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority. The Project’s gas processing facilities are being constructed within a 300 hectare ground disturbance limit, which represents 1.3 percent of Barrow Island’s uncleared land area.
PetroChina went on a multi-billion dollar natural gas buying spree Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, picking up shares in operations in both Canada and Australia.
In Canada, Encana, one of the partners in the Kitimat LNG project, signed a joint venture arrangement with Phoenix Duvernay Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroChina, to explore and develop Encana’s extensive undeveloped Duvernay naturgal gas holdings in west-central Alberta. According to an Encana news release, Phoenix will gain a non-controlling 49.9 per cent interest in Encana’s approximately 445,000 acres in the Duvernay play for total consideration of C$2.18 billion.
Hours earlier, PetroChina agreed to pay $1.63 billion for BHP Billiton’s 10 per cent share for an Australian LNG development, known as Browse, that like the KM LNG project in Kitimat had been delayed by the uncertainty in the LNG market. The other partners in the Browse are Woodside Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell and BP.
Encana says the PetroChina/Phoenix investment is significant for the Duvernay, which Encana describes as a “liquids rich play” with potential for natural gas, butane and oi development.
THE Encana release quotes Randy Eresman, Encana President & CEO. “A transaction of this magnitude keeps us on track to create a more diversified commodity portfolio and maintain our balance sheet strength. It is a strong endorsement of Encana’s position as a reliable long term partner.”
The release also quotes Zhiming Li, Phoenix’s President & Chief Executive Officer, as saying The Duvernay project will combine Phoenix’s integrated upstream and downstream capabilities and financial resources with Encana’s proven resource play hub expertise. This joint venture will build a foundation for the successful development of the Duvernay play and help to diversify our business portfolio. Encana is our ideal long term partner for the development of our future natural gas business.”
The company goes on to say:
Having entered into several joint venture transactions in 2012, these types of arrangements have become an important part of Encana’s business model. Joint ventures help the Company to achieve a highly efficient deployment of capital throughout its vast exploration and development asset base as Encana transitions to a more diversified portfolio of commodities.
Significantly, the Encana release, while talking about LNG development and export, it makes no mention of the Kitimat KM LNG project, instead looking south to Louisiana.
These relationships have the potential to increase natural gas demand as a number of Encana’s partners are actively exploring opportunities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), while some are industrial consumers looking to transition to natural gas as fuel for their operations. An example is a recent agreement with Nucor Energy Holdings (Nucor) which is designed to support Nucor’s increased use of natural gas for its facilities, such as its direct reduced iron facility currently under construction in Convent, Louisiana.
Reports say PetroChina paid a premium price for the Australian Browse natural gas project, anticipating that if it comes on stream, as planned in 2018, the current glut in the natural gas market will have eased and once again LNG will be a seller’s market.
The Browse project at James Price Point on the north-western coast of Australia is facing similar opposition to projects in British Columbia, including some of the site’s aboriginal landowners and from some environmental groups.
The opposition to the Australian Browse project, according to reports, reflects a split in the local aboriginal community. While Wikipedia says that 60 per cent of the local aboriginal people voted in favour of the project, there is also fierce opposition, according to the Australian Mining Journal, which reported in 2009:
[A] number of Traditional Owners, as part of the Save The Kimberley organisation, issued a statement which said there is not unanimous support for this site.
In a signed declaration, Traditional Owners have affirmed that they do not support the imposition of an industrial site on their country and will legally challenge the authenticity of any agreements entered into by the Kimberley Land Council supporting the proposal.
The statement said that “…many local Indigenous people are disgusted by the apparent abandonment of the established process put in place by the previous State government. Concerns include the threats made earlier in the year by the Premier regarding compulsory acquisition of land and the pre-empting of the Joint State and Commonwealth environmental and cultural assessment process via announcements by Woodside and the Premier.”
A company called Woodside Petroleum, which leads the LNG venture wants to build the “greenfield” onshore terminal but is facing competition from Shell’s proposed offshore floating LNG “given the land access challenges and soaring development costs in Australia,” even though Shell also has a stake in the Browse project.