Apache said Tuesday, May 22, 2012, that it expects the first LNG cargo leave the Kitimat terminal for Asia sometime in 2016, with possible further expansion in the future.
Patrick Cassidy, director of Apache’s Investor relations division, was making a presentation to the UBS Global Oil and Gas Conference in Houston, Texas, on the company’s future plans.
One slide in the Power Point presentation summed up Apache’s Pacific strategy, both at Kitimat and its chief rival, the Wheatstone project in Western Australia.
Apache said the final investment decision for the first train or phase the Kitimat LNG is still expected later this year. Previous reports have indicated the decision will likely come in the fourth quarter as Apache and its partners line up customers in Asia.
Originally the KM LNG partners said the project would start up in 2015, but delays, including the unusually harsh winter in Kitimat, which slowed construction at the Bish Cove site, and the search for customers for the natural gas, has pushed the date back to 2016.
Apache Corp. owns 40 per cent the KM LNG partnership, Canada’sEncana Corp. and EOG Resources each own 30 per cent each.
Two other projects are planned for Kitimat, the smaller BC LNG co-owned by Houston-based investors and the Haisla Nation and a larger project announced last week by Royal Dutch Shell.
Shell Canada has confirmed that, with three partners, it is developing a giant proposed liquified natural gas export facility at Kitimat.
The project could see up to 12 million tonnes of LNG exported from Kitimat each year. What the companies are now calling LNG Canada would be built in two “trains” or stages, with each producing six million tonnes. A news release from Shell says there is an option to expand the project beyond the 12 million tonne capacity.
The announcement made international news. The Chicago Tribune said Tuesday. “Kitimat… looks set to become a major supply hub for the Pacific Rim.”
Shell’s partners, Korea Gas Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, and PetroChina Company Limited will work to export natural gas, mostly from northeastern British Columbia, combining the “four companies’ extensive development experience, technical depth, financial strength and access to markets required to be the leading LNG developer in Canada.”
The four companies did not say how much money is involved in the project. Reports in the Japanese media said the project could cost as much as $12 billion US.
Shell holds a 40 per cent working interest. The partners KOGAS, Mitsubishi and PetroChina each hold a 20 per cent working interest.
“Our combined expertise, and our focus on technological innovation in delivering safe and environmentally sound LNG projects around the globe, ensures that our LNG Canada project would be well-suited to deliver long-term value for British Columbia and increase access to new export markets for Canada,” says Jose-Alberto Lima, Vice President LNG Americas, Shell Energy Resources Company in a news release.
The proposed LNG Canada project includes the design, construction and operation of a gas liquefaction plant and facilities for the storage and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), including marine off-loading facilities and shipping. LNG Canada can create significant economic benefit for the province, First Nations, local communities and the region. Such a project can create thousands of jobs during construction and hundreds of full-time, permanent jobs during operations. Such a significant energy project can also bring indirect economic development opportunities to the region.
Shell and PetroChina say:
A decision to move this project into development would be taken after conducting necessary engineering, environmental and stakeholder engagement work with start up around the end of the decade, pending regulatory approvals and investment decisions.
The approval process will begin with a formal consultation process with First Nations and local community residents.
“This project will contribute to a further strengthening of trade relationships between China and Canada and will help China use clean burning natural gas to fuel its economic growth,” Bo Qiliang, Vice President, PetroChina, said in the release.
“We are sitting on the doorstep of a very fast-growing market that actually wants to come to Canada because they see it as long-term stability and a secure source of supply,” Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore said. “We are now, for the first time in the natural gas industry, very competitive with other countries like Australia.”
Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said her and the District Council have been working on the project for sometime. “Council have been aware of it and have rolled up their sleeves for almost a year and half to two years,” the mayor said.
One aspect was making sure Kitimat is ready for the project, Monaghan said: “We had to make sure there were hospital facilities, rental facilities, that we had housing available. We were getting all our inventories together. Now we know and now we can go full blast ahead.”
Monaghan hopes that eventually Kitimat will return its population peak of between 10,000 and 15,000 residents. (Since the closure of the Eurocan craft paper mill in 2010, Kitimat’s population dropped to around 8,000 but that number has been growing with the LNG projects and the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project, even though the KMP project will eventually mean fewer jobs at the aluminum smelter).
“If they have the five to seven thousand construction workers they’re looking for, they will bring in workers from all over BC, probably all over Canada,” Monaghan said.
Most of the natural gas supply will come from the booming Horn River and Montney shale gas formations in northeastern British Columbia.
Reports say that LNG Canada will work with a third party that would build and probably own a pipeline from the northeast to the coat.
The profit picture comes from the fact that LNG prices in Asia, based on a proportion of the world price of oil, are much higher than the price of natural gas in North America, where the shale gas boom has driven gas prices to a record low.
The price boom in Asia could be a windfall for British Columbia, which could receive up to $600 billion in natural gas royalties over the next 25 years.
There is also fierce international competition to send LNG to Asia. The major energy companies are investing heavily in projects in Australia, while traditional suppliers like Qatar and Russia are ramping up their marketing efforts to Asia.
As of this week, Japan began closing down the last of its nuclear electrical generation capacity. After the March 11, 2011 earthquake, that country became a major customer for current and future liquified natural gas projects.
Since the earthquake last year, two other projects in Kitimat have proceeded. The Kitimat LNG project, a partnership called KM LNG led by Apache Corporation, Encana Corp, and EOG Resources plan to start up a Kitimat LNG plant in 2015, at Bish Cove with an initial capacity of five million tonnes a year. That project has been approved by the National Energy Board but is still waiting for a final go ahead from the boards of the three corporations, expected now in the fourth quarter of 2012.
A second project, called BC LNG, owned by the Haisla Nation in partnership with Houston-based LNG Partners, will act as broker and exporter for other LNG companies, facilitating exports to Asia from a barge based facility at North Cove, with the first shipment expected in 2014 or 2015.
There are also reports that Malaysia’s Petronas in partnership with Calgary-based Progress Energy Resources Corp., which have major stakes in B.C. shale are also looking for a possible LNG terminal on the west coast. As well, Talisman Energy, Nexen and Imperial Oil are also looking at west coast projects.
It looks like the Chinese curse (and journalist’s blessing) “May you live in interesting times,” has come to Kitimat, especially when it comes to selling LNG to Asia.
In the past months the world liquified natural gas market has become more volatile with increased competition across the globe and, in some cases, political factors adding to the molecule mix.
In the past few days, Alberta Oil magazine has published a series of articles on the Kitimat LNG projects, describing the projects as a high stakes poker game.
The point is that the potential Asian buyers for BC (and US) liquified natural gas want a secure supply and they’re not sure what is going on on this side of the Pacific.
That’s apparently why the first project, KM LNG, has put off the final go ahead project from the first quarter of 2012, as originally expected, to the now likely the fourth quarter of 2012.
That has left a lot of uncertainty in town, despite assurances from two of the KM LNG partners, Apache Corporation and EOG Resources that they are optimistic that there will be a deal with Asian gas buyers, even if it means Asian equity in the KM LNG project.
That uncertainty in Kitimat has led to widespread rumours, none substantiated, that the three proposed projects, by KM LNG, by the Houston-Haisla BC LNG partnership and Shell, may be consolidated in one way or another.
At Kitimat council on Monday, April 2, Mayor Joanne Monaghan said “There has been a rumour around recently that Apache is stopping their working for a year and I talked to the CEO, Tim Wall, yesterday and he assured me that that was not true.”
Work is continuing on the KM LNG site at Bish Cove.
This morning, April 5, 2012, Alberta Oil reported that EOG Resources boss still bullish on Kitimat LNG, quoting a company called Bernstein Research that met with EOG’s top executive, CEO Mark Papa, who told Bernstein that EOG considers its 30 per cent holding in KM LNG as a “core holding.”
In a Thursday research note, Bernstein’s Bob Brackett says EOG is willing to sell some of its stake in the Kitimat project to a buyer (likely of the Asian persuasion) looking for equity in the upstream portion of project. “EOG expects to dilute a portion of its stake for that purpose,” Brackett writes.
A day earlier, Alberta Oil reported in Global LNG players jockey for space on a crowded field noting that Australia’s LNG megaprojects are facing competition from North America and cost inflation as the number of projects increase. At the same, US LNG projects are trapped in the current mire of US politics, with many politicians wary of the energy-starved US exporting natural gas.
Kitimat is due to start pumping out five million tonnes of LNG by 2015, widely viewed as a market “sweet spot” because it beats a number of major Australian projects – among them Shell’s massive Prelude endeavor – into production. “It’s a bit of a race,” Mohanty at Wood Mackenzie says. “The general impression in the industry is that before these Australasian projects start up it’s going to be a sellers’ market.”
Mohanty also looks at the problem of cost inflation and limited resources, a problem Kitimat already faces with not only the three proposed LNG projects but RTA’s Kitimat Modernization Project.
Companies that specialize in engineering, procurement and construction of liquefaction facilities number fewer than 10 internationally, Mohanty says. He expects many of them will be kept busy by construction of several LNG projects underway in northwest Australia, including ongoing work at the massive Gorgon plant at Barrow Island. The Chevron-led venture is due to begin pumping out 15 million tonnes of LNG annually by 2014-15. “All of these are massive projects,” the analyst says. “What that means is order books are pretty full. There is a scarcity of resources in places like Australia right now.”
The shortfall could potentially squeeze Canadian LNG forays. “The fact that most of the B.C. facilities are going to be ‘green-field’ will not make it easy for them to meet a timeline compared to a lot of others.”