No FID on Kitimat LNG in 2015, Chevron tells investors

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.

Chevron Gorgon LNG project
Chevron says Gorgon Project  in Western Australia is  now 90 per cent complete. All Train 1 modules and 13 of 17 Train 2 modules are on their foundations. (Chevron)

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.

In a news release, Chevron said:

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.

Why BC should watch the Australian election: LNG and natural gas are suddenly a top issue

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.

LNG train “on ice”

This morning came the alert that Chevron has put the development of another train at its giant Gorgon LNG facility “on ice” (as a pun enabled headline writer in the Western Australian put it)

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.

Rising prices

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.

In one Australian riding, a local candidate wants one per cent of Australia’s gas be reserved just for the State of Queensland.

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.”


Coal gas

Another story in The Australian quotes James Baulderstone of the Australian energy company Santos:

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.”

The Australian Liberal Party (which like BC’s is actually conservative) supports coal gas projects. But it also wants to force energy companies to develop gas reserves they have leased.

Chevron and the unions

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.

This Australian blogger warns:

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 in “horse race” with Australian LNG project Chevron says

Gorgon project in Australia
The Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia. Chevron says  Gorgon Project work continues to progress with the installation of the second of three amine absorbers, two condensate stabilization modules and a recycled gas compression module. (Chevron Australia)

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 Australian reports come from the same conference call Chevron held with financial analysts last week, when the company said the final investment decision for Kitimat LNG has been postponed to 2014.

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.”

The Gorgon project in the northwestern area of Western Australia. (Chevron Australia)
The Gorgon project in the northwestern area of Western Australia. (Chevron Australia)

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.

Wikipedia says

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).

Chevron says

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.

Gorgon project wharf
A view of construction on the 2.1-km (1.3-mile ) LNG wharf with 24 caissons in place. (Chevron Australia)


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.

Wikipedia says

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.

Chevron says

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.

Gorgon Project Overview Chevron document pdf

Gorgon-Progress Update August 2, 2013 pdf