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Canada Slow-Walking Pipeline Approval as LNG Project Pace Slows

A construction permit extension granted Thursday by the National Energy Board (NEB) recognizes that the Asian entry in the lineup to start Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports could delay an investment decision until mid-2017.

The ruling set a new expiry date of June 10, 2017 for the NEB approval of the C$1.7 billion North Montney Mainline project by TransCanada Corp.’s supply collection network in Alberta and British Columbia, Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) (see Daily GPI, Oct. 27, 2015).

The revised schedule gives the Pacific NorthWest LNG consortium, led by Malaysian state energy conglomerate Petronas, until May 10 to decide whether to go ahead. The NEB permit requires TransCanada-NGTL to provide a 30-day advance notice of construction start.

North Montney would have 301 kilometers (181 miles) of jumbo pipeline to relay BC shale production into another TransCanada project, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, for delivery to Pacific NorthWest’s proposed LNG terminal on the northern Pacific Coast. The plan calls for exports to grow to 2.7 Bcf/d.

Petronas, represented in Canada by Calgary subsidiary Progress Energy, has held off deciding whether to build the terminal while awaiting approval by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). After delays to consider environmental and native opposition, the ruling is scheduled to come down by early October.

The Pacific NorthWest group has warned supporters -- including the BC government, which has enacted a favorable tax regime -- to expect further delays. Potentially months-long reviews will focus on conditions that the CEAA attaches to the project approval and on the global LNG market outlook. The Asian consortium is also awaiting NEB approval for an extended, 40-year gas export license that is being sought to add an attraction -- a supply security guarantee of regulatory stability -- to overseas contract offers (see Daily GPI, Feb. 19).

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