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LNG Project Gets Sundown Slowdown From Canadian Regulators

A second boost in three weeks -- an extended export license -- has been given to the Asian entry in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) development lineup on British Columbia’s Pacific Coast.

The National Energy Board (NEB) followed through on federal environmental approval granted Sept. 28 awarding Pacific NorthWest LNG a 40-year gas export license on Friday, adding 15 years to the project’s official lifespan (see Daily GPI, Sept. 28).

The ruling does not change the unsettled status of the plan, which senior partner Petronas in Malaysia has described as a state of “total project review” taking into account costs of 190 environmental approval conditions as well as international gas demand and prices.

But at a Calgary industry conference in recent days, junior partner JAPEX Montney Ltd. underlined the value of long regulatory permits. The Japanese firm’s representatives described political stability in supplier jurisdictions and guarantees of uninterrupted shipments as critical to overseas gas buyers.

A generous sunset clause in the NEB ruling gives Pacific NorthWest 10 years to start shipments by building its proposed C$11 billion (US$8.5 billion) terminal for up to 3 Bcf/d in tanker cargoes at Prince Rupert in northern BC.

The extended license authorizes astronomical total exports of about 48 Tcf of gas, if all proposed phases of the development are built early in the 40-year duration of the permit.

In awarding extended licenses, made available in response to industry requests, the NEB relies on projections by government and private earth-sciences agencies of vast shale gas supplies awaiting development in BC and Alberta.

In the Pacific NorthWest LNG ruling, the board also repeated that the export license procedure no longer includes a regulatory attempt to assess the likelihood of success for any or all projects. The permits only enable sponsors to seek customers.

The decision said, “The board does not assess the economic viability or the impacts related to the proposed LNG infrastructure, including liquefaction facilities and marine terminals. Furthermore, an export license is a standalone authorization that does not authorize construction.”

The NEB rejects warnings by industry critics that the cumulative volumes in export licenses granted to the 25-project LNG lineup on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts could strain even shale gas supplies if a majority or all of the proposed terminals are built.

All of these LNG ventures are competing for a limited global market and face numerous development and construction challenges,” the Pacific NorthWest ruling said. The decision predicted “not all LNG export licenses issued by the board will be used or used to the full allowance.”

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