The number seven is a symbol of fortune and intelligence in China and that luck is being pressed by the Asian-owned seventh proposal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to the Orient from the Pacific Coast of British Columbia (BC).
Pacific Oil & Gas Ltd. a Singapore arm of Indonesian paper, palm oil, construction and energy conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle International extends the BC growth program into the heart of a famously environmentally touchy region. While the first six BC LNG terminal schemes settled for remote sites at the northern industrial ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert (see Daily GPI, April 12), Pacific chose a prominent spot in the most populated and affluent southwest region of the Canadian province.
Named Woodfibre LNG after its location at a closed lumber mill now undergoing environmental reclamation, Asian gas export project No. 7 is midway along a heavily traveled scenic route celebrated as the Sea to Sky Highway. The planned terminal, at the head of a fjord-like yachting playground known as Howe Sound, is just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from Vancouver and 60 kilometers from the mountain resort town of Whistler, site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The tanker route to the LNG loading dock passes between spots treasured as local jewels in southern BC: Horseshoe Bay, a ferry terminal in one of Canada's wealthiest neighborhoods, and the Sunshine Coast, a cluster of growing artist and retirement colonies. Pacific Oil & Gas has an agreement to buy the site for C$25.5 million from Western Forest Products Inc., which ran a pulp mill on the 212-acre lot for 94 years before operations shut down in 2006.
Unlike mammoth proposals for Kitimat and Prince Rupert terminals, Pacific's current export license request to the National Energy Board (NEB) calls for a modest initial introduction of Canadian gas into the global LNG trade. The application seeks a 25-year permit to export 2.6 Tcf of gas, or 105 Bcf/d at a daily rate of 300 MMcf starting at a date to be announced between 2017 and 2021.
The modest size of the scheme would hold down the number of tanker return trips through Howe Sound to a maximum of four per month, Pacific says. The company adds that it expects thorough federal and provincial environmental reviews of the terminal proposal and allied pipeline additions under discussion with FortisBC Energy (Vancouver Island) Inc. and Spectra Energy (Westcoast).
But in a letter sent this week to Pacific, the NEB confirmed that Canada's seventh Pacific Coast LNG project has a potentially long reprieve from the hardest part of current gas and oil traffic growth projects. A time-saver procedural change, enacted in 2012 in the name of preventing duplication of regulatory reviews, has permanently dropped environmental scrutiny from the issues list for export license cases, the NEB said.
Pacific is keeping all its market options open, saying its Canadian gas can come from a full range of its own drilling, potential partners, and purchases from producers or dealers. Supply agreements have been reached with Tenaska Marketing Canada and EDF Trading North America LCC. The same flexibility goes for overseas sales, where Pacific vows to target a wide range of marketers and consumers.
Although Pacific-Woodfibre is the second-smallest entry in the LNG lineup before the NEB, the project has strong overseas connections and encourages high expectations for Canadian gas to grow into a mainstay of Asian markets.
Pacific's overseas operations include ownership interests in a Chinese LNG import terminal licensed for up to 1 Bcf/d, and two new gas-fired electricity generating stations under development in China for combined output of 2,340 megawatts. The projects are initial forays into clean power, replacing traditional reliance on coal, by partnerships between the company and Chinese national and state energy enterprises.
The company has told the NEB, "Natural gas supply from Canada is highly attractive in the Pacific Rim markets. Canada is seen as a desirable source of natural gas supply because of its political and regulatory stability. Thus, the Pacific Rim represents a substantial market opportunity for Canadian producers."