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Natural gas terminal may be in the pipeline for Goldboro after all

Reprinted with permission from The Chronicle Herald (Halifax, NS)

It might actually happen.

A $10.8-billion liquefied natural gas terminal may actually be coming down the pipe for Goldboro -- a Guysborough county community nearly 20 km from the nearest store.

On August 13 a team of National Bank of Canada energy analysts published a research document: The Little LNG Project that Could.

Calling Pieridae Energy’s proposal “The Las Vegas Golden Knights of LNG Projects” it laid out the hurdles already jumped:

  • A deal with German utility Uniper to buy half the 1.3 Bcf/d of gas supply, and with Swiss utility Axpo to buy 10% of the project.
  • A debt guarantee from the German government worth $4 billion.
  • Managing to put nearly all of its required permits in place -- including go-aheads to export both American and Canadian natural gas, along with environmental approvals.
  • Project labour agreements with unions for a 3,500-man workforce to build the plant.

“Above all, securing volumes (of natural gas) is arguably the most critical milestone, as it will allow the project to execute transportation agreements and is required to finalize financing guarantees,” wrote the National Bank of Canada analysts.

Two weeks later, Pieridae Energy bought Ikkuma Resources via a stock swap.

That gave them ownership of about 30% of the gas required for the total project at a cost significantly lower than that of similar reserves elsewhere in North America.

Mark Brown, Pieridae’s vice president of business development, said Wednesday that they are working on two other similar deals with companies that own gas reserves in western Canada.

“That’s why the Ikkuma deal is so important -- you’re not so concerned about the spread,” said Brown.

(In other words, when you own the gas reserves you aren’t as affected by fluctuations in price.)

But not so fast, warns one energy analyst.

You still have to get the gas here -- 75% is expected to come via pipeline from Western Canada and the remaining quarter bought from eastern North America.

“I’m not holding my breath on this,” said Ed Kallio, of Eau Claire Energy Advisory.

“It looks good but they need to show me they have a transport deal with TransCanada and all the pipe required to get their gas to their facility.”

All the pipe required doesn’t necessarily exist.

The project is broken into two trains that combined will need about 1.3 Bcf/d.

The first train is entirely contracted out to Uniper, under a 20-year agreement and, according to Brown, would alone make the project profitable.

Patrick Kenny, a pipeline analyst with National Bank and one of the three authors of ‘The Little LNG Project that Could’ report, says capacity would have to be expanded to meet even the first train.

That, he suspected, is most likely to be accomplished by increasing compression.

To meet the demands of train two, much of the TransCanada pipeline system bringing the gas East to join up with the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline would have to be looped at points or twinned.

And that’s expensive.

“It would definitely require a credit worthy counter party signing up for a long term commitment,” said Kenny.

So Pieridae Energy, which doesn’t have the resources like the big companies proposing LNG export terminals on the west Coast, will have to show TransCanada and Enbridge (owner of Maritimes Northeast) that, if they spend the huge amount of money needed to expand pipeline capacity, they will get it back.

And you have to get gas all the way from Alberta to Goldboro while paying tolling fees that keep it competitive with existing and planned American LNG export terminals.

“We are working our way through those negotiations,” said Brown.

“We need that in place before we can make a final investment decision.”

The date on that decision has already been pushed back a few times and now is set for the first quarter of 2019.

It’s a decision that could radically improve the economic future of northern Nova Scotia in the short term and Guysborough County for a generation.

But before pulling the trigger the proponents have a few hurdles left to leap.

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