Another four groups are considering entries into the lineup to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals on the northern Pacific Coast of British Columbia, BC Energy Minister Rich Coleman has confirmed.

The potential additional schemes stepped forward in response to a February request to the gas industry from the provincial government for information to guide land use planning and co-operation with the aboriginal community in and around the northern port at Kitimat, BC. All the potential projects identified by Coleman were previously announced by disclosures to shareholders and through the media. All are in early planning stages and have yet to file regulatory applications for gas export licenses or construction of terminals, docks or pipelines (see NGI, Jan. 28).

All the project sponsors have also made wary statements that their futures depend on the evolution of increasingly competitive markets for LNG in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan, where a buyer's market is developing thanks to the growing lineup of potential suppliers in Australia and the Middle East as well as the United States and Canada.

The groups identified by Coleman as responding to his government's request for a formal expression of interest are Nexen Inc., its new owner China National Offshore Oil Co., Japanese energy firm INPEX Corp., and international engineering firm JGC; Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd.; South Korea's SK E&S; and Imperial Oil, 70% owned by ExxonMobil Corp. and subsidiary ExxonMobil Canada Ltd.

Since 2010, the National Energy Board (NEB) has granted 20- to 25-year export licenses to three projects sponsored by other international consortiums: KM LNG, BC LNG and LNG Canada. None of those holding Canada export licenses have landed overseas LNG sales contracts needed to trigger construction, although preliminary brush clearing has begun along part of a right-of-way for one of numerous associated pipeline projects.

All the projects holding export licenses, as well as the potential new entries, have interests in northern BC shale deposits that are in early stages of exploration and development as LNG export supply sources, but also for markets across Canada and the United States when the current North American gas glut recedes.

Enthusiastic announcements of BC's LNG potential have become a fixture of the provincial political scene since last fall. Prospects for new exports, supported by large-scale drilling and pipeline construction in northeastern BC, have been fashioned into a central plank in the BC Liberal government's campaign platform for an election scheduled for sometime this spring. A voting date has yet to be set.

Coleman's statement on the potential new entries included a reminder of the prospective LNG terminals' role in provincial politics. The minister's progress report said, "The EOI [expression of interest] is the latest action by the government to ensure the LNG opportunity continues to move forward, as part of a comprehensive LNG strategy for British Columbia. The Province also made a 2013 throne speech commitment to establish a BC Prosperity Fund to ensure communities, First Nations and all British Columbians benefit from the development of a new LNG industry. Over time, billions of dollars in new revenue will be dedicated to this fund, with a key priority of eliminating the provincial debt."

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