After two years of trial shipments, British Columbia-based utility FortisBC has secured a modest overseas market toehold as a pioneer natural gas contract supplier for a Chinese trader.

The Western Canada firm has an agreement to provide 53,000 tons/year of liquefied natural gas (LNG), equivalent to about 6.7 MMcf/d, to Chinese trader Top Speed Energy Corp. The agreement is set to begin in 2021.

Instead of filling tankers, the overseas LNG exports would cross the Pacific aboard freighters by fitting into weekly cargos of about 60 standard-sized shipping containers.

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi called the Chinese contract “an encouraging step for Canada’s LNG export industry.”

The federal and provincial governments are supporting tanker terminal development on the northern Pacific coast with tax breaks and grants.

“There is strong demand for Canadian LNG in China,” said FortisBC Vice President Douglas Stout. Trial exports to China have been underway as periodic spot sales since 2017 from the FortisBC supply hub Tilbury LNG near Vancouver.

Two years ago FortisBC expanded the Tilbury terminal to 37 MMcf/d, supported by nearly tripled storage of 1.6 Bcf.