CALGARY (Dow Jones)
Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) said Thursday it acquired a site for a potential liquefied natural gas export terminal in Kitimat, B.C. from Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE).
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Shell acquired the site on behalf of a joint venture, with Japan's Mitsubishi Corp., China National Petroleum Corp. and Korea Gas Corp., that's exploring shipping super-cooled LNG from Canada to customers in Asia.
Shell's move follows news last week that Canada had granted the first natural gas export license to a C$5.6 billion terminal, also in Kitimat, planned by natural gas producers Apache Corp. (APA), Encana Inc. (ECA) and EOG Resources Inc. (EOG), that could begin shipping natural gas to markets in Asia by late 2015, eventually ramping up to shipments as large as 1.4 billion cubic feet a day.
Shell spokesman Stephen Doolan said its Kitimat project is still in "very early stages of planning" and he didn't have an estimate of how much gas the project would ship or how much it would cost to build.
The move by Shell and others to ship natural gas out of North America reflects a big shift in the continent's natural gas markets since horizontal fracturing techniques unlocked vast new supplies starting in the middle of the last decade, causing natural gas prices to plummet. Plans to build terminals to import natural gas were scrapped as producers are eager for new markets abroad to sell their abundant gas supplies.
Cenovus, a heavy oil producer, acquired the marine facility for C$38 million in November 2010 from Vancouver's Methanex Corp. (MEOH) and uses it to import some of the light petroleum condensates it uses in its oil-sands production. A Cenovus spokeswoman said it will continue to import condensates from the site until Shell converts it to an LNG export terminal.
Shell has also considered building an LNG export terminal that would ship 1 billion cubic feet a day at the port on Prince Rupert Island, B.C., about 80 kilometers west of Kitimat. Doolan said Shell is now focusing on the Kitimat location.
In addition to hosting Shell and the Apache LNG sites, Kitimat is also the potential site for oil export tankers targeting Asian markets. Plans by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. (ENB) to build the Northern Gateway pipeline from oil production in Alberta to the British Columbia coast are being considered by Canadian regulators, and opposed by some environmental and native groups.
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