Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman meets with Japan Petroleum Exploration Company president Osamu Watanabe in Tokyo last week.

Japan wooed as B.C. LNG customer

Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman tours Tokyo head offices after Japanese ambassador warns B.C. risks losing world's biggest customer

After a warning from Japan’s ambassador to Canada that the window is closing for the world’s largest customer of liquefied natural gas, Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman has completed a sales trip to Tokyo.

Coleman met with Japanese government officials and major industrial players including Japan Petroleum Exploration Company Ltd. (JAPEX), a partner in the Pacific Northwest LNG project proposed for Prince Rupert.

Another stop was at Mitsubishi Corp., a partner in the LNG Canada project with Shell, PetroChina and Korea Gas with an export terminal proposed near Kitimat. Mitsubishi has also invested $2.9 billion in gas development in the Montney shale formation near Dawson Creek.

Japan’s official warning came after federal Environment Minister Catharine McKenna delayed by another three months a decision on its environmental permit for Pacific Northwest LNG’s terminal at Lelu Island. The permit is one of the last conditions specified by Malaysian state company Petronas and its partners, but the process has dragged on twice as long as the original one-year estimate.

“The global LNG market has changed drastically from a seller’s market to a buyers’, and competition among LNG suppliers is increasing,” Japanese Ambassador Kenjiro Monji said in a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

“As LNG exports are usually based on long-term contracts, should Canada miss a window in demand for LNG, the next opportunity may be 10 or 20 years in the future.”

B.C. has 20 LNG export proposals, but slow approvals and protests have delayed the B.C. industry as the U.S. and other countries have moved ahead.

One vote of confidence came in late March, when Exxon Mobil applied to extend its LNG export licence from 25 to 40 years. Exxon Mobil and its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil have proposed an export facility based either at Kitimat or Prince Rupert.