Coleman plays down Petronas LNG threat

Natural gas minister Rich Coleman (left), B.C. trade representative Ben Stewart and Premier Christy Clark tour a Petronas LNG import facility in Malaysia in May. - B.C. government photo
Natural gas minister Rich Coleman (left), B.C. trade representative Ben Stewart and Premier Christy Clark tour a Petronas LNG import facility in Malaysia in May.
— image credit: B.C. government photo

WHISTLER – B.C.'s minister for natural gas development is playing down a threat from the president of Malaysian energy giant Petronas to withdraw from its $10 billion project to export liquefied natural gas from a terminal near Prince Rupert.

Petronas CEO Shamsul Abbas was quoted in the international business paper Financial Times Thursday accusing Canada and B.C. of "uncertainty, delay and short vision" in its regulations, taxes and "lack of appropriate incentives" to invest.

B.C. minister Rich Coleman said Thursday he contacted Petronas when he saw the report. He said Abbas has expressed similar concerns before, but B.C. negotiators continue to work on terms for a master development agreement.

Coleman said company representatives assured him the province has met every deadline Petronas has asked for, and he and Premier Christy Clark are set to meet with Abbas when he visits Canada next week.

"We know that we are getting to a spot competitively, globally, because everybody's told us that, but he's representing the interests of Petronas as we go through this," Coleman said. "We're going to represent the interests of British Columbia, to make sure B.C. gets its share of this opportunity."

The Malaysian state-owned company is leading a consortium that includes Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Brunei investors for a pipeline and LNG processing in northern B.C. Petronas paid $5 billion last year to take over Progress Energy Canada, which has major shale gas holdings in northeast B.C. and Alberta.

The B.C. government plans to pass legislation in October to establish a tax on LNG exports. Coleman said the provincial tax is a small part of the negotiations, which include B.C.'s air quality requirements and protection of fish habitat at the Lelu Island site on the North Coast.

Fisheries impact from construction of the port could cause Petronas to change its design, which would delay development, but the project is not at risk, Coleman said.

"I think the only risk to any project in B.C. and anywhere in the world is the price of natural gas," Coleman said. "If you can't get the return on your investment and capital from the price you can sell it for, you're not making the final investment decision, but that's always been the case."

NDP leader John Horgan said Abbas' comments sound like "negotiating in public," but B.C. has been slow to pursue export of vast shale gas reserves that have been known for many years.

VIDEO: Premier Christy Clark calls Petronas' threat a negotiation tactic

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