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A tanker carrying liquefied natural gas sails at Tokyo BayISSEI KATO/Reuters

Exxon Mobil Corp. has jumped into the race to export liquefied natural gas from Canada's west coast to Asia, with a huge proposal to process 30 million tonnes per year in Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

Exxon and its Canadian arm, Imperial oil Ltd., filed an application Thursday with the National Energy Board for a licence to export the gas, putting it in competition with several plants planned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron Corp., and Malaysia's Petronas, which last year acquired Calgary-based Progress Energy as part of its Canadian gas strategy.

In its application, Exxon Mobil cites its extensive history in the global gas industry, adding it has been "a driving force in transforming the LNG market into a more efficient global business."

The companies would supply the gas from Canadian fields where Exxon and Imperial hold reserves, but could also process other sources of gas supply from shale gas basins in British Columbia and Alberta.

Exxon this year completed the $2.6-billion acquisition of Calgary-based Celtic Exploration Ltd., which had presence in some of western Canada's most promising shale gas plays.

Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser said the companies are in the early planning stages.

The application "is not a project description or a commitment to build a facility," he said. "It is a necessary step to do the things we need to do to get there."

He said it could be several years before a final investment decision is made as the company works with potential customers, suppliers and First Nations to flesh out the project.

With files from Reuters

Follow Shawn McCarthy on Twitter: @smccarthy55Opens in a new window

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