The latest entrant in the race to export B.C. liquefied natural gas is focusing on remote Stewart in northwestern British Columbia, with the project backed by the pairing of a Canadian construction industry veteran and an entrepreneur from China.
Canada Stewart Energy Group Ltd., which is applying to export LNG from Stewart, plans to use new port facilities to be developed by B.C. construction executive Ted Pickell. A group led by Gong Jialong, an entrepreneur from China, contacted Mr. Pickell to propose the Stewart Energy LNG project.
"They approached us," Mr. Pickell said in an interview. "I have a great respect for entrepreneurs and workers."
The port's construction is slated for completion in 2016 while Stewart Energy LNG envisages exporting LNG in 2017.
Mr. Pickell is chief executive officer of a separate company, Stewart World Port. He said Stewart World Port has signed a 150-year lease with the District of Stewart, and the port project does not hinge on LNG exports, though they would be a bonus.
"We're building to be in business to handle anyone's cargo, as long as they pay the bills," he said. "We're happy to get any and all cargo that we can acquire."
Three other groups have made inquiries to Stewart World Port about potential LNG exports, he noted.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "I'm an optimist, but these are early days."
Stewart Energy LNG is one of 13 B.C. LNG projects vying to super-cool natural gas into liquid form and export the commodity from Canada's West Coast to Asia. Prince Rupert and Kitimat are among the other proposed B.C. LNG port sites.
Mr. Gong, chairman and CEO of Canada Stewart Energy, has been seeking to make a comeback in the resources industry. He founded Tianfa Petroleum Co. in China and became a powerful figure in the country's petroleum sector.
Canada Stewart Energy produced a biography that tallies Mr. Gong's career highlights, including years spent overseeing private Chinese companies in oil production and refining.
Mr. Pickell is president of Canada Stewart Energy, which filed an LNG export licence application to the National Energy Board earlier this month.
Canada Stewart Energy shares office space in a downtown Vancouver tower with Canada Potash Corp., which holds subsurface mineral rights in Saskatchewan. Canada Potash president Gary Chang is a director at Canada Stewart Energy. Other Canada Stewart Energy executives include Stewart World Port executive Brad Moffat, and energy entrepreneurs David Zhao and Ken Sit.
Stewart Mayor Galina Durant said she was impressed by Mr. Gong's energy knowledge during a discussion with him, and she is pleased that Mr. Pickell is leading the charge in developing new port facilities at Stewart.
Another firm, privately owned Stewart Bulk Terminals Ltd., oversees a wharf and trestle operation that handles mining concentrate trucked in from northwestern British Columbia and then exported to Asia. But Mr. Pickell's larger port site clears the way for both importing and exporting bulk commodities, Ms. Durant said.
Mr. Pickell plays several roles in B.C. business. He is also CEO of Fort St. John, B.C.-based Arctic Construction Ltd., a company that specializes in building roads and developing sites for Canada's oil and gas industry. As CEO of Stewart World Port, he is embarking on the second phase of construction of the new deep-water port at Stewart, located at the head of the Portland Canal, which forms a natural boundary between British Columbia and Alaska.
Major LNG hurdles remain, notably securing financing and finding a builder for a pipeline into Stewart, not to mention competing against rival LNG proponents that boast much deeper pockets.