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Greg Kist

Greg Kist resigned as president of Pacific NorthWest LNG, just as the venture led by Malaysia's Petronas is hoping to launch a major liquefied natural gas project in B.C.

Michael Culbert has taken over the role, serving as acting president of the joint venture, Vancouver-based Pacific NorthWest LNG said Friday.

Mr. Culbert, a Pacific NorthWest LNG director, is continuing as president and chief executive officer of Calgary-based Progress Energy Canada, a natural-gas producer that was acquired by Petronas in 2012 for $5.2-billion.

Pacific NorthWest LNG chairman Wee Yiaw Hin credited Mr. Kist for leading the consortium in the early stages of plans to build an $11-billion export terminal on Lelu Island, located near Prince Rupert in northwestern British Columbia.

He said Mr. Kist is returning to live with his family in their home province of Alberta. "Under Greg's leadership, the company was formed and continues to work towards a final investment decision this year," Mr. Wee said in a statement. "He leaves Pacific NorthWest LNG as a strong company with an excellent management team and a committed, dedicated group of employees."

Pacific NorthWest LNG released Mr. Kist's memo to employees about his departure. "Pacific NorthWest LNG has made a huge contribution to the province of British Columbia and it was a pleasure to be part of such a vibrant and dynamic organization."

His resignation takes effect on Oct. 31, after serving as president of the Petronas-led consortium since its formal creation in the spring of 2013. He formerly worked as an executive at Progress Energy.

Shamsul Azhar Abbas, CEO of Malaysian energy giant Petronas, warned earlier this month that Pacific NorthWest LNG would be delayed by as many as 15 years unless tax and regulatory issues are resolved by Oct. 31. The B.C. government tabled its LNG tax regime on Tuesday, vastly scaling back its expectations for tax revenue from the province's fledgling LNG sector.

Pacific NorthWest LNG estimates that almost $36-billion will need to be spent in order to make its export plan a reality in early 2019. The massive budget includes $6.7-billion in pipeline projects, $11-billion for the export terminal on Lelu Island, and more than $2-billion annually from 2013 through 2018 on Progress Energy's northeastern B.C. natural gas-development projects.

Spencer Sproule, Pacific NorthWest LNG's senior adviser of corporate affairs, said arrangements for debt financing for the export terminal began in June and remain on track. "Société Générale is our financial adviser," Mr. Sproule said in an interview Friday. "We expect the capital outlay for terminal project will be approximately $11-billion. Debt financing is a component of the final investment decision. The Pacific NorthWest LNG board intends on making the final investment decision before the end of 2014."

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency raised environmental red flags in May, concerned about the fate of tiny juvenile salmon. Since then, Pacific NorthWest LNG has been seeking ways to lessen the project's ecological impact, culminating in a plan unveiled earlier this month to build a suspension bridge that would extend southwest for 1.6 kilometres away from Lelu Island. The suspension bridge, which would connect with a 1.1-kilometre-long jetty, is designed to vastly minimize dredging and avoid damaging the sensitive eelgrass beds for salmon in Flora Bank.