Petronas has named a new president at Pacific NorthWest LNG to oversee construction of the B.C. project, hoping to show Ottawa that the consortium is willing to forge ahead despite a federal environmental review that has taken more than three years.
Adnan Zainal Abidin, vice-president of global LNG projects at Malaysia's state-owned Petronas, will take over on Sunday as Pacific NorthWest LNG president. The industry veteran joined Petronas in 1984 and rose through the ranks to become an expert in liquefied natural gas.
Michael Culbert, who has been Pacific NorthWest LNG president since October, 2014, will step down from that position on Sunday and focus on his duties as chief executive officer of Calgary-based Progress Energy Canada Ltd., a natural gas producer that was acquired by Petronas in 2012 for $5.2-billion.
Petronas leads the Pacific NorthWest LNG consortium, which is seeking to build an $11.4-billion terminal to export LNG from northwestern British Columbia to Asia. The other partners are from Japan, China, India and Brunei.
"This team is the engineering and project management side, which will be built up around Adnan's skill set," Mr. Culbert said in an interview. "It's a good sign for the project to bring that LNG construction expertise in."
In June, 2015, Pacific NorthWest LNG gave the conditional go-ahead to the project, subject to the B.C. legislature approving a development agreement and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency providing its regulatory nod.
B.C.'s Liberal government used its majority in late July to push through an LNG bill. The bill's passage also resulted in the ratification of the development agreement between the government and Pacific NorthWest LNG. But the review by the CEAA is ongoing and there likely won't be a decision by the federal cabinet until August or September.
"Here we are, coming up to a year later, and we're still waiting for that CEAA approval," Mr. Culbert said. "Investments like this make a lot of sense to me, as a Canadian, to move the project forward. This is the right time to invest. You're in a down cycle in the energy sector and jobs have been lost. This is job creation and you have a federal government that is in significant deficit position."
Pacific NorthWest LNG also announced that it has a new chairman, Anuar Taib, who heads upstream operations at Petronas. He replaces former Petronas executive vice-president Wee Yiaw Hin, who retired recently.
Industry analysts say a global glut of LNG and low prices for the fuel have cast doubt on major projects.
But Mr. Culbert said the key is where the energy market will be in 2021 and beyond. "At this snapshot in time, the LNG market from a price perspective is not very attractive. Five or six years from now, it could be very different," he said.