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Shell-BG megamerger could decide fate of major B.C. LNG projects

The Shell logo is seen at a petrol station in west London in this Jan. 29, 2015, file photo.

Toby Melville/Reuters

Two major liquefied natural gas export projects on British Columbia's coast face a more uncertain future with Royal Dutch Shell's proposed $70-billion (U.S.) acquisition of BG Group.

A key issue if the deal, announced Wednesday, goes ahead is whether the merged company will proceed with its own B.C. LNG project as well as that of BG or cancel one or perhaps both.

In the current context of the looming global glut of LNG and slumping prices for oil and gas, many observers say it's unlikely most of the 19 LNG projects on the West Coast will get built.

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Moody's Investors Service Inc. said on Tuesday that the "vast majority" of North American LNG projects face cancellation.

The energy sector is also under pressure to rein in spending in an environment of low oil and gas prices and overcapacity, and companies have been delaying or abandoning explorations and development projects.

Shell has estimated the cost of its proposed LNG export terminal in Kitimat at up to $40-billion (Canadian). It owns 50 per cent of LNG Canada through its subsidiary Shell Canada Energy.

BG said late last year it was slowing work on its Prince Rupert LNG project, with an investment decision not in the cards until 2017 at the earliest.

Other major LNG players on the West Coast include Chevron Corp.-led Kitimat LNG and Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG.

BMO Capital Markets oil and gas equity analyst Randy Ollenberger said in an e-mail that "we would have anticipated consolidation among the [LNG] projects without this transaction."

Outside of LNG, the deal appears to have "minimal impact" on operations in Canada, he said.

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"Shell is focused on oil sands and unconventional gas/liquids in Canada. BG doesn't have any overlapping assets. Shell may dispose of some non-core unconventional assets but again they would have likely pursued that anyway."

Shell said on Wednesday the BG deal would give it enhanced prospects for new projects, particularly in Australia and Brazil.

It also said it wants to boost asset sales to $30-billion (U.S.) from about $6-billion between 2016 and 2018.

Shell is also active in Canada's oil sands and is the major owner and operator of the Caroline gas complex in southern Alberta as well as other gas fields, wells and processing plants.

Last month, the head of BG's Canadian operations, Madeline Whitaker, left to take on another position elsewhere in the British company's operations and was not replaced.

That move added to the uncertainty over B.C.'s fledgling LNG industry.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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