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The Kitimat, B.C., harbour.

Robin Rowland/The Canadian Press

Royal Dutch Shell PLC says it's shifting away from growing its liquefied natural gas business, a move that raises fresh doubts about the future of its proposed LNG Canada project in Kitimat, B.C.

The company said Tuesday the pace of new investment in LNG will slow as it moderates growth and prioritizes cash flow generation and returns on existing projects.

Shell said that while its integrated gas business was previously a "growth priority," it has now reached a critical mass after completing the acquisition of gas giant BG Group in February.

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Oil and gas analyst Dirk Lever at Altacorp Capital said the announcement doesn't mean an end to the company's LNG Canada project, which could cost up to $40-billion (U.S.) to build, but it could push development further down the road.

In February, Shell postponed a final investment decision on the project until the end of the year, a timeline it maintained in its latest presentation Tuesday.

Shell and LNG Canada deferred questions on future LNG spending in Canada to each other.

The proposed Prince Rupert LNG project in B.C. that BG put on hold in 2014 does not appear on a list of projects with pending investment decisions in Shell's presentation released Tuesday.

The LNG Canada project would export up to 24 million tonnes of LNG per year, while the Prince Rupert project was designed to export up to 21 million tonnes of LNG annually.

Shell owns a 50-per-cent stake in the LNG Canada project it is developing with partners Korea Gas Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., and PetroChina Co. Ltd. Shell now fully owns the Prince Rupert project following the BG merger.

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