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Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd. has axed its plans to build a liquefied natural gas project at Grassy Point in B.C.

RON D'RAINE/Bloomberg News

Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd. has axed its plans to build a liquefied natural gas project at Grassy Point in British Columbia, shifting its attention to a joint venture with Chevron Corp.

The south site of Grassy Point covers more than 693 hectares of property near Prince Rupert.

"Woodside has decided not to renew our sole proponent agreement for the Grassy Point LNG site, which expired on Jan. 15, 2018," a Woodside spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday from the company's head office in Perth.

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"The decision was made after careful consideration of our long-term development strategy in Canada. We are grateful to all of those who have devoted time and resources to working with us as we have explored the feasibility of developing the Grassy Point LNG project."

Woodside won the right in 2014 to acquire land at the south site of Grassy Point in northwestern B.C. for an LNG project after reaching a deal with the provincial government. Woodside emerged as the victor for exclusive rights to sign a long-term tenure for a planned LNG terminal, beating out South Korea's SK E&S Co. and the team of Irving, Tex.-based Exxon Mobil Corp. and its Canadian unit, Imperial Oil Ltd.

Woodside said it will now concentrate its efforts on helping to develop a separate B.C. project called Kitimat LNG – jointly owned by the Australian firm and Chevron. The Woodside-Chevron site is at Bish Cove, located on Haisla Nation reserve land near the community of Kitimat.

Woodside pointed out that San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron is the operator of the joint venture. "We are focusing on the Kitimat LNG project in which we are a 50-per-cent partner with Chevron," the Woodside spokeswoman said.

But the cancellation of Grassy Point LNG, wholly owned by Woodside, is the latest in a series of decisions by energy companies to abandon a wide range of LNG plans on Canada's West Coast.

Last year, B.C. projects axed included: Royal Dutch Shell PLC's Prince Rupert LNG plans on Ridley Island; the Malaysian-led Pacific NorthWest LNG joint venture on Lelu Island; the Aurora LNG consortium led by China on Digby Island; and B.C.-based Steelhead LNG's Malahat proposal on Vancouver Island.

A source familiar with the situation at Kitimat LNG told The Globe and Mail that Chevron isn't contemplating ownership changes in the short term, although the energy giant would be open to reducing its interest if a generous offer were to surface while the project strives to lower construction costs and seek buyers of LNG in Asia.

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"Chevron is not in a position to comment on commercial matters, rumours or speculation," Chevron Canada Ltd. spokesman Ray Lord said in a statement from Calgary. Woodside added that it does not comment on speculation.

Chevron and Woodside suffered huge cost overruns at the Gorgon LNG and Wheatstone LNG joint ventures in Australia.

Woodside closed its deal to buy its 50-per-cent stake in Kitimat LNG from Houston-based Apache Corp. in April, 2015. The Perth-based company also picked up natural-gas drilling properties in the Horn River and Liard shale plays in northeast British Columbia.

Kitimat LNG's proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline would transport natural gas from the Summit Lake area in the B.C. Interior to an export terminal at Bish Cove.

Chevron and partners over the years have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on site-preparation work at Bish Cove, but Woodside's acquisition of Apache's stake coincided with a downturn in the global LNG market that began in the spring of 2015.

Shell-led LNG Canada is widely viewed by industry analysts as the front-runner to construct a B.C. export terminal, which would be built on a Kitimat industrial site that is located on the Haisla's traditional territory.

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Kitimat LNG, LNG Canada, Woodfibre LNG near Squamish and Steelhead LNG's Kwispaa LNG on Vancouver Island are among the B.C. energy ventures lobbying to reduce taxes, notably hoping that Ottawa will exempt them from federal anti-dumping duties against imports of fabricated industrial steel components.

Only a handful of LNG proposals in B.C. remain active today, down sharply from more than 20 in 2014. So far, despite much hype from the previous BC Liberal government, no B.C. terminal is under construction to export the fuel to Asia.

The BC NDP formed a political alliance with the Greens in 2017, resulting in the ousting of the Liberals last summer. Seven weeks ago, BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver threatened to bring down Premier John Horgan's NDP minority government if it continues to promote the province's nascent LNG industry.

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