Encana Corp. has sold another project on the periphery of its business.
The natural gas company sold its 50-per-cent stake in the liquefied natural gas production facility at Elmworth, Alta., to its joint venture partner Ferus Natural Gas Fuels Inc. While this fits with Encana's plan to sell assets, the deal was not large enough for the company to announce it publicly.
Jay Avrill, a spokesman at Encana, said the deal was "not material" for the natural gas company. Ferus spokeswoman Blaire Lancaster said in an e-mail that "the total value of the plant and equipment is $25-million and Ferus bought Encana's 50 per cent interest."
The plant is designed to produce 190,000 litres a day of liquefied natural gas to power drilling rigs, pressure pumping services, and heavy-duty trucks in the Alberta-British Columbia Deep Basin. (Elmworth is about an hour way from Grande Prairie, Alta.) The goal is to have LNG replace fuels such as diesel. Proponents argue that it is cheaper and cleaner.
Phase one of the project, Ferus said, will be running in May. This is behind schedule – in February of 2013, it hoped to be supplying customers with fuel by the end of that year. Ferus will keep "key Encana technical and management" personnel, according to its press release Thursday.
David Hill, Encana's executive vice-president of exploration and business development, said in the Ferus statement that Encana will remain a "key customer" and committed to a "multiyear LNG supply agreement" to service its field operations.
"Our experience with LNG has demonstrated significant cost savings and environmental benefits," he said. "Selling our interest in the plant allows us to focus on our core business and the execution of our new strategy."
Encana rolled out a new plan when Doug Suttles took over as chief executive officer last summer. The company intends to focus on five plays: the Montney; Duvernay; DJ basin in Colorado; San Juan oil play in northwestern New Mexico; and Tuscaloosa marine shale in Mississippi and Louisiana. Randy Eresman, who abruptly left the company in January, 2013, had previously sold midstream assets such as the Elmworth facility.
Privately-held Ferus now owns all of the Elmworth project. The company said in its statement that it is the "newest and largest merchant LNG plant in Canada and has significant plans to expand beyond that." It is also eyeing the mining, rail, marine and remote power generation markets.
Ferus's Ms. Lancaster said demand for LNG is "happening rapidly" and it intends to build two additional phases, each adding "100,000 gallons a day of LNG." Each will cost about $50-million, she said.