The National Energy Board has described Canada as a "late entrant" to the liquefied natural gas industry in a recent report, sparking debate about when—if ever—was the right time to push forward with LNG projects.
A little over four years ago, the B.C. Liberal government under Christy Clark promised the LNG industry would bring billions to the province by the year 2020.
Now, there is a new government, no new plants under construction and LNG prices, in the words of the NEB, are "historically low."
But David Keane, the president of the B.C. LNG Alliance, told CBC's Early Edition guest host Stephen Quinn he thinks it's entirely feasible to have a significant LNG industry going forward.
"We can still, I believe, be competitive in a global market and we are working towards that," Keane said. "The next several years are going to be key to getting an LNG industry in British Columbia off the ground."
Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University, said there was never a good time to get into the LNG market and it's time to let the dream go.
Jaccard said it doesn't makes sense to invest in LNG for sale to Asian markets because there are other countries with low cost natural gas options, either liquefied or overland from Russia, Kazakhstan, Myanmar or under the sea from Indonesia.
"You have a lot of cheap options for natural gas—and that was the case when Christy Clark was running an election campaign talking about how we would get into that market and make a lot of money—and it's still the case today," Jaccard said.
Keane, though, said these cheaper alternatives are all the more reason to push forward with the LNG projects—before it's too late.
"If we don't do it, we risk losing the opportunity and seeing Canada's natural gas instead flow south to U.S. LNG projects where they will get value added upgrades," Keane said. "We'll see our natural gas continue to flow but it will flow at a much lower price."
Where are the projects now?
There are currently 24 planned LNG projects in Canada, according to the NEB report. Eighteen of those based in B.C. and six in Quebec and the Maritimes.
None are currently under construction and only one, Woodfibre LNG just outside of Squamish, has reached a final investment decision to proceed.
Keane said the low numbers of projects underway doesn't reflect the flurry of activity from investors or predict the future demand for natural gas.
"There has been a lot of activity from investors," he said, highlighting, as an example, an increase in the number of project proponents the B.C. LNG Alliance represents from seven to eight since the beginning of the year.
"In the early part of the next decade, 2022-2025, we expect there to be more demand than supply and we think we are in a really good position to capture a good proportion of that," Keane added.
With files from The Early Edition.