Canaport LNG terminal

The Canaport LNG terminal, located on Saint John's east side, is owned by Repsol and Irving Oil Ltd. (CBC)

Saint John's Canaport liquefied natural gas terminal has been given permission by the provincial Department of Environment to export natural gas using tankers.

The approved application will give Canaport LNG the ability to look for better markets for its product worldwide, said company spokesperson Kate Shannon.

But there are no immediate plans for loaded tankers to leave the Bay of Fundy, she said.

"There's really no time line for when we would start — or if we would start," Shannon told CBC News on Tuesday.

"It's basically there as an option, just in case," she said. "We may start it this winter, or it may not happen at all."

Uses pipelines for export

Canaport, which opened in 2009, currently imports liquefied natural gas from locations such as Qatar and Trinidad by tankers, restores it to its original gaseous form through a process called regasification, and moves it by pipeline to American and Canadian markets.

Now it could be shipped out to global markets with better selling prices, said Shannon. "This gives us more flexibility."

Marco Navarro-Genie, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in Halifax, says domestic production from hydraulic fracturing has pushed prices down.

"To be able to receive fairly reasonable priced gas from a place like Trinidad and export it to the far East may be reasonably profitable," he said.

Canaport's move to exporting ability comes after the completion of a two-year upgrade.

A gas flare has been permanently shut down and a new building now pushes burned off gas directly into the pipeline.

Canaport LNG is a partnership between Repsol and Irving Oil Ltd.

The terminal currently has a maximum send out capacity of 1.2 billion cubic feet (BCF) or 28 million cubic metres of natural gas per day, according to the company's website.

The gas is used for home heating and cooking, generating electricity and numerous industrial purposes.