Low natural gas prices are not jeopardizing the long-term future of the Canaport LNG terminal in Saint John, according to the president of Repsol North America.

Low gas prices have idled most other LNG plants on the continent.

But Phil Ribbeck, the president of Repsol North American, said gas prices in the northeastern United States, where his customers are, are often higher than the average in other parts of the country.

Ribbeck said the company is in Saint John for the long run with the expectation that prices will eventually turn around.

"I don't know if that's going to keep up or not. But we don’t worry about what's happening today," Ribbeck said.

"Our operations people take care of that. We put everybody else in charge of looking at how we can make money over time under any scenario that we face."

Spanish energy giant Repsol co-owns the liquefied natural gas terminal with Irving Oil Ltd.

Rebbick dodged questions when asked on Thursday if Canaport LNG is making money. He said the two companies that own the LNG terminal are both "profitable." 

The Repsol executive dismissed suggestions that abundant and cheap local shale gas is ending the need for offshore LNG which is what Canaport processes.

Repsol is responsible for providing all of the liquefied natural gas at Canaport and holding the capacity of the terminal.

Irving Oil handles the marketing of the regassified liquefied natural gas in Atlantic Canada, while Repsol markets it elsewhere in Canada and in the United States.

Operating levels

Canada's National Energy Board has said the Canaport terminal is operating at about 30 per cent capacity.

Adolfo Acarraga, the company's terminal manager, said on Thursday that it is more like 40 per cent.

Canaport has a long-term contract to purchase liquefied natural gas from Qatar.

Repsol, which owns 75 per cent of the Canaport LNG terminal, has a multi-year contract with Qatargas.

An energy analysis said last week that Qatargas' delivery to Canaport would be between three and five billion cubic feet per month.

By comparison, Canaport's capacity is about 1.2 billion cubic feet per day.