British Columbia

Global energy market poor for B.C. LNG industry: analyst

Global Sustainability Research says 'gas glut' and alternative energies behind B.C. LNG delays.

Global Sustainability Research says 'gas glut' and alternative energies behind B.C. LNG delays

A rendering of LNG Canada's proposed project in Kitimat, B.C. (LNG Canada/Flickr)

Another delayed liquefied natural gas plant in B.C. has some wondering if the whole industry is in trouble.

An analyst with Global Sustainability Research says the delays are partly due to a 'global glut' bringing down energy prices around the globe.

David Hughes says he believes market conditions won't be favourable for LNG in B.C. for at least five years, if ever.

"I wouldn't hold my breath, at least not for the next few years anyway," said Hughes in an interview with CBC's The Early Edition.

Earlier this week, LNG Canada, an international partnership of four energy companies, delayed its final decision for a proposed LNG facility in Kitimat B.C. indefinitely.

CEO Andy Calitz said a drop in natural gas prices around the world, particularly in Asia, has made the project too expensive for now.

Prices remain low

According to Hughes, prices continue to stay low for a few reasons.

"While the gas production in North America has gone up, production in the rest of the world has gone up even more," he said. "So it looks like gas prices ... are going to remain low for the foreseeable future."

The United States has increased its energy production which hurts an LNG industry in B.C. in two ways as the extra supply is bringing down the price of natural gas by creating a "global glut," he said.

In addition, the United States has been investing heavily in shale gas, which makes it less dependent on exports from Canada.

A downturn in the global energy market makes Canadian-produced LNG unprofitable in Asian markets while Hughes says there are further issues compounding Canada's sale of LNG to China as that country is investing in its own energy sources.

That includes alternative energy such as solar and wind, but also coal.

Russia and Australia: closer to China

"Roughly 70 per cent of their electricity is generated by coal and they're building new state-of-the-art coal plants," said Hughes adding that Canada's sale of LNG to China also has some competition.

"They've also made a deal with Russia, basically pipeline gas from Russia at fairly low cost."

Hughes says Russia and Australia both have an advantage in selling to Asia due to proximity.

Meanwhile Minister for Natural Gas, Rich Coleman, agrees that global markets haven't been kind to B.C.

"The global downturn in the energy marketplace has created economic challenges for the natural gas sector," Coleman said in an email, adding though that the provincial government remains optimistic.

"Our government is focused on building a viable, globally competitive industry to create new jobs and secure long-term economic benefits for all British Columbians. Industry has told us B.C. remains competitive and the prospects of growth remain promising."

With files from Betsy Trumpener.