Petronas’ $29bn Canadian LNG export project hits new snag with Aboriginal group

Petroliam Nasional Bhd.’s C$36 billion ($29.4 billion) Canadian natural gas export project was treading water after the global market for the fuel weakened. Now local opposition is adding a new hurdle.

A British Columbia aboriginal group that claims title to land earmarked for the liquefied natural gas terminal says it will take legal action if its environmental concerns aren’t addressed. That follows a decision by Petronas, as the Malaysian company is known, and investors earlier this month to press ahead with the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal.

The Lax Kw’alaams band, which has already turned down C$1.15 billion in compensation, says the terminal is slated for a culturally significant island and would damage salmon habitat, Deputy Mayor Stan Dennis said in an interview. In October, then- Petronas Chief Executive Officer Shamsul Azhar Abbas said the project needs to stay on schedule and begin shipments in 2019 or face a deferral of 10 to 15 years, until another market window opens.

“One of the key risks is potential for delay,” said Tom Isaac, a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Calgary who leads the firm’s aboriginal law group and has no stake in the project. “If litigation were initiated, that could take some time to wind its way through the courts.”

Several planned LNG project startups this decade means buyers will be oversupplied until at least 2020. About 40 percent of respondents to a recent Bloomberg Intelligence survey said the glut may last until 2025, analysts led by Elchin Mammadov said in a June 16 presentation.

Australia and Canada have the most expensive LNG projects in the world to develop, and some will be shelved or canceled, the analysts said.

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