Stir It Up - COVID-19 Slowing Progress on LNG Canada Project

When plans for LNG Canada, a big LNG export project on the British Columbia coast, were sanctioned two years ago this month, the move came as a welcome sign that Western Canadian natural gas producers might finally be able to break their long-standing reliance on just one export customer: the U.S. Access to Asian and other overseas gas markets became a high priority, in part because U.S. demand for Canadian gas had been sagging for years as production in the Marcellus/Utica and other U.S. plays came to meet the vast majority of domestic needs. But while construction on LNG Canada has steadily advanced, there are signs that delays could be mounting. Today, we begin a two-part update on this all-important Canadian LNG export project and its accompanying Coastal GasLink pipeline.

From the early days of gas market deregulation in the 1980s, Canada enjoyed an expanding love affair with its southern neighbor in the form of growing natural gas exports. With U.S. domestic gas supplies looking to be heading toward terminal decline in the early 2000s, Western Canada’s abundant supplies and rising gas prices throughout North America appeared to be locking in a vast, profitable, and long-term gas export relationship. Also, a number of LNG import terminals were developed in the U.S. in anticipation of shipped-in gas supplies from overseas.

That all changed with the Shale Revolution, which turned the U.S. into a gas production powerhouse. Steadily expanding U.S. gas supplies over the past decade reduced the need for Canadian gas and sent Canada’s gas exports into a sort of terminal decline of their own. The share of U.S. gas demand met by Canadian supplies collapsed (on a net basis) from 10.5% (~7 Bcf/d) in 2010 to just 5.1% (~4.3 Bcf/d) through the first seven months of 2020, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). At the same time, some of those U.S. LNG import terminals were re-purposed as export terminals to deal with the new abundance of U.S. gas supplies.

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