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Shell, partners approve C$40b project to speed up gas to Asia 

Kuala Lumpur

ROYAL Dutch Shell plc and its four partners have agreed to invest in a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in western Canada - the largest new one of its kind in years that would carve out the fastest route to Asia for North American gas.

LNG Canada - comprised of Shell, Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Mitsubishi Corp, PetroChina Co and Korea Gas Corp - is set to announce a final investment decision on the C$40 billion (S$42.8 billion) project as early as Monday, said people with direct knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified because the matter is not public. The exact timing still has not been decided. PetroChina and Korea Gas announced approvals of their share of the investment last Friday. The others partners declined to comment.

The project marks a turning point for Canada and the gas industry. Set to be the nation's largest infrastructure project ever, LNG Canada augurs a new wave of investments for major gas export projects after a three-year hiatus forced by a global supply glut. LNG Canada will be able to send cargoes from Kitimat, British Columbia to Tokyo in about eight days versus 20 days from the US Gulf.

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It is also a welcome boost for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. LNG Canada promises better prices for the country, whose energy exports are sold almost exclusively to the US at depressed prices for lack of a coastal facility. It also helps reaffirm Canada's investment climate, battered by the bungled Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion that was sold by Kinder Morgan Inc to the government for C$4.5 billion before its approval was quashed by a federal court.

LNG Canada proposes to eventually export as much as 26 million tonnes per year. The investment approval is only for an initial two LNG trains of 13 million tonnes per year. Yet if built, the chances that LNG Canada will double capacity in a second phase "is all but an inevitability" due to the economies of scale, National Bank of Canada analysts led by Greg Colman said in a May report.

The green light marks the end of a seven-year effort, including two postponements in 2016 at the depths of the downturn. BLOOMBERG.