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Shell, partners take on a bold strategy in Canada

Firm will be able to send cargoes from British Columbia, to Tokyo in about 8 days versus 20 days from the US Gulf

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Global LNG imports will set a new record this year of 308 million tonnes thanks to growth from Asia, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast in September.

Tokyo

THE developers of a C$40 billion (S$42.8 billion) project to export Canadian natural gas are taking on a bold strategy: build now and worry about buyers later.

Royal Dutch Shell plc and its partners announced an agreement to invest in a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project in western Canada - the largest of its kind in years that will 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 - confirmed the expected final investment decision in the project, according to a statement from Shell on Tuesday.

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Bloomberg News reported on Sunday that the group had approved the investment and an announcement was imminent.

Construction will start immediately with first LNG expected before the middle of the next decade, according to the statement. The project marks a turning point for Canada and the global 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 fears of 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.

"We believe LNG Canada is the right project, in the right place, at the right time," Ben van Beurden, Shell's chief executive officer, said in the statement.

"Supplying natural gas over the coming decades will be critical as the world transitions to a lower carbon energy system."

It's also a welcome boost for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Selling LNG to buyers in Asia promises higher prices for the country's gas compared to what it gets selling it almost exclusively to the US via pipeline.

It also helps reaffirm Canada's investment climate, battered by the bungled expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which 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 chance 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 outlook for LNG has since brightened as the market could be in deficit as soon as 2022 unless new projects are built, according to Sanford C Bernstein & Co. Global LNG imports will set a new record this year of 308 million tonnes thanks to growth from Asia, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast on Sept. 12.

Shell holds 40 per cent of LNG Canada, with Petronas at 25 per cent, 15 per cent each for PetroChina and Mitsubishi, and 5 per cent for Kogas. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS