One of the world's largest fossil-fuel companies sees potential for a global shortage of liquefied natural gas by the mid 2020s.
And that that has raised hopes in B.C.'s business community and fears among environmentalists that a proposed LNG Canada project in Kitimat could be approved later this year.
LNG Canada says it would cost about $40 billion, including a new gas pipeline and upstream natural-gas assets to provide fuel for the facility.
Shell Canada Energy has a 50 percent stake in LNG Canada, with the remainder held by PetroChina, Korea Gas Corporation, and Mitsubishi.
Today, Shell Canada's parent company, Shell, stated that the LNG market "has continued to defy expectations of many market observers, with demand growing by 29 million tonnes to 293 million tonnes in 2017".
Leading the way is Japan, with China passing South Korea to become the second-largest LNG importer last year.
“In Asia alone, demand rose by 17 million tonnes," Shell executive Maarten Wetselaar said in the news release. "That’s nearly as much as Indonesia, the world’s fifth-largest LNG exporter, produced in 2017.”
B.C. premier John Horgan was recently in China on a trade mission to promote the sale of LNG.
That prompted B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver to threaten to bring down the NDP minority government in a confidence motion if it fails to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
A final investment decision on the LNG Canada project was delayed in 2016 and 2017, but the consortium has issued a request for proposals for contractors to conduct engineering, procurement, and construction work on an export facility in Kitimat.
On February 2, Shell announced that it has shortlisted two finalists.
Meanwhile, spot LNG prices have been steadily rising in Asia, reaching nearly US$12 per million British thermal units last month.
"LNG Canada intends to select the preferred EPC contractor sometime in 2018. Negotiations will begin immediately with the two EPC contractors to determine the most commercially competitive proposal," the company stated in a news release. "LNG Canada identified the finalists as the partnership of TechnipFMC plc and KBR, Inc. (LNG BC Contractors), and the partnership of JGC Corporation and Fluor Corporation."
According to the LNG Canada website, Shell operates about 20 percent of the LNG vessels in the world and has projects, including those under construction, in 10 countries.
The company has claimed that its proposed project "will have one of the lowest" greenhouse-gas-emission footprints of any LNG facility in the world.
The parent company, Shell, maintained in today's news release that growing use of LNG in China is resulting in fuel-switching from much dirtier coal.
However, critics of the cancelled Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert pointed out that it would emit 360 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases over 30 years.
SFU geographer Kirsten Zickfeld is quoted on the CBC News website saying that this would have used up between 2.5 percent and 11 percent of Canada's allowable carbon budget, as agreed to under the Paris climate agreement.
The Pembina Institute said that the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant would have resulted in 258 extra shale gas wells drilled per year, contributing to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, as well as the use of 5.1 million cubic feet of fresh water.
That was the equivalent of adding 1.9 million cars on the road and the annual freshwater use of 56,000 Canadians.
Environmentalist David Suzuki has referred to the LNG industry as a "short-sighted pipe dream", noting that plants are fuelled by gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing.
"The industry also relies on taxpayers’ money to subsidize it, through tax and royalty credits, and to provide water, roads, and the massive amounts of energy required to liquefy the gas, perhaps from a new Site C dam on the Peace River," Suzuki wrote on Straight.com in 2013. "And fugitive emissions from gas operations are exempt from the carbon tax. If we are really 'bridging' to reduce fossil fuels, why are we subsidizing companies for their carbon costs?"