Woodfibre LNG extends timeline on Squamish project

Company seeks Environmental Assessment Certificate extension for five years, citing factors such as COVID-19, contractor financial struggles, amendment timelines

The construction of Woodfibre LNG has been delayed, in part, due to COVID-19, the company said on Tuesday.

The company is currently applying to the provincial Environmental Assessment Office for an extension to its Environmental Assessment Certificate, which is set to expire in October.

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Company officials are asking to extend the certificate for five years.

Construction, expected to begin this summer, is now expected to start in the summer of 2021.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) Certificate for the Woodfibre LNG Project was issued on Oct. 26, 2015 to Woodfibre with the requirement that the project be substantially started within five years.

“On March 24, 2020, pursuant to subsection 31(2) of the Environmental Assessment Act 2018, Woodfibre LNG applied for a one-time five-year extension to the duration of the EA Certificate," read a statement to The Chief from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office:

Once the EAO accepts the extension request for review, the office will seek advice from a technical advisory committee and Indigenous nations on whether to grant the extension.

According to the company, the reasons for the delay in Woodfibre’s process include uncertainty and work stoppages caused by COVID-19, such as the shut down of a fabrication yard in China that was making product for the Squamish liquefied natural gas plant.

Another issue is a construction company Woodfibre LNG was dealing with in the U.S. has run into financial trouble and while Scott said there is "confidence" the company will survive and be able to service the project, this has slowed things down.

There are two construction companies that Woodfibre LNG was in negotiations with. One will do all land-based construction and the other will do marine-based construction.

The one struggling financially would be responsible for marine work.

"Last fall, Woodfibre LNG was nearing finalization of an [Engineering, Procurement and Construction] contract and announcement of a Final Investment Decision when our preferred contractor for engineering, procurement and module fabrication, encountered financial challenges," said company president David Keane in an email copied to The Chief by Scott.

"In January 2020, our preferred contractor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and is now undergoing proceedings which are expected to continue until July 2020 at the earliest."

The three Environmental Assessment amendments that Woodfibre LNG has asked for to date — for the water cooling system to switch to air, for administrative changes to the definition of "construction" and the addition of the floatel — have all involved public comment periods and slowed things down too, according to Scott.

The EAO confirmed it is also currently reviewing an amendment request (Amendment #3) to the EA Certificate that proposes workforce accommodation, including a floating camp, within the Certified Project Area.

Scott stressed that none of this means the project isn't going ahead. It is not a pause, she said, but a delayed timeline.

"Amidst unprecedented global uncertainty, I want to be clear that the Woodfibre LNG project is still moving ahead. We are continuing to work with our Indigenous and commercial partners to meet all of our pre-construction commitments," said Keane.

*Please note, this story has been updated to include information from the EAO.

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