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Woodfibre LNG woos local businesses, highlights millions spent in the Squamish area

WFLNG sells its proposed project as good for the economy

In an attempt to woo local entrepreneurs, Woodfibre LNG announced it has spent $1.26 million on businesses in the Squamish area. 

It was one of several numbers the company presented as part of its efforts to sell its proposed liquefied natural gas export facility on Howe Sound as an economic booster.

“These are direct payments,” said Byng Giraud, Woodfibre’s country manager for Canada.

The figure was one among several presented during a Chamber of Commerce gathering last week, which was attended by about 30 representatives from Squamish businesses.

During the presentation, Giraud also said Woodfibre paid about $858,000 to the District of Squamish in taxes and conservation exercises, as well as about $680,000 in community donations since 2013.

In total, Giraud said the company spent about $2.8 million in Squamish and its surrounding areas.

The dollar figures were calculated by adding up all the company’s invoices in the Squamish area, and reflect direct payments rather than trickle-down gains.

After getting the green light from the federal government, the province and the Squamish Nation, Woodfibre’s proposed project appears to be gaining steam.

However, this is coming at a time of uncertainty in the industry.

Part of Woodfibre’s targeted Asian market appears to be set on making the switch to green energy, sparking worries the country’s demand for natural gas could dry up. 

Amidst choking pollution, China has vowed to invest hundreds of billions in green energy in an effort to curb its dependence on fossil fuels.

Furthermore, market conditions have prompted other proposed facilities in B.C. to be delayed or cancelled.

The $40-billion LNG Canada project led by Shell in Kitimat has been put on hold until further notice, while Pacific Northwest LNG is currently undertaking a full review of its project before determining whether to proceed. 

Douglas Channel FLNG halted development in early 2016, and the Triton FLNG proposal was stalled several months later.

However, Giraud asserted that Woodfibre and its parent company have found a way to price competitively.

He also added there are burgeoning markets to be found, citing examples such as Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines and South America.

“At this point, customers in Asia, particularly China, only have growth potential,” said Giraud, regarding concerns green energy would displace fossil fuels. “Even with the quadrupling of renewables in China, and a tripling of their natural gas consumption, they’re still going to be burning coal.”

“China’s economy, even with a slowing population, is growing at six per cent,” he added. 

“There’s still huge opportunities.”

The proposed liquefied natural gas export facility would make its money off liquefaction fees. 

Companies owned by one of Woodfibre’s parent organizations, Pacific Oil and Gas Limited, would feed natural gas to the facility and sell it abroad.

Woodfibre has encountered some turbulence over the years.

Asian Agri, a company owned by Sukanto Tanoto, who founded Woodfibre’s parent organization, agreed to pay $204.8 million in U.S. dollars after being found guilty of tax evasion, The Jakarta Post reported in 2014.

In 2015, Woodfibre replied the Asian Agri case was still being heard before the Indonesia Tax Court, and Asian Agri reserves the right to appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court. 

There is also an ongoing RCMP investigation into Woodfibre LNG’s dealings with the BC Liberal party over allegations of improper political contributions

A Globe and Mail investigation accused Giraud and another Woodfibre lobbyist named Marian Ngo of donating tens of thousands of dollars under their names to the BC Liberal party.

Indirectly giving money to the party in this manner would’ve allegedly allowed them to obscure the amount of cash Woodfibre LNG has actually given the Liberals.

Elections BC initially had a look into the manner before turning it over to police.

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