It began, in the wake of the FedLib condition-laden approval of Petronas' $27 (or is it $36?) billion dollar Pacific Northwest Liquid Natural Gas project, with a report from Reuters that the Malaysian oil and gas company was considering selling the thing, off.
Here is the lede from that Reuters' piece:
Malaysian state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd is considering selling its majority stake in a $27 billion Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, three people familiar with the matter said this week...
Soon thereafter the pushback began. Coming a bit late to that party, the first bit I saw was a short piece from the Canadian Press published on the MoCo site last Saturday morning, October 1st, that began thusly:
Malaysian state-owned oil firm Petronas says it's not considering selling its stake in a proposed multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas export terminal in B.C.
The company issued a statement yesterday saying it "categorically denies" allegations made in a news report that selling its stake in the Pacific NorthWest LNG project was up for consideration...
Which is all fine and good, as far as it goes.
But then Grant G., who has been indefatigable in digging into to all things LNG here in British Columbia, mentioned that he couldn't find the press release from Petronas pertaining to this matter.
So I started sniffing around further and saw a most interesting piece written by Martin MacMahon acknowledging an assist form the CP that had been published on the CKWX 1130 site the day BEFORE, Friday Sept 30th:
What was interesting about Mr. MacMahon's piece?
Well, firstly, there was this:
Petronas has told the province it has no plans to sell its stake in the Pacific Northwest LNG project.
This follows a report from Reuters indicating the Malaysian energy company is looking to get out of the $36-billion proposal.
Petronas has reassured the province the report isn’t true, according to the ministry of natural gas, responding to our questions after the release of this report citing three anonymous sources...
And, secondly, right at the end, there was this:
...The provincial government says it expected Petronas to issue a statement...
Gosh, that's interesting, I thought.
It was almost as if our very fine NatGas Ministry was the tail wagging the Petronasian dog.
So I contacted Mr. MacMahon via the Twittmachine Saturday evening and he told me that it was he who had asked the provincial government's NatGas Ministry about the story (i.e. not the other way around).
Now, as Grant G noted, what Mr. MacMahon had to say was backed by the fact that the NatGas Minister himself, Mr. Rich Coleman was on CKNW's 1:00pm Friday newscast saying that Petronas had told him they were not planning to sell.
Given all that I also asked Mr. MacMahon, if he himself had actually seen a statement from Petronas to that effect?
Mr. MacMahon responded that it was his colleague Renee Bernard at WX who had written the follow-up story on Petronas' denial statement that was published late Friday night. Here are the pertinent bits from Ms. Bernard's story:
The Malaysian state-owned oil firm Petronas denies a report that the company was considering selling its stake in a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project in BC.
A statement from Petronas says it remains committed to working with its partners following a conditional approval from the federal government for the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project...
...BC’s Ministry of Natural Gas Development previously said in an email that it spoke with Petronas and was reassured about the company’s involvement in the proposed LNG export terminal...
After reading that I attempted to call Ms. Bernard, also via the Twittmachine, to ask her if she had actually seen Petronas statement of denial. She didn't get back to me.
At the same time I went back and asked Mr. MacMahon if he, himself, had contacted Petronas. At this point Mr. MacMahon also stopped responding.
Where was this post NatGas Ministry statement of denial from Petronas that Ms. Bernard and numerous other writers of from numerous other proMedia, referred to in the avalanche of no sale stories that followed?
Was it on the Petronas website?
Nope (and it still isn't, although a statement of glee re: the FedLib approval sure as heckfire is).
But, while casting around on Saturday I did notice the following, also on the Twittmachine:
Who posted this on Twitter?
Turns out it was a very fine local fellow named Spencer Sproule whose name Grant G. remembered from a two year old Vaughn Palmer article in the VSun:
..."Petronas and its partners in the Pacific Northwest LNG project continue to review the economic viability of the project which, in time of declining oil prices, presents challenges," said the release issued over the name of Spencer Sproule, the former B.C. Liberal staffer now employed as senior adviser for corporate affairs on the project...
And when David Schrek asked the good Mr. Sproule on Saturday why, if the denial statement was authentic, it was not on the Petronas website, Mr. Sproule responded that it was issued by Petronas Media Relations and that it was sent to 'any media that requested it'.
Coming back to the question in the header to this post...
Does it actually matter that it was the BC Liberal government and Rich Coleman who got out in front of the denial story in a fast and furious fashion that was then back-ended by at least one very fine local fellow with PNWLNG and BCL ties?
Who loses if Petronas sells?
Or, put another way, who really loses prior to May 2017 (and might have a really hard time 're-negotiating') if there is even a reasonable public perception that Petronas might sell?
I'll be back to explore those questions later but, in the meantime, feel free to fire away in the comments.