09/10/2012 12:47 EDT | Updated 11/10/2012 05:12 EST

Spectra Energy, BG Plan Natural Gas Pipeline Across Northern BC

FILE - In this April 22, 2008 file photo, a natural gas well pad sits in front of the Roan Plateau near the Colorado mountain community of Rifle. FILE - A federal judge in Denver is hearing arguments on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in a lawsuit by environmentalists challenging the federal government's plans for natural gas development on Colorado's Roan Plateau. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
CALGARY - Spectra Energy and BG Group are joining the throng of companies aiming to export Canadian natural gas to Asia, announcing plans Monday to build a pipeline across northern B.C.

The proposed 850-kilometre pipeline would run from shale gas fields in the province's northeast to a potential liquefied natural gas terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C., where the resource would be chilled into a liquid state and shipped across the Pacific in specialized tankers.

"This project offers B.C. a unique opportunity to access new markets, strengthen its energy infrastructure, engage stakeholders in economic growth and job creation, and ultimately secure the province's position as a competitive energy leader," said Spectra CEO Greg Ebel in a release.

The pipeline would carry 4.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Construction is expected to begin in 2015 and the pipeline is expected to be up and running in 2019.

The companies did not disclose a price tag for the project, of which they'll each own half.

U.K.-based BG Group has interests in liquefaction plants in Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago, and is developing a new one in Australia.

Spectra, based in Houston, has a big presence in B.C. already, shipping 60 per cent of the province's natural gas.

It said it expects to employ more than 4,000 people while the pipeline is under construction, with 50 to 60 permanent jobs once it's complete.

Natural gas prices in North America have been weak for a long time now, making it difficult for many producers to turn a profit. But in Asia, where countries are clamouring for supplies to feed their booming economies, prices can be three to five times higher.

There are several LNG terminals planned for Canada's West Coast geared toward taking advantage of the Asian demand.

Malaysia's Petronas, which agreed earlier this year to acquire Progress Energy Resources Corp. (TSX:PRQ) for $6 billion, has selected Prince Rupert as the site for an LNG facility.

In May, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and three Asian partners announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Kitimat, B.C., further south along the coast.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant will have a 40 per cent stake in the project, called LNG Canada. PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp. and Korea Gas Corp. will each hold a 20 per cent interest.

Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) and U.S. partners Apache Corp. and EOG Resources plan to start up their Kitimat LNG plant in 2015, with an initial capacity of five million tonnes a year.

Another proposal called BC LNG, owned by the Haisla First Nation and Houston-based LNG Partners, expects its first shipment in 2014.