The president of Pieridae Energy Canada said Wednesday he is looking for sources of gas that will be cooled, liquefied and exported by ship from the Guysborough County community of Goldboro, about 200 kilometres northeast of Halifax.
Alfred Sorensen, who formed the company 18 months ago, said his proposal calls for the storage and export of five million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.
Sorensen said the project could cost close to $5 billion and employ about 1,500 during its construction phase. About 100 workers would be needed for its operation, he said.
He said it could proceed in 2018, but must still clear an environmental assessment, secure additional customers and find financing partners.
Sorensen, who is also the CEO of Calgary-based energy firm Canadian Spirit Resources Inc. (TSX:SPI.V), said he has two investors involved as backers though he declined to identify them. He said he plans to create a Nova Scotia office in January.
He also said about four customers from utilities in northwestern Europe and India are interested in signing on to the proposal.
A prior proposal by Maple LNG to spend between $750 million and $900 million to bring huge liquefied natural gas container ships to Nova Scotia's east coast was shelved two years ago. The proponents said there was a lack of demand in Canada and difficulties in obtaining supply.
But Sorensen said his proposal is fundamentally different because the firm hopes to purchase natural gas and then export it in liquid form.
"It's the exact opposite from what was originally planned here," he told a news conference in Goldboro.
Dubbed by Alberta Oil magazine as "Canada's accidental LNG architect," Sorensen also proposed the Kitmat liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia, a development that was later sold to U.S.-based EOG Resources Inc., Apache Canada Ltd. and Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA).
Bill Gwozd, a vice-president with Ziff Energy in Calgary, said that project — which is aimed at Asian markets — has given Sorensen some credibility in the oil patch.
"He has the right contacts," he said in a phone interview. "He's a name-brand individual with a good, solid reputation."
The analyst said the East Coast proposal has pros and cons.
"If they're trying to target Europe, the price there is lower than Asia but higher than North America. They won't get the same margin as in Asia," he said.
"Trying to get a long-term gas supply guaranteed at a low price can also be a real challenge."
Sorensen said he will propose to the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline that the company will purchase supplies of natural gas from shale gas projects in the Maritimes and the U.S., and then ship the gas through the pipeline to Goldboro.
The Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline runs 1,400 kilometres from Goldboro, to Dracut, Mass. It is used mainly to ship gas produced from the Sable Island Offshore Project to customers in Canada and the U.S.
Steve Rankin, a spokesman for the pipeline company, said it doesn't have a firm offer yet from Sorensen but is open to discussions.
"We have no imminent plans to reverse our pipeline," he said. "We have received numerous inquiries from existing and potential customers to look at scenarios that would involve reversal of the pipeline both for future service of the Canadian market and for a potential export of LNG."
Gwozd said the cooling facility required to liquefy natural gas is expensive, and as a result Sorensen will require strong prices from potential offshore customers.
"But putting the idea out there may spark interest. You never know what the market may be looking at," he said.
"If there is interest, it will come flying back at them right away."
Sorensen said he is hoping to have customer contracts in place by March 31, 2013.