Woodfibre LNG is looking for a new president after Anthony Gelotti returned to Texas.
The company's vice-president of corporate affairs said the veteran energy executive's departure is part of the project's evolution.
"He came to the end of his two-year contract and we had reached a milestone position in the project where the work he'd been retained for has been completed," Byng Giraud said in an interview. "We're moving past our environmental assessment process and moving towards [final investment decision] and construction."
Giraud said the company is "looking for a different style of person" because the job will be more about construction. Giraud said Gelotti's last day was Nov. 15.
Recruitment for a replacement will eventually begin as the company awaits federal environmental approval and provincial certification for the Fortis pipeline that is key to feeding the planned $1.7-billion liquefied natural gas plant at a former pulp mill near Squamish, B.C.
Gelotti came north after 11 years with Chevron and Shell. He previously spent nine years working in various positions for Enron before its 2001 bankruptcy. "Relocated back to Houston, Texas," Gelotti wrote in his LinkedIn profile. "Mission accomplished in Canada, time to move on."
By email, Gelotti said he fulfilled both his contract and Canadian work permit. "The project continues to achieve key milestones along the development timeline," he wrote.
Gelotti will be joining Perth, Australia-headquartered Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd. as chief development officer.
'It's still viable': spokesperson
Woodfibre LNG passed a major hurdle Oct. 26 when LNG Minister Rich Coleman and Environment Minister Mary Polak approved the environmental certificate. Despite the world natural gas glut, Giraud said "the project is moving ahead" with 2018 as the goal for completion.
"This is going to be hard work, it's still viable, you still see many projects going ahead or are starting, there still is an opportunity," Giraud said.
Giraud said a final investment decision is expected in 2016, with preliminary engineering and site preparation before hiring an engineering, procurement and construction contractor.
The project has faced stiff opposition from residents and local politicians on both sides of Howe Sound who are concerned about pollution and safety risks related to the LNG plant and tanker traffic. Woodfibre LNG quelled Squamish Nation opposition last summer when it agreed to meet its conditions, including a revenue-sharing agreement.
Woodfibre LNG would be the biggest plant within proximity to the Lower Mainland, and it is key to Premier Christy Clark's bid to overcome skepticism about her ambitious plan to make B.C. a major LNG exporter.