HOUSTON — The head of the consortium proposing to build the Pacific NorthWest LNG project declined to provide a timeline on a possible final investment decision Wednesday, as the market for large-scale liquefaction facilities continues to weaken.

“We’re doing a total review of the project, and taking into account all the cost optimization options,” said Petronas CEO Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin. “That is still ongoing.”

Malaysia-based Petronas is the largest stakeholder in the roughly $36-billion LNG export facility in Prince Rupert, B.C. A final investment decision on the proposal has been delayed for years amid a weakened outlook for LNG markets and environmental opposition to the project.

The Petronas CEO said the company still considers its Canadian LNG push to be a worthwhile effort, as the company has already invested heavily in its sprawling natural gas asset base in northern British Columbia.

“We’ve got huge resources there, and that’s something we’re determined to monetize,” Wan Zulkiflee told the Financial Post Wednesday.

Natural gas producers in the Montney formation, as it is known, have been squeezed in recent years as a flood of new natural gas production in the U.S. Midwest enters the market. That supply glut has been exacerbated by a pipeline shortage in northern B.C., as midstream companies scramble to expand capacity.

Late in 2016, proponents behind the much smaller $1.6-billion Woodfibre LNG terminal announced they would move ahead with the project, which will be located in Squamish, B.C.

However, none of the large-scale liquefaction facilities have gone ahead as a massive LNG buildout in the U.S. and Australia in recent years has led to a global oversupply.

Companies around the world have deferred projects as a result. Wan Zulkiflee said that only about six million tons per annum of LNG capacity received a final investment decision in 2016, while another 60 mtpa was deferred — a prospect he is “concerned” about.

About 270 million ton per annum of LNG was traded globally in 2016. That figure could rise to as much as 365 mtpa by 2018, according to Charif Souki, the CEO of Houston-based Tellurian Inc.

Souki said Wednesday he was “very bullish on continuing to build LNG facilities in the U.S.” due to its cost competitiveness.

Last week the company’s proposed Driftwood LNG project in Texas received key export permits, allowing the company to move ahead with the 26 mtpa project. Tellurian has said it plans to start construction in 2018 and deliver first gas in 2022.

Meanwhile, the LNG industry as a whole is exploring thriftier options.

This includes building floating regasification units which allows companies to convert LNG to natural gas at a fraction of the price of onshore facilities.

“The whole point is just for us to go a bit more downstream in the LNG chain so we can capture more demand,” said Laurent Vivier, the vice-president of gas at France’s Total S.A.

Total S.A. is planning to build a number of floating regasification plants offshore Ivory Coast, and says it will make a final investment decision in June. It has also proposed similar floating facilities offshore Pakistan with joint venture partners Höegh LNG, ExxonMobil Corp., Mitsubishi and Qatar Petroleum.

The floating facilities fill a specific demand on the part of developing nations: cheaper supply contracts for natural gas. Amid depressed natural gas prices, countries are increasingly keen on taking advantage of low prices over shorter periods of time.

Floating facilities can be constructed in about two years, Vivier said, while onshore major projects might take five.

They are also cheaper. The proposed floating regasification can be built for around $150 to $200 million, compared to onshore facilities that can cost four times that.

“It was a bit too optimistic to ask some developing economies to spend $1 billion in order to import it,” he said. “It didn’t make sense.”

Petronas’ Wan Zulkiflee said his company was also considering such investments.

“That is always an option for us, to go further downstream.”

jsnyder@postmedia.com