First Announced in July, the Ksi Lisims LNG Project in BC is a 12 million tonne per year project planned for the northern tip of Pearse Island by the Nass River, north of Prince Rupert BC. The project is a collaboration between the Nisga’a Nation, Rockies LNG, and Western LNG LLC.
In the latest development, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is inviting the public to review the summary of the initial project description and provide feedback related to the proposed project until September 25, 2021.
Resource Development as sustainable
The Nisga’a Nation’s interest in developing their resources was the impetus to the project according to Eva Clayton, President, of the Nisga’a Nation
“The driving force was our desire for sustainable economic activity. The Nisga’a Nation has been actively pursuing LNG development since 2014. Back then, there was a lot of attention given to LNG. The Nisga’a Nation saw opportunities at the very outset when we perceived the capacity for LNG in our northern area.”
In 2014, demand for natural gas in Asia was still booming in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Optimism that Canada was well-positioned for LNG projects having a short shipping route to Asian markets was prevalent even though some analysts doubted how long the demand surge would last.
Optimism for low-carbon LNG
The Nisga’a Nation had always been concerned about climate change and embraced the appeal of LNG as a replacement to coal and oil combustion in Asia according to Clayton. She stated the Nation wanted to ensure that they were developing an LNG project on their lands that could balance both the Nation’s economic goals and serve the global need for low carbon energy.
“We wanted to do this in a way that would minimize local impacts. We recognize the demand, not only in Japan but in China as well. We want to be consistent with the efforts of the First Nations Climate Initiative. The Nisga’a nation is one of the founding members.”
The First Nations Climate Initiative’s goals are to fight climate change, alleviate First Nations poverty, restore ecosystems and provide reconciliation in action. They describe climate change as “global in scale but locally experienced, especially by indigenous peoples who rely on the land and water to support their way of life”. They propose climate change mitigation through Net Zero LNG as a transition fuel and aim to address climate change by providing a framework for policy development.
Their Net Zero aspirations led them to focus on natural gas from the Montney formation which has a lower carbon content than gas from other formations like the Horne River basin. Rebecca Scott, a spokesperson for Pacific Canbriam- a Montney producer points out, “The gas that’s coming in from the Montney is just incredibly low in CO2 content -by its very nature, it’s a low carbon content.”
Eva Clayton advises that the Nisga’a were able to provide deep port access for LNG, and will be developing the project in a way that will meet environmental requirements. The Nation signed the first modern-day treaty in BC on May 11th, 2000 – which specifies environmental law requirements that the Nisga’a work with BC and Canada to ensure projects meet environmental standards in Chapter 10 of the agreement.
Canadian First Nations are emerging as the driving force behind environmentally responsible LNG in Canada. Bryan Cox, president and CEO of the Canadian LNG Alliance notes this trend and points out the work of the Squamish Nation with another LNG project- Woodfibre LNG. He was recently quoted as saying “ The Squamish Nation is not only a partner but a regulator on the project, with Woodfibre and the Nation partnering on the first ever Indigenous Environmental Assessment certificate in Canada.”
Attracting LNG partners
The Nisga’a Nation did a lot of work to find potential partners and decided on partnering with Western LNG, which according to their website specializes in…
“ Floating liquefaction technology at inland locations, particularly those that have existing pipeline access to natural gas basins. Western LNG promotes the advantages that a floating liquefaction facility results in no long-term impact to its surroundings. At the end of the project’s life, the floating facilities can be removed and the berths and other land-side facilities restored to their original states.”
At the same time, a relationship was building with the companies forming the Rockies LNG partnership- Montney and Duvernay producers who aligned to review, assess and accelerate LNG export opportunities. They are Advantage Energy, ARC Resources, Birchcliff Energy, Bonavista Energy Corporation, NuVista Energy, Paramount Resources, and Peyto Exploration.
The involvement of a consortium of British Columbia and Alberta natural gas producers who could provide supply was as key to Ksi Lisims LNG as the North Montney Joint Venture producers are key to the LNG Canada project. In a recent press release about the project, Charlotte Raggett, President and CEO of Rockies LNG said, “Ksi Lisims LNG will provide Canadian natural gas producers with new access to growing global energy markets, and importantly, global LNG prices.”
Clayton says the project gives them equity ownership while supporting the Nisga’a’s efforts for self-determination as well as environmental stewardship.
“The project will be generating benefits for the entire region- sustainable economic benefits for generations to come. It will be located on our Nisga’a land at Wil Milit with deepwater capabilities and it’s near our Nisga’a Village Gingolx. The location of Wil Milit was selected based on safety criteria, low environmental risk, and the fact it provides for excellent access to existing shipping.”
Consultation and Assessment
The next steps the project is facing are the federal impact assessment process under the Impact Assessment Act and a provincial environmental assessment under British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Act. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) are collaborating for the initial phase of the project’s review with the public and Indigenous groups invited to give feedback on the project until Sept 25th. Just last week on Sept 8th and 9th, BC’s EAO held two virtual open houses to hear feedback from members of the public.
The nature of public feedback to the project may be tempered by what the Canadian Global Affairs Institute has identified as “the web of opposition to energy projects in Canada” and the CGAI asks if LNG may get caught in the multi-layered confusion of a polarized and politicized debate. Some hardline environmental lobbyists are in fierce opposition to all LNG projects, claiming “LNG is not a climate solution”.
In truth, hardline lobbyists may find it increasingly difficult to oppose the balanced narrative of the First Nations LNG Alliance and First Nations like the Nisga’a, as the consensus grows that the time has come for serious action for First Nation’s economic reconciliation and self-determination.
Reconciliaton and collaboration
Collaboration is already in the air. The Nisga’a have already started early engagement with other First Nations. Early engagement is connecting the neighbours of Ksi Lisims LNG to provide meaningful input into how the project will create benefits and minimize the impact on the environment and their communities. Eva Clayton is optimistic saying,
“We are excited to advance this project through engagement opportunities with other First Nations and other groups along the route. Now that restrictions due to Covid are being reduced, we anticipate that we will have more opportunities to engage with other First Nations, as well as other broad stakeholders. We’re very excited but a lot of the engagement and a lot of the hard work remains ahead.”
As bigger projects like the LNG Canada project – reported as the largest private sector investment project in Canada’s history- draw focus, it’s important that other projects also get their share of the limelight and support. Projects like the Ksi Lisims LNG have a significant impact on other Indigenous communities in North East BC and Alberta as well as the Nisga’a Nation.
Hard work and timelines
Ksi Lisims LNG is looking at a startup in late 2027 or 2028 and but of course, that is subject to many conditions. Clayton estimates the total direct and the indirect economic impacts of the project including natural gas development infrastructure and LNG processing facilities to be in the range of $55B over 30 years – which includes a wide range of expenditures related to capital maintenance across the value chain over decades. She emphasizes it is not a cost estimate for the project. The Nation sees the project as benefiting BC and Alberta’s economies according to Clayton and she says the project is going to incorporate some world-leading greenhouse gas emissions performance with net-zero carbon emissions.
“From the Nisga’a Nation’s perspective, we want to develop a Net Zero LNG facility on our lands. We don’t say it’s possible overnight but we want to work towards that goal, especially to address the global need for low carbon energy, We also want to align the requirements of Ksi Lisims LNG with the First Nations Climate initiative, Clean BC, and the Canadian Climate plan and make it one of the cleanest LNG projects in the world.”
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes on issues affecting the energy industry