DELTA, B.C.—A tiny First Nation in British Columbia could play a huge role in Premier Christy Clark’s billion-dollar plans to grow the province’s liquefied natural gas industry.
The leadership of the Tsawwassen First Nation, in suburban Vancouver, is encouraging its 290 eligible members to vote on a proposal to build a LNG export facility on the reserve, saying the potential benefits outweigh the limited drawbacks.
The First Nation, located in Delta, B.C. and close to the Canada-U.S. border, was to hold the first of several consultation meetings with its eligible voting members on Monday night, before the Dec. 16 vote.
Chief Bryce Williams said the proposed export facility was expected to only require a short stretch of additional pipeline between it and the nearby Tilbury LNG plant, which FortisBC broke ground on one year ago.
“We think this project has potential to be relatively low-impact,” said Williams.
The First Nation would seek to make use of an existing deep-water port nearby for shipment of the LNG overseas, he said.
But Williams acknowledged there are some “negative impacts” to think about, namely how the LNG is extracted. That’s an issue he anticipates members to raise, he said.
“I appreciate this topic is likely to generate a lot of discussion in our Lower Mainland area,” Williams said. “Our council would not be putting it forward if we did not think it important and had a lot of good potential benefits for our members and for our future.”
B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commissioner confirmed earlier this year that fracking—or the process of injecting fluid into the ground to extract natural gas—set off a 4.4 magnitude earthquake in northeastern B.C.
The proposed export facility would process three- to five-million tonnes of LNG annually, with natural gas coming through an extension of an existing pipeline located 10 kilometres away.
The First Nation has pledged to uphold the strictest environmental practices, from extraction of the LNG to the loading of the liquefied gas onto tankers moored at nearby Roberts Bank, just north of the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.
Five to six tankers per month would be expected at the export facility, which is predicted to be in operation as early as 2022.
The Tsawwassen First Nation, with a population of 480, is one of a handful of B.C. aboriginal bands to sign a treaty with the federal and provincial governments. Since 2009, the band has signed multimillion-dollar agreements with the neighbouring Vancouver port and for a giant shopping mall to be built on its land
Chris Hartman, CEO of the TFN Economic Development Corp., said the facility would be located on 32 hectares of industrial lands in the community’s north end. The lands were designated for industrial purposes in the original 2008 land-use plan, which was a condition of their treaty, he said.
The project would still need full environmental approval from federal and provincial bodies, he added.
It is too early to quantify the potential financial benefits for members, he said.
“We always try and describe what some of the potential benefits are to members, those include long-term employment, additional revenues and other opportunities.”
The announcement of the proposed LNG export facility came as the premier promoted an expansion of FortisBC’s $400-million Tilbury LNG project.
Clark said the “dramatic” expansion will help meet the rising demand for clean energy in B.C., including powering up B.C. Ferries on liquefied gas instead of “filthy” diesel fuels.
She said she hopes the First Nation’s membership will approve the new proposal, adding there continues to be demand for LNG around the world, especially in Asia.
“And I know that global prices are now low, but we have an incredible opportunity in front of us,” she said.