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These three Indigenous women are leading the future of Canadian LNG

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Crystal Smith, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, Karen Ogen, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, and Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga’a Nation.

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

‘By being owners in these projects, we can meaningfully contribute to a cleaner and more just world’

Three female Indigenous leaders in British Columbia are leading the future of Canadian LNG. 

Eva Clayton is president of the Nisga’a Nation, a joint venture partner in the proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project. Karen Ogen, former elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, is CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance. And Crystal Smith is elected chief of the Haisla Nation, majority owner of the proposed Cedar LNG project, which is in the final stages of preparing for the green light to proceed.  

“By being owners in these projects, we can meaningfully contribute to a cleaner and more just world,” said Smith, who was first elected chief of the coastal nation in 2017, during the B.C. Natural Resources Forum earlier this year.  

“From an Indigenous perspective, we’re continuously taught to take care of our environment, to take care of our land, and to take only what is required. To think in a global context, I truly believe that in supporting the LNG industry, we are in fact doing that.” 

Click here to view the full panel session with Clayton, Ogen and Smith, moderated by Shannon Joseph, chair of Energy for a Secure Future.  

Eva Clayton, back left, President of the Nisga’a Lisims Government (joint venture owner of the proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project), Crystal Smith, back right, Haisla Nation Chief Councillor (joint venture owner of proposed Cedar LNG project), and Karen Ogen, front right, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance pose for a photograph on the HaiSea Wamis zero-emission tugboat outside the LNG2023 conference, in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, July 10, 2023. CP Images photo

The global liquefied natural gas industry is rising in importance as emerging economies in Asia look to move away from coal-fired power and European nations reduce reliance on Russia

In 2023, LNG demand reached a record 404 million tonnes, according to Shell’s latest industry outlook. Over the next two decades it is expected to rise by nearly 70 per cent, reaching 685 million tonnes by 2040.  

Canada’s first LNG export terminal – located on Haisla territory – is nearing completion and preparing for startup next year.  

Smith said the nation has seen great benefits from its support of the LNG Canada project, but owning Cedar LNG with partner Pembina Pipeline Corporation takes the opportunity to a new level. 

“We have a bigger vision that provides better education, better health care, better justice, and a better future for our people,” she said.  

“We can train our people with the skills needed to secure well-paying, family supporting jobs on Cedar LNG and other projects. We can build critical community infrastructure like our new health center and our youth center in Haisla territory.” 

Smith said LNG is helping fund programs that reconnect Haisla people with their culture and language, “a language that virtually disappeared with my generation.”  

“We are reigniting our potential through culture and language. And that is perhaps the most powerful thing of all. When I think of my daughter speaking Haisla with my grandchildren, that is what drives me each and every day.” 

To the north in the Nass Valley, near B.C.’s border with Alaska, Clayton said the Nisga’a Nation is also using its partnerships in LNG to reconnect with language and culture.  

The community owns Ksi Lisims along with Rockies LNG (a coalition of Canadian natural gas producers) and Texas-based developer Western LNG. 

Construction of the LNG Canada export terminal is now more than 90 per cent complete. Photo courtesy LNG Canada

“The cultural benefits for the Nisga’a Nation will only be more enhanced as we move forward with the project,” said Clayton, who was first elected president of the community in 2016.  

“There are ongoing programs that are in place so that our people and our young people will continue to speak the language. What I’ve noticed is that many of our elders that have been teaching this language are aging out. And so now we see a new generation of young people coming up to speak the language and teach language.” 

In B.C.’s central interior, the Wet’suwet’en Nation is facing a loss of culture and language, Ogen said. It’s a situation that can be helped with the economic opportunities of LNG. 

“We’re at a place in our community since the pandemic where we have maybe one or two fluent speakers left. That’s really not good news,” said Ogen, who served as chief from 2010 to 2016.  

“We want to be able to promote our language in our community and continue promoting our culture in our community because we have very few people in my generation that have traditional names.” 

Partnering in development projects like the recently completed Coastal GasLink pipeline (which will supply natural gas to the LNG Canada terminal as well as Cedar LNG) helps communities with access to clean drinking water, housing, health, wellness and education, Ogen said.  

She helped found the First Nations LNG Alliance in 2015 with the goal to educate communities about the potential benefits of development.  

As construction on Coastal GasLink winds down, crews are working to cleanup and reclaim the land. Clay and topsoil removed during construction has been stored on site and will now be used to contour the land to its previous shape to re-establish original drainage patterns. Photo courtesy Coastal GasLink

“I’ve learned a lot in this job. Being a girl from the rez, being a social worker, and then getting into this field, it’s something I didn’t aspire to. But for me, I’m passionate about it because of what it means to our people on the ground,” she said.  

Ogen has shared that message internationally, including during a trade mission to China last fall. The smog from burning coal in Beijing heightened her conviction about the benefits of Canadian LNG in Asia, she said.  

“We were given a presentation on how China still wants B.C.’s natural resources; they still want our LNG,” Ogen said.  

“B.C. and Canada need to hear those loud messages because we’re at an economic opportunity that’ll help us address the greenhouse gas emissions globally.” 

Clayton said she has heard the same thing.  

“The messaging that I get from the international world is that they need our LNG. The Germans, Japanese, all of them are wondering why they’re not getting gas from their allies. We have a responsibility as Canadians to help the world get off of coal,” she said. 

“We are working together for the benefit of our children. These major projects, every decision that we make is for the future of our children, the future of Canada, the world really when you think about the kind of industry we’re getting into, LNG.” 

Rendering courtesy Cedar LNG

Smith’s Cedar LNG could be the first Indigenous-led project in the world. Pembina Pipeline plans to spend up to $300 million advancing it to a final investment decision by mid-year.  

“Every time I hear about it, I literally start shaking and getting goosebumps. I’ll have many sleepless nights from now until that decision is made,” Smith said.  

“Our nation has had the ability to benefit from LNG development in our territory, but let’s not let it be the last.  

“There are so many other LNG projects with indigenous leadership in B.C. that have the potential to make a significant impact on the future of Indigenous people and also help fight climate change.” 

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Canadian Energy Centre

What’s next? With major projects wrapping up, what does Canada’s energy future hold

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Mario Toneguzzi

‘This is the first time Canada will enter the global marketplace as a global player, so it is an incredibly important change for the industry’

With the recent completions of the Trans Mountain expansion and Coastal GasLink pipelines, and the looming completion of LNG Canada within the next year, there are few major energy projects with the green light for one of the world’s largest and most responsible energy producers.

Which leaves a lingering question: In a world that has put a premium on energy security, what’s next for Canada?

Heather Exner-Pirot, a senior fellow and director of the natural resources, energy and environment program at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said Natural Resources Canada’s major projects inventory “has been in a pretty sharp decline since 2015, which is concerning.”

“It’s not just oil and gas but also mining, also electricity . . . It’s the overall context for investment in Canada,” said Exner-Pirot, who is also a special adviser to the Business Council of Canada.

“When we look at BC, we see TMX, Coastal GasLink, very soon LNG Canada will be finishing up. That’s probably in the order of $100 billion of investment that that province will lose.

“So you do start to think about what happens next. But there are some things on the horizon. I think that’s part of it. Other LNG projects where maybe it wasn’t politically popular, it wasn’t a social license, and maybe the labour force was also constrained, and now is opening opportunities.”

recent analysis conducted by Exner-Pirot found that between 2015 and 2023, the number of energy and natural resource major projects completed in Canada dropped by 37 per cent. And those that managed to be completed often faced significant delays and cost overruns.

One notable project Exner-Pirot expects to fill the void is Ksi Lisims LNG, which is being developed on the northwest coast of Canada to export low-carbon LNG to markets in Asia. The project represents a unique alliance between the Nisga’a Nation, Rockies LNG and Western LNG.

Ksi Lisims LNG is a proposed floating LNG export facility located on a site owned by the Nisga’a Nation near the community of Gingolx in British Columbia.

The project will have capacity to produce 12 million tonnes of LNG per year, destined for markets in the Pacific basin, primarily in Asia where demand for cleaner fuels to replace coal continues to grow.

Rendering of the proposed Ksi Lisims floating LNG project. Image courtesy Ksi Lisims LNG

As well, the second phase of the LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat, B.C. shows increasing signs of moving forward, which would roughly double its annual production capacity from 14 million tonnes to 26 million tonnes, Exner-Pirot added.

While nearby, Cedar LNG, the world’s first Indigenous-owned LNG export facility, is closing in on the finish line with all permits in place and early construction underway. When completed, the facility will produce up to three million tonnes of LNG annually, which will be able to reach customers in Asia, and beyond.

According to the International Energy Agency, the world is on track to use more oil in 2024 than last year’s record-setting mark. Demand for both oil and natural gas is projected to see gradual growth through 2050, based on the most likely global scenario.

Kevin Birn, chief analyst for Canadian oil markets at S&P Global, said despite the Trans Mountain expansion increasing Canada’s oil export capacity by 590,000 barrels per day, conversations have already begun around the need for more infrastructure to export oil from western Canada.

“The Trans Mountain pipeline, although it’s critical and adds the single largest uplift in oil capacity in one swoop, we see production continue to grow, which puts pressures on that egress system,” he said.

Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

Birn said Canada remains a major global player on the supply side, being the world’s fourth-largest producer of oil and fifth-largest producer of natural gas.

“This is a really important period for Canada. These megaprojects, they’re generational. These are a once-in-a-generation kind of thing,” Birn said.

“For Canada’s entire history of being an oil and gas producer, it’s been almost solely reliant on one single export market, which is the United States. That’s been beneficial, but it’s also caused problems for Canada in that reliance from time to time.

“This is the first time Canada will enter the global marketplace as a global player, so it is an incredibly important change for the industry.”

Exner-Pirot said Canada has the ability to become a major exporter on the energy front globally, at a time when demand is accelerating.

“We have open water from B.C. to our allies in Asia . . . It’s a straight line from Canada to its allies. This is a tremendous advantage,” she said, noting the growth of data centres and AI is expected to see demand for reliable energy soar.

“We are seeing growing electricity demand after decades of plateauing because our fridges got more energy efficient and our washers and dryers got more energy efficient. Now we’re starting to see for the first time in a long time more electricity demand even in developed countries. These are all drivers.”

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Canadian Energy Centre

Trans Mountain completion shows victory of good faith Indigenous consultation

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Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Joseph Quesnel

‘Now that the Trans Mountain expansion is finally completed, it will provide trans-generational benefits to First Nations involved’

While many are celebrating the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project for its benefit of delivering better prices for Canadian energy to international markets, it’s important to reflect on how the project demonstrates successful economic reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

It’s easy to forget how we got here.

The history of Trans Mountain has been fraught with obstacles and delays that could have killed the project, but it survived. This stands in contrast to other pipelines such as Energy East and Keystone XL.

Starting in 2012, proponent Kinder Morgan Canada engaged in consultation with multiple parties – including many First Nation and Métis communities – on potential project impacts.

According to Trans Mountain, there have been 73,000 points of contact with Indigenous communities throughout Alberta and British Columbia as the expansion was developed and constructed. The new federal government owners of the pipeline committed to ongoing consultation during early construction and operations phase.

Beyond formal Indigenous engagement, the project proponent conducted numerous environmental and engineering field studies. These included studies drawing on deep Indigenous input, such as traditional ecological knowledge studies, traditional land use studies, and traditional marine land use studies.

At each stage of consultation, the proponent had to take into consideration this input, and if necessary – which occurred regularly – adjust the pipeline route or change an approach.

With such a large undertaking, Kinder Morgan and later Trans Mountain Corporation as a government entity had to maintain relationships with many Indigenous parties and make sure they got it right.

Trans Mountain participates in a cultural ceremony with the Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation near Hope, B.C. Photograph courtesy Trans Mountain

It was the opposite of the superficial “checklist” form of consultation that companies had long been criticized for.

While most of the First Nation and Métis communities engaged in good faith with Kinder Morgan, and later the federal government, and wanted to maximize environmental protections and ensure they got the best deal for their communities, environmentalist opponents wanted to kill the project outright from the start.

After the government took over the incomplete expansion in 2018, green activists were transparent about using cost overruns as a tactic to scuttle and defeat the project. They tried to make Trans Mountain ground zero for their anti-energy divestment crusade, targeting investors.

It is an amazing testament to importance of Trans Mountain that it survived this bad faith onslaught.

In true eco-colonialist fashion, the non-Indigenous activist community did not care that the consultation process for Trans Mountain project was achieving economic reconciliation in front of their eyes. They were “fair weather friends” who supported Indigenous communities only when they opposed energy projects.

They missed the broad support for the Trans Mountain expansion. As of March 2023, the project had signed agreements with 81 Indigenous communities along the proposed route worth $657 million, and the project has created over $4.8 billion in contracts with Indigenous businesses.

Most importantly, Trans Mountain saw the maturing of Indigenous capital as Indigenous coalitions came together to seek equity stakes in the pipeline. Project Reconciliation, the Alberta-based Iron Coalition and B.C.’s Western Indigenous Pipeline Group all presented detailed proposals to assume ownership.

Although these equity proposals have not yet resulted in a sale agreement, they involved taking that important first step. Trans Mountain showed what was possible for Indigenous ownership, and now with more growth and perhaps legislative help from provincial and federal governments, an Indigenous consortium will be eventually successful when the government looks to sell the project.

If an Indigenous partner ultimately acquires an equity stake in Trans Mountain, observers close to the negotiations are convinced it will be a sizeable stake, well beyond 10 per cent. It will be a transformative venture for many First Nations involved.

Now that the Trans Mountain expansion is finally completed, it will provide trans-generational benefits to First Nations involved, including lasting work for Indigenous companies. It will also demonstrate the victory of good faith Indigenous consultation over bad faith opposition.

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