The Tsawwassen First Nation is considering building a terminal south of Vancouver to export liquefied natural gas, putting the concept to a membership vote in December.
FortisBC LNG Development Inc. and the native group have formed a joint venture to explore the proposal for constructing an LNG terminal on Tsawwassen land designated for industrial use, Tsawwassen Chief Bryce Williams said.
He said he has not personally made up his mind, and will be asking nearly 300 Tsawwassen First Nation members to vote on whether to support the concept. "I'm kind of neutral on this. I'm still on the fence, you could say. I haven't really taken a stance, and I want to educate the members and see which direction they're leaning toward," the elected chief said in an interview. "Whatever they decide, I will support. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks."
The proposal calls for five to six tankers a month to load up with LNG at a Roberts Bank marine site, which would be connected by pipeline to the planned export terminal.
Members of the First Nation, located near Delta, are scheduled to vote on the plan on Dec. 16.
Mr. Williams appeared at a news conference on Monday with B.C. Premier Christy Clark at another site, Fortis Holdings Inc.'s $400-million Tilbury LNG expansion project in Delta, which is separate from the proposed Tsawwassen LNG plant.
The self-governing Tsawwassen First Nation ratified a historic treaty in 2009. A sprawling shopping complex, under construction on the native group's land near BC Ferries' Tsawwassen terminal, is slated to open next year.
Weak LNG prices in Asia, a looming glut of supplies and fierce global competition have cast doubt on how many of the 20 LNG proposals in British Columbia might come to fruition, if any. Several First Nations oppose some of the B.C. LNG sites, citing environmental concerns. The Tsawwassen project would formally become the 21st LNG proposal in the province, should members vote in favour in December to take further steps toward construction.
"Global demand for LNG is growing all 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," Ms. Clark said. "Building this industry isn't easy. It would never have been easy, but it's certainly made harder by the fact that global prices have fallen. Nonetheless, we have leaders in our province, companies like Fortis, who are prepared to take on this challenge and make sure that we are exporting our clean LNG all over the world."
Ms. Clark's B.C. Liberals campaigned hard to promote LNG's prospects in the 2013 B.C. election, boasting that exports of the fuel would transform the provincial economy.
The joint venture envisages exporting three million to five million tonnes of LNG annually, starting in 2022. The liquefaction process would be powered by electricity. Other members of the venture are NextEra Energy Canada and Mitsui & Co. Ltd.
"Hopefully, the vote will be positive. We'll jump on things in the new year and start all the pre-engineering and predevelopment work," said Doug Stout, a vice-president at FortisBC Holdings Inc.
FortisBC said in a statement that it "values the opportunity to explore this concept with the Tsawwassen First Nation. If the concept proceeds, the nation will be involved in all stages of development as we work with regulatory and permitting agencies to ensure the facility adheres to the highest environmental values and safety standards."
There could be up to 1,000 construction jobs and as many as 100 full-time positions at the plant. "TFN is committed to ensuring best practices are used in every aspect of the supply chain," the aboriginal group said. "The storage facility would link to a vessel-loading facility at Roberts Bank via a new pipeline."
WesPac Midstream LLC, backed by a U.S. energy firm, wants to export LNG from the Tilbury Island site. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is reviewing WesPac's proposal, which involves having tankers carry LNG along the south arm of the Fraser River. The provincial regulator will hold an open house on Dec. 2 in Delta to collect public comment, followed by a gathering on Dec. 3 in Richmond.