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The waters of Douglas Channel are shown from the town of Kitimat, British Columbia April 12, 2014.STAFF/Reuters

An aboriginal group keen to export liquefied natural gas has its sights set on B.C. property slated for the Northern Gateway bitumen terminal, highlighting the troubles faced by oil pipeline plans.

The northern B.C. location for the planned Kitimat-area terminal would be an ideal venue for a native-led LNG project, according to the Haisla First Nation. The Haisla are devising LNG proposals against a backdrop of vocal opposition in British Columbia against Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway and protests against Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.'s plans to nearly triple its Trans Mountain oil pipeline capacity from Edmonton to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

The Haisla are seeking to acquire up to five floating LNG terminals, possibly from Singapore, and station liquefaction equipment on ships on the west side of Douglas Channel. One or two of the ships would be assigned to Enbridge's terminal site on property designated "neutral map reserve" – B.C. Crown land that has been identified for Northern Gateway.

Northern Gateway's terminal site is better for the Haisla's LNG plans instead of heavy oil exports, said Ellis Ross, chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation.

The Haisla's traditional home is on the east side of Douglas Channel in Kitamaat Village, located near the community of Kitimat. During an interview in his pickup truck in Kitamaat Village, Mr. Ross looked through his windshield and pointed across the waters at the site of Enbridge's proposed marine terminal that would load diluted bitumen piped in from Alberta's oil sands.

"That is probably the best site for any type of LNG terminal," he said. "We do have rights and title attached to that land, and we have political and corporate interests attached to that land."

Mr. Ross, who has tried in the past to find ways to wrest the territory away from Enbridge, believes the Haisla have a strong case due to B.C.'s fledgling LNG industry. There have been no final investment decisions among the 18 B.C. LNG proposals so far, but LNG export plans have garnered support from most aboriginal groups.

"Enbridge doesn't have tenure on the land. They don't have exclusive rights to use and occupy that land. They don't own it, they don't lease it," said Dave LaVallie, manager of Haisla business operations and chief executive officer of Haisla-owned Cedar LNG Export Development Inc.

Enbridge said it has the appropriate "map reserve designation" from B.C. government to develop the current location, but offered to work with the Haisla to help support LNG on nearby sites. "In 2012, Northern Gateway worked with the province of British Columbia to reduce the site from approximately 467 hectares to approximately 390 hectares to provide additional room for proposed adjacent LNG sites," Enbridge's Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said in a statement Wednesday. "We would be happy to have conversations with Chief Ellis Ross regarding Haisla-supported LNG projects in relation to our marine terminal."

Both LNG and oil exports are targeted at energy-thirsty customers in Asia. While the Northern Gateway site would be ideal, the Haisla have other properties at their disposal to build jetties and locate berths along the west side of Douglas Channel, Mr. LaVallie said. Even if a protracted battle ensues between the Haisla and Enbridge over the neutral map reserve, Cedar LNG will be able to access those other properties first.

Cedar LNG projects will have partners such as London-based shipping firm Golar LNG Ltd., which said it is optimistic "about the opportunity set in the Douglas Channel."

The Haisla have methodically assembled coastal properties on the rugged western shores of Douglas Channel. Two pieces of land are owned outright by the Haisla after acquisitions last year from Rio Tinto Alcan. One of those sites, District Lot 99, has been set aside for a much-delayed LNG barge project planned by a consortium that includes AltaGas Ltd. and Exmar NV, and potentially for the AltaGas-led Triton LNG venture.

The aboriginal group also has reserve land at Bish Cove that it leases to the Chevron Corp.-led Kitimat LNG project. Next door to Kitimat LNG, the Haisla have access to an estimated 700 hectares of land leased from the provincial government.

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