More Indigenous communities are taking the lead in oil & gas

More Indigenous communities are taking the lead in oil & gas

by Deborah Jaremko

A growing number of Canada’s Indigenous communities are becoming owners of oil and gas projects that can allow them to help reduce environmental impacts and earn a greater share of the prosperity.

“I see so much conversation about the importance of Indigenous people sitting at the table of major projects and discussions. The conversation is with the major stakeholders, and that’s Indigenous people,” said Jordan Jolicoeur, president of Métis-owned Carvel Electric, during the launch of a recent report about Indigenous engagement in oil and gas.

Indigenous communities involved in the resource sector have gained significantly more influence and benefits over the past 20 years, according to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI).

“The trend in recent years has evolved towards nations asserting themselves as partners, owners and shareholders in resource development,” said MLI fellow Heather Exner-Pirot.

“This is often the most consequential way through which they can achieve economic self-determination and real leverage in how projects proceed, including having a more direct say in the environmental provisions of projects.”

Here are some current examples of Indigenous ownership in oil and gas:

Enbridge Oil Sands Pipelines

In the largest energy-related Indigenous partnership transaction in North America, 23 First Nations and Métis communities in northern Alberta are investing $1.1 billion to become part owners of seven Enbridge oil sands pipelines.

Through a new company called Athabasca Indigenous Investments, communities will hold an 11.57 per cent ownership stake in pipelines that transport about 45 per cent of Canadian oil sands production.

“It’s going to allow us to improve the quality of life,” said Frog Lake First Nation Chief Greg Desjarlais.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline

Sixteen Indigenous communities in B.C. will jointly own a 10% stake of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline once it is running in 2023. Coastal GasLink will deliver natural gas from northeast B.C. to the LNG Canada export terminal on the coast at Kitimat.

Global LNG demand is expected to nearly double to over 700 million tonnes in 2040 compared to 380 million tonnes in 2021. Canada is expected to help reduce global reliance on coal with LNG that will have the lowest emissions per tonne in the world.

“This deal is important because it demonstrates the value First Nations can bring as true partners in major projects,” said Chief Corrina Leween of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation.

Cedar LNG

The Haisla Nation on B.C.’s north coast is approximately 50% owner of Cedar LNG, a proposed $2.4‑billion floating natural gas export terminal that would be supplied by the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

“It will bring tremendous economic opportunities and benefits, ensuring the Haisla people have control of our own future,” said Haisla Chief Councillor Crystal Smith.

Ksi Lisims LNG

Ksi Lisims LNG is a $10-billion proposed new Canadian natural gas export project near the Alaska border on the B.C. north coast owned jointly by the Nisga’a Nation, Rockies LNG and Western LNG. Startup is planned in late 2027 or 2028.

LNG Newfoundland and Labrador

The B.C.-based First Nations Major Projects Coalition and Miawpukek First Nation on Canada’s East Coast are working together on the first-ever Indigenous equity participation in an Atlantic energy project, called LNG Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Our inclusion in this project is historical, transformational, and an example of how the offshore energy industry, Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador are truly embracing and giving effect to reconciliation,” said Miawpukek First Nation Chief Misel Joe.

East Tank Farm

In northern Alberta, the Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree First Nations own 49% of the Fort Hills oil sands project’s East Tank Farm. Completed in 2017, the $545-million deal is one of the largest business investments to date by a First Nations entity in Canada.

The economic benefits of ownership include funding social programs, education and training, developing business capacity and building infrastructure, Mikisew Cree First Nation says.

Cascade Power Project

The Indigenous Communities Syndicate is investing $93 million for an equity stake in the Cascade Power Project, a new natural gas-fired power plant with capacity to supply 8% of Alberta’s electricity requirements.

Cascade is expected to start operating in 2023. Securing the deal is “transformational” for the First Nations communities, said Alexis Nakota Sioux Chief Tony Alexis.

Polaris Carbon Capture and Storage

Reconciliation Energy Transition, an affiliate of Indigenous-owned Project Reconciliation, has entered into an agreement with Shell to add “material ownership for First Nations” in the company’s proposed Polaris carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.

Reconciliation Energy Transition says its investment in Polaris “will support environmental stewardship and create pension-like intergenerational wealth—thereby supporting the path towards healing, respect and self-determination for participating Nations.”