British Columbia

LNG plant and geothermal exploration approved for B.C. First Nation

Two projects approved for the Fort Nelson First Nation this week position the community to become an energy supplier to the North, including the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Natural gas liquefaction plant expected to supply northern communities by 2021

Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale says construction of a 50,000 gallon-a-day LNG plant will provide a cleaner alternative to diesel fuel for many northern communities. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Two initiatives approved this week could start supplying cleaner energy to northern communities by next year in the form of LNG and, potentially, electricity generated from the earth's own heat. 

GasNorth Energy Ltd. announced Jan. 28 it has received approval from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to install a natural gas liquefaction facility in an equity partnership with the Fort Nelson First Nation.

Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale said the LNG produced there will ship by tanker truck to northern communities where "people are running on diesel power generators and other things that aren't very good for the environment. "

On the same day as the LNG approval, the B.C. government announced a permit for a second project by the Fort Nelson First Nation to explore the potential to re-purpose old natural gas fields for geothermal electricity generation.

If geothermal generation can be proven to work in the area, Gale said its uses could extend to using waste energy to improve food security. 

Geothermal-heated greenhouses

"We'll be able to create greenhouses that we'd be able to operate all year round, so we could grow lettuce. We could grow strawberries," Gale told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk in an  interview.

"Anything that you would particularly see in the grocery store, [we] would be able to grow," she said.

Geothermal energy production in Fort Nelson, if it works, is not projected to start before 2024.

GasNorth Energy Ltd. and equity partner the Fort Nelson First Nation plan to build their natural gas liquefication facility about 15 kilometres from the community near the existing Fort Nelson Gas Plant. (GasNorth Energy Ltd. )

However, the LNG plant is expected to start shipping by 2021 with an initial output of 50,000 gallons per day, according to the GasNorth news release.

It said the initial 50,000 gallon output, destined for markets in the Yukon and Northwest Territories will increase as the market develops. 

"This will help position Fort Nelson as an energy supplier to the North, making use of local resources to create local jobs," GasNorth president Bob Fedderly said in the statement.

Gale said the LNG project is particularly welcome in her community, which has seen economic decline and scarce employment opportunities in recent years and also faces rising energy costs. 

"It can create local employment and training opportunities but also offers an economical clean energy solution to northern communities, while making use of the resources captured from our territory," she said.

Cleaner than diesel

In response to concerns about developing LNG instead of moving away from fossil fuels altogether, Gale said it will allow many northern communities to reduce reliance on dirtier diesel fuel.

Fort Nelson is not connected to B.C.'s electricity grid, so LNG could also replace the community's power that is currently generated from fossil fuels or imported from Alberta.

"I know that it's a cleaner fuel to burn and I think it will be in line with the province's way forward to reduce emissions," Gale said.

With files from Daybreak North