A northwest B.C. natural gas pipeline project presumed to be dead may be showing new signs of life.
In a letter to Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders along the route of the proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline (PTP), Jennifer Prochera, a community and Indigenous relations advisor for oil and gas giant Enbridge, announced the company had purchased the project from Chevron and Woodside Petroleum.
“The purchase gives Enbridge the rights to the proposed pipeline, which includes all engineering, early development work, and related project assets and permitting for the pipeline, including those from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and B.C. Environmental Assessment Office,” Prochera wrote.
The PTP is a proposed 471-kilometre liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline that would supply up to three billion cubic feet of LNG exports from Summit Lake to Kitimat. A proposed processing facility (Kitimat LNG) was not part of the Enbridge deal.
Two years ago, Chevron started trying to divest itself of its 50 per cent stake in the PTP and its proposed Kitimat facility. After failing to find a buyer, the company announced in March 2021 it was pulling the plug on the projects.
A couple of months later, Woodside, an Australian company, also decided to bail on its 50 per cent stake in the projects.
Currently, Enbridge has no concrete plans to resurrect the PTP.
“At this time, we are continuing to evaluate the PTP project and have no timing on whether the project will proceed, but we are excited about how this potential project fits into the energy transition and may be used to help countries achieve their climate change commitments,” Prochera wrote.
Neither the buyer nor seller has divulged any of the financial details of the transaction.
Enbridge also inherited benefits agreements with 16 First Nations along the route of the pipeline that formed the First Nations Limited Partnership (FNLP) in support of the project.
The company said it intends to maintain these agreements.
Alexandra Ballard, general manager of the FNLP, said the organization does not plan to comment on the purchase by Enbridge, noting it represents the status quo for the partnership.
She did say they remain committed to the project, however.
The members of the FNLP are: Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Lax Kw’alaams Band, Lheidleh T’enneh First Nation, McLeod Lake Indian Band, Metlakatla First Nation, Moricetown Indian Band, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, Nak’azdli First Nation, Saik’uz First Nation, Skin Tyee First Nation, Stellat’en First Nation, Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Indian Band), West Moberly First Nations, Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band.
While this, and the other LNG pipeline (Coastal GasLink), currently under construction along a similar route in Northwest B.C., enjoy widespread support from elected leadership of affected First Nations, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership has actively opposed the Coastal GasLink pipeline and pipelines in general.
For more than two years, pipeline opponents have occupied blockades and engaged in other activities near Houston in an attempt to stop construction.
Last year, RCMP enforcement of the company’s B.C. Supreme Court injunction, triggered solidarity protests across the country and beyond and disrupted rail traffic.
David DeWit, natural resources manager for the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (hereditary chiefs) confirmed their position remains that they are opposed to all pipelines through Wet’suwet’en territory.
Enbridge responded to the question of how they propose to handle relations with the hereditary leadership via an emailed response.
“This project has been purchased for future consideration,” the company said. “Nothing is being built at this time. Any future progress on this project will only occur with open dialogue with all potentially impacted Indigenous groups so that we can better understand and address specific interests related to a potential project.”
The PTP received its environmental assessment certificate in 2008. By 2013, it was fully permitted and clearing had begun.
Opposition to the pipeline also erupted in 2013 as part of the Idle No More movement.
In 2014, Apache (an Edmonton-based oil field equipment supplier) sold its 50 per cent stake to Woodside.
The BC Environmental Assessment Office deemed the project substantially started by 2016 and in 2019 issued a five-year extension to the certificate.