Aurora LNG's Francis Erasmus

Aurora LNG's Francis Erasmus

Aurora LNG engages community, council

Aurora LNG representatives met no shortage of questions or feedback during an open house and council session last week

Aurora LNG representatives met no shortage of questions or feedback during an open house last week, as well as an appearance before Prince Rupert city council.

The project, planned to be situated on provincial crown land on Digby Island, and proposed to be built by a joint venture partnership between Nexen Energy and INPEX Gas British Columbia, would process 24 million tonnes per year of LNG at full build-out, accommodate two LNG carriers and have two storage tanks on site.

Two LNG trains would be built, processing 12 million tonnes per year to start, with the Aurora LNG’s hope of expanding to full build-out with four process trains and the possibility of a third storage tank.

The project’s peak construction workforce would be 5,000 workers with an operational full-time staff of an additional 200-400 workers residing in the region.

Aurora LNG general manager Andrew Hamilton and Jason Gouw, manager of community consultation and Aboriginal relations, provided an update on the project to council on Feb. 6, but mayor and council focused its gaze on aspects of the project that still needed answers.

Top of mind for council was socio-economic engagement and infrastructure.

“The conversations we’ve had with the socioeconomic impact in the region are really tied in with the overall assessment,” Hamilton said.

“Those conversations have been ongoing with the working group … As we work through that, it gives us a chance to test the assumptions and conclusions we’ve come to. Once we understand what the impacts of the development are, we would then want to begin the process of sitting down and working through municipal service agreements, or other agreements of that nature, to ensure that we do not impose any costs on any of the taxpayers or any local industry. It’s very important to Aurora LNG that we carry our own freight.”

Coun. Barry Cunningham also inquired about upgrading the airport access road and the effects of the company’s studies on Prince Rupert’s drinking water source.

“The assumptions that we are carrying is that we would need to upgrade roads to access the airport to ensure that our use of it did not conflict with the use of the airport by the existing community and future growth in the community … We’re still working through what the user load would look like,” said Hamilton.

Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa wanted to know where the company get workers for the project.

“The reality is … during construction, sourcing 5,000 workers is going to be impossible from a region like this. So while we would try to hire locally as much as we could, the reality is we’d be bringing in workers from elsewhere in B.C. … Our intent would be B.C. first, neighbouring provinces second, remainder of Canada third, and where we are unable to meet our demands there, we would be forced to go international,” Hamilton replied.

Coun. Joy Thorkelson questioned the proximity of the facility to the airport and any potential conflicts that could arise between the two facilities.

The representatives replied that multiple studies and modelling assessments were performed on potential aircraft flying directly over the facility, or were on approach or take-off during a flare. The proponent worked with Australian consultants around the regulations and shared that information with the airport authority in Prince Rupert, as well as Navigation Canada and Transport Canada to ensure the models’ accuracy.

“The other thing that we really worked to understand was the height restrictions around the airport [and] … electronic zoning restrictions to ensure there’s no radio chatter or blackouts with the aircraft and instrument take-off and landing and other various safety and navigation systems, and again all the work that we have done has made it quite clear that the two different operations can safely co-exist with each other,” Hamilton said. “This would probably be the closest LNG facility to an airport.”

Mayor Lee Brain added that the company would have the responsibility to help the city mitigate any impacts by a shadow population arriving to the area looking for work opportunity, which may be a 1:1 ratio of Aurora workers to additional new shadow residents. The mayor also asked for an update on where the company stood with Dodge Cove residents, with many living nearby on Digby Island.

“We’ve continued to attempt to engage with them. It’s not the easiest relationship by any stretch of the imagination. We do know that they are getting together with the Environmental Assessment Office Thursday to have a workshop. We had offered to be there, but Dodge Cove has requested that we not attend that session, so we will continue to make ourselves available to have conversations around understanding the impacts and potential mitigations,” Hamilton said, adding that Aurora would be open to discussing funding to help the residents understand the technical reports, which Brain said they were working on “off their kitchen tables.”

On a final note, Gouw offered to facilitate any meetings with Rupert council and the mayor and council from Gladstone, Australia after meeting with them, another hub of activity for LNG.

“If there’s one thing they could tell mayor and council here, it would be to not allow three LNG facilities to be built at one time … Had the facilities been built and staggered within two or three years of each other, many of their issues would have gone away.”

Public welcomed to open house

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office hosted their latest open house with Aurora LNG on Wednesday.

While Hamilton said many comments have come from stakeholder representatives in working groups, the company is looking forward to comments from the public through the 52-day public comment period.

“It appears to date, through the public comment period, that a lot of the comments are coming in through the working group rather than through the public process and we’re really hoping to start to see a lot more of those comments from individual members of the public, starting today and throughout the rest of the process,” he said.

The open house offered an inside look in what work went on in the environmental assessment process that has been conducted over the past three years, which has included things like mapping water courses, understanding on-site vegetation, conducting fisheries assessments, rainfall assessments and surface water, marine sediment samples and wildlife multiple times over the course of a year. The company was also conducting engineering assessments on the locations of various aspects of its facility.

Hamilton also said that the lessons taken from Gladstone will help Aurora LNG in lessons learned with timing of construction.

“It really comes down to pace. It comes down to trying not to do too many projects at once; to understanding the needs of the community around them, so that you’re not overloading that community and it continues to have a good quality of life,” he said.

“It’s kind of like living through renovations at home.”

The proponent is looking to start shipping LNG in the mid-to-late 2020s and start construction between 2019 and 2021.

Multiple residents of Dodge Cove took up position outside Moose Hall, the location of the open house, to protest the project and handed out fliers stating that Aurora hadn’t conducted base-line studies of Dodge Cove or Prince Rupert’s community water, used “secret numbers” in a computer model for its airshed study, and both Dodge Cove and Prince Rupert are located close to the “hazard zone.” They also stated that the province will be unable to meet its targeted CO2 commitments with other LNG facilities already regulatory approved.

In its open house booklet, Aurora LNG states it has participated in 43 meetings and conference calls with Dodge Cove residents, as the project is located west of its closest neighbours.

The project’s land use assessment states that the project “will not require the use of the private lands of Dodge Cove or Crippen Cove, or access through either of these areas” but “will alter existing access to some recreational use areas within the project development area.”

The public comment period is open until March 9.