Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, LNG Canada says has continued to hit critical construction milestones and is committed to delivering its first load of liquefied natural gas to global markets by the middle of the decade. (File photo)

Despite COVID-19, LNG Canada committed to first cargo delivery by middle of decade

The company says it has hit recent construction milestones despite impacts of COVID-19

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that LNG Canada’s first load of liquefied natural gas would be delivered to global markets by mid-2020. The correct timeframe is the middle of the decade.

Despite taking on a number of new safety and sanitary measures in response to COVID-19, including a temporary reduction of their project workforce, LNG Canada says has continued to hit critical construction milestones and is committed to delivering its first load of liquefied natural gas to global markets by the middle of the decade.

As the joint venture company enters its second year of construction at its export facility in Kitimat currently their focus has shifted to pile driving, completing a second season of dredging and advancing work on their Cedar Valley Lodge accommodation centre. LNG Canada has also spent over $2 billion on contracts with companies across the province, including a number of locally-owned businesses, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

READ MORE: LNG Canada worker tests positive for COVID-19

Speaking to the Kitimat Northern Sentinel the company pointed to a number of milestones they’ve completed over the past 12 months, including a number of environmental and initiatives set towards prioritizing both local and Indigenous involvement in the construction process.

This includes accommodations for a three-metre high concrete barrier to fish passage in Anderson Creek adjacent to the property. Through stable water flows created by a series of box culvert steps, the company said pink and Coho salmon will be able to bypass the barrier and navigate upstream during a range of conditions for the first time in 65 years, accessing 3,500 square metres of new spawning habitat.

“The project accommodated a smooth transition for fish between the creek and the fishway while providing protection to previously-eroded banks,” a media spokesperson for LNG Canada told the Kitimat Northern Sentinel. “After construction was substantially completed in June 2019, hundreds of salmon were counted upstream of the fishway.”

It is estimated the newly accessible spawning habitat will accommodate up to 600 mating pairs annually.

More recently, LNG Canada completed northern realignment of the Kitimat River Side Channel, which the company pointed to as another example of habitat restoration it’s working on locally.

The project involves realigning the 1,700-metre Kitimat River channel slightly east to avoid the footprint of the LNG plant and will expand habitats for a number of salmon and trout species in the region, as well as both Dolly Varden char and western brook lamprey.

Beyond maintaining habitats, the company also highlighted additional localized benefits to the project, including the possibility of the reestablishment of eulachon, a Pacific Coast species of smelt traditionally valued by Haisla First Nation.

On the hiring front, the company has made efforts towards prioritizing local hires whenever possible, investing over $4 million since 2015 in trades training programs with 1,382 apprentices to date. Currently there have been over 340 placements for construction jobs in the Kitimat-Terrace region, with over 60 per cent filled by Indigenous individuals and 20 per cent filled by women.

In terms of investment, as of March 2020 LNG Canada had spent over $2 billion on project-related contracts with Indigenous companies, local companies, and companies in B.C. and across Canada with $1.3 billion going to Indigenous groups. Major contracts include a $500 million contract for the Haisla Nation/Seaspan joint venture to design, build and operate escort tugs and harbor tugs required for LNG Canada’s LNG export facility in Kitimat, British Columbia.

When asked about how COVID-19 has impacted the timeline for LNG Canada, the company reiterated they remain committed to long-term goals they previously established.

“Despite certain impacts resulting from proactive measures we’ve taken since March 2020 to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 virus, including a temporary reduction of the LNG Canada project workforce, LNG Canada and our engineering procurement and construction contractor JGC Fluor JV (JFJV) continued to hit critical construction milestones,” the company said. “We remain committed to delivering first cargo by the middle of this decade.”

LNG Canada has taken a number of steps to combat the spread of the virus, most notably reducing their fly-in traffic by more than 90 per cent. Anyone still commuting to work must fill out a self-assessment before being approved to travel, undergo at least two temperature checks and complete an additional health questionnaire upon checking in at the lodge.

If at any point an individual is found or suspected to be experiencing symptoms they will be referred to an on-site medical professional who will recommend whether a 14-day quarantine is necessary.
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