The future of Prince George could be tied to hydrogen, the lightest and most plentiful element in the universe.
Wednesday’s announcement of a proposed large-scale hydrogen and ammonia production facility in Prince George, combined with a proposal unveiled earlier this year for a similar facility north of Prince George and Canada’s first stand-alone renewable diesel refinery, significantly brightens the city’s outlook.
Both of those initiatives came from big dreamers without significant financial backing and – in the case of West Coast Olefins – without First Nations support.
In stark contrast, this week's announcement is a partnership between the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and global green energy and metals company Fortescue, headed by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, who came to Prince George to make the announcement in person.
Similarly, the hydrogen facility planned for north of Prince George is a partnership between the McLeod Lake Indian Band and Mitsubishi Power.
Lessons have been learned about how to fail with proposed huge resource developments in northern B.C. (Northern Gateway) and how to get the job done (Coastal GasLink/LNG Canada). Serious multinational companies with deep pockets looking to invest in this region now partner with First Nations first, not at the end, as an afterthought. As a result, these two projects have a much greater chance of receiving regulatory and government approval to proceed.
There remains much work to be done but, in the wake of the forestry shutdowns throughout the B.C. interior, Canfor’s closure of Prince George Pulp, and the pending completion of four B.C. megaprojects, hydrogen and green energy are packing plenty of potential for Prince George prosperity.
Neil Godbout is the Citizen's editor.