Indigenous partnerships discussed at petroleum conference

The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference has returned to Regina after three years away due to the pandemic.

Over 400 people from around North America are in attendance at this year’s event.

“The concept of the conference is not just about oil and gas, it’s also about energy from the Earth, so it’s all the necessary things you need to make the sustainable energy production,” said Ranjith Narayanasamy, president and CEO of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC).

Day one of the two day conference included a keynote address from the premier and a roundtable discussion exploring Indigenous partnerships.

“After three years you’re going to see a lot of things changed, but also the technology has improved,” Narayanasamy said.

Chief Alvin Francis, Nekaneet First Nation, was one of the panelists in Tuesday’s roundtable and was advocating for employment opportunities for Indigenous youth.

He said while he can convince his young people to go to school, he needs partners to ensure a future in the industry.

“We’ve done our part in treaty, we’ve shared the land," he said. "So it’s now time to give back to us as the First Nations people because that’s the important part to be recognized.”

Francis hopes the discussion opened the minds of industry leaders at the event inspiring them to create a mentorship program and Indigenous policies.

“I would like to see joint venture partnerships signed and make sure that they all have an Indigenous policy and if they can create those within their own organizations, I think our words have meant something to them,” he explained.

The panel also discussed ways to enhance Indigenous partnerships, increase investment in Indigenous lead businesses, and create real change.

The First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) said Indigenous communities can play a meaningful part in industry partners achieving their goals of net zero by bringing Indigenous voices to the table, including those of women, young people and elders.

The FNPA is a member-based organization of 165 members across six different provinces.

“I think the FNPA is uniquely positioned to be able to offer Indigenous partnerships and collaboration with industry partnerships, so really we’re pressing the flesh over the next couple of days helping to build bridges between Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous communities,” said Guy Lonechild, CEO of the FNPA.

In addition to building bridges, Lonechild explained that it’s also about economic and environmental reconciliation.

“Saskatchewan has a real challenge ahead of it and we just want to be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem,” he said. “So we’re looking at helping to provide resources and investment to cleaner energy projects in Saskatchewan.”

Premier Scott Moe said Indigenous partnerships and leadership in the energy and resource sector is “absolutely vital.”

He said Saskatchewan has models of this at work in other sectors to use as reference.

“How are we going to grow our economy, but be inclusive, so that everyone is included ultimately in that growth,” he said, pointing to the Indigenous Finance Corporation.

Moe also said the industry has a bright few years ahead of it and Saskatchewan will be proud to produce some of the most sustainable energy in the world.

“This is exactly the industry that’s going to find our way to net zero in this province, in this nation and across North America,” Moe said.

Day two of the conference will commence on Wednesday as the discussions continue around carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), enhanced oil recovery, as well as helium and lithium.