ASTISIY – An Unprecedented Industry Collaboration

Local pipeline infrastructure coupled with local economic benefit has a more stable future after an oil sands giant and eight local Indigenous communities recently formed a unique partnership.

Suncor Energy united with three First Nations and five Métis communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) to acquire all of TC Energy’s 15 per cent equity interest in the Northern Courier Pipeline Limited Partnership.

This historic partnership in the pipeline asset with a value of approximately $1.3 billion will provide long-term, stable revenues that will benefit the communities for decades to come.

The Northern Courier purchase will be completed by Astisiy Limited Partnership, which is comprised of Suncor, and a partnership of the following communities: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, Conklin Métis Local 193, Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125, Fort McKay Métis Nation, McMurray Métis, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, and Willow Lake Métis Nation.

“As a long-time operator in the region, we have worked over many years to develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous communities, and we believe that this partnership reflects the relationships we have built,” explains Leithan Slade, Suncor spokesperson.

Being partners in a midstream asset provides stability for the partners. That means it doesn’t matter if the price of oil fluctuates; the partners are paid to transport the product regardless of whether the commodity prices are up or down, providing a stable source of revenue for the communities.

The pipeline, which connects the Fort Hills asset to Suncor’s East Tank Farm (ETF) asset, will be operated by Suncor upon completion of the purchase by Astisiy. The transaction is anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions and the required regulatory approvals.

The asset consists of two 90-kilometre pipelines that transport heated or diluted bitumen and condensate, diesel or crude from Fort Hills to the ETF; tank terminals also support the operation of the asset, including two 300,000 barrel bitumen storage tanks, one 150,000 barrel diluent storage tank, and one 50,000 barrel diesel tank at the north end of the asset.

The Astisiy partners will benefit from revenues generated through competitive tolls from long-term transportation, and terminalling services agreements supporting the pipeline, regardless of the price of crude. The partnership is expected to generate gross revenues of approximately $16 million annually for its partners, and provide reliable income that the Indigenous communities can use at their discretion for decades to come.

Astisiy is a Cree word meaning thread made from sinew.

In its announcement, Suncor acknowledged this investment and partnership are the result of years of collaboration, and negotiations among all partners. An example of economic reconciliation, this partnership is unprecedented in this industry given the number of Indigenous communities involved.

“We’re excited to have eight new business partners in the RMWB, and continue on our journey of reconciliation with yet another opportunity for increased participation by Indigenous communities in our business,” enthuses Mark Little, Suncor president and chief executive officer. “Suncor’s journey includes our commitment to learn about Indigenous culture and history with open hearts and minds, to stretch our perspectives, and build genuine relationships with Indigenous peoples based on mutual trust and respect. We’ve heard from communities that opportunities like this are key to helping their communities thrive, and we are proud to play a part in supporting their members.”

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) acknowledges that this pipeline opportunity demonstrates progressive relationship building, and economic reconciliation between industry and Indigenous communities.

“ACFN is committed to delivering long-term value to membership, and this is yet another example of this framework. The pipeline itself is firmly situated in ACFN traditional territory so it is fitting that ACFN, along with seven other Indigenous owners, share in the community benefits made possible through this partnership with Suncor.”

While Shaun Janvier, director, Chipewyan Prairie Industry Relations LP, says the partnership will sustain their communities for years to come, Valerie Quintal of Métis Local 193 adds, “joint ventures and partnerships should benefit all parties, but in this case, we have a deal that benefits the parties, the community, and Canada.”

Kendrick Cardinal, president of Métis Local 125, is proud of the way all parties worked together to develop this game-changing partnership, which goes a long way to ensuring a vibrant future for the people of the community.

“There has been a lot of talk about reconciliation, but Suncor is walking the talk. This is an investment in a better Canada, and the benefits of this partnership model are sustainable long-term revenue for our community’s housing, social services and education. This is further recognition of the Fort McKay Métis Nation’s s.35 rights within our traditional territory,” states Ron Quintal, president, Fort McKay Métis Nation.

“This partnership is historic as it includes Métis communities; nothing like this has been done before.

Astisiy will provide our community with stable revenue over many years to come, and will allow us to continue with cultural programming and other community initiatives that otherwise may not have been able to proceed,” points out Peter Hansen, president, Fort McMurray Métis.

“This partnership demonstrates our ability to be a strong player at the table, and will allow us to fund programs that otherwise wouldn’t be able to happen. It’s our hope that industry will follow suit, and allow further opportunities for Aboriginal communities in the North to participate in ventures such as this,” notes Samantha Whalen, councillor, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation.

“We are thrilled to partner with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the Wood Buffalo region to build long-term prosperity for our community, and future generations,” adds Justin Bourque, CEO, Willow Lake Métis Group (WLMG). “WLMG is committed to making bold decisions and to doing things differently, ensuring the best future possible for our community and our families.”

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Carol Christian loves to write and tell people’s stories. She is a former journalist with a few awards, but no Pulitzer…yet…and loves being behind the camera catching awesome smiles and beautiful landscapes. 

She is a strong believer in teamwork and helping others, and lives by the Golden Rule. Always engaged with her community, Carol is a long-time volunteer who always gives back. She thoroughly enjoys the outdoors, and all the pursuits that go with it … hiking, camping, and kayaking, and so on.

Carol is a human slave to two furry felines, believes music and books are amazing. 

With a love of exploring, travelling is a big part of her life… and why her credit cards are always maxed out.

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