An engineering contract secured Wednesday moves Kwispaa LNG, a natural gas export contender with aboriginal co-management, one step closer to being sited on the Pacific coast of British Columbia.

Under a deal announced this week at the Gastech conference in Spain, Hyundai Heavy Industries said it would begin designing two hulls early next year for floating liquefaction and storage vessels at the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project site on Vancouver Island. The LNG terminal partnership of Steelhead LNG and Huu-ay-aht First Nations described the contract as a “significant milestone.”

Steelhead late last year scrapped one export project for Vancouver Island to reduce costs and joined with Huu-ay-aht First Nation as a project co-manager to advance Kwisspa LNG. The original proposed terminal by Steelhead was formerly known as Sarita LNG, after the name on conventional maps for its home ocean front bay.

The Hyundai engineering contract kicks off the planning for a US$500 million pair of jumbo hulls 340 meters (1,112 feet) long and 60 meters (196 feet) wide, each capable of storing 280,000 cubic meters (6 Bcf) of LNG.

Kwispaa LNG’s schedule calls for exports to start in 2024 at an initial rate of 1.5 Bcf/d that could eventually be doubled by adding additional floating liquefaction and storage vessels.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is providing the terminal site and co-managing the project with Vancouver-based Steelhead, after a tribal referendum voted 70% in favor of participating.