News Beyond Our Borders
Miner focused on sustainable nickel
Bloomberg News - A tiny Canadian company is taking Elon Musk up on his offer to efficiently mine nickel, betting it can be done carbon free.
Toronto-based Canada Nickel Co. said it’s looking into building a facility that will process zero-carbon nickel just days after the Tesla Inc. boss pledged a “giant” contract to miners that produce the critical battery metal in an “environmentally sensitive” manner.
“The electric vehicle chain and broader market in general is crying out for zero-carbon product,” Canada Nickel Chief Executive Officer Mark Selby said.
The estimated US$1 billion facility would be developed in the Timmins-Cochrane region of northern Ontario, exploiting its proximity to hydroelectric power to reduce emissions. The company is also exploring using serpentine rock, which naturally absorbs carbon dioxide when exposed to air.
Mining companies are under increased scrutiny to employ environmentally friendly practices. Nickel is a key component for the cathodes of electric-vehicle batteries and could face a shortage as soon as 2023.
Oil slump leads to third cut in drilling forecast
The Canadian Press - The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) is cutting its 2020 Canadian drilling forecast for a third time as the industry remains mired in a slump expected to extend well into the second half of the year.
The association says it now expects just 2,800 wells will be drilled in Canada this year, down from a nearly 50-year low of 3,100 in its revised forecast in April. The new forecast for 2020 is 43 per cent lower than the 4,900 wells drilled in 2019. PSAC interim CEO Elizabeth Aquin says a slow economic recovery, low commodity prices and high debt levels in the industry are preventing a quick recovery from the lows of earlier this year amid an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She says a surplus of North American crude oil means producers have little incentive to explore for and develop new wells.
Last week, Calgary-based Precision Drilling Corp. reported more layoffs and parked drilling rigs as revenue, led by lower activity in its Canadian and U.S. operations, fell by 47 per cent in the second quarter compared to the same period of last year.
Alberta powers up hydrogen sector
Financial Post - Alberta took tentative steps in sourcing energy from hydrogen with a string of new small-scale projects to develop a market in the province for the nascent and alternative energy source.
The funding is part of a wider plan to reduce the province’s large carbon footprint that includes investments in 20 emissions reductions projects that would receive a total of $58 million in funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta with the goal of driving down carbon emissions in the province by one million tonnes by 2030, equivalent to taking 750,000 cars off the road.
Hydrogen emits only water vapour when combusted and is gaining traction around the world as economies look to reduce emissions.
The three hydrogen projects will focus on a prototype and field-testing of a new method of extracting hydrogen from natural gas; on the development of a new early-stage technology to use heat to crack methane into hydrogen and other byproducts.
In addition, Calgary-based utility and holding company ATCO Ltd. will work on a project to be built in 2021 that will blend hydrogen into natural gas streams distributed for home heating in Fort Saskatchewan.
By blending the available hydrogen into ATCO’s natural gas distribution system in the area, the hydrogen molecules can go a long way in reducing emissions. The plan is to blend ATCO’s natural gas stream in the Fort Saskatchewan area with five per cent hydrogen to start with, but there is potential to expand that to between 20 per cent and 40 per cent.
Engineer grads among top earners
Statistics Canada - The COVID-19 lockdown resulted in record youth unemployment rates, which could adversely affect postsecondary graduates for years to come.
Three new studies shed light on this issue. They provide a snapshot of the labour market success of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates from detailed programs. In total, these gender-based studies include results for men in 118 bachelor’s degree programs and women in 123 programs; men in 77 master’s degree programs and women in 95 programs; and men in 29 doctoral degree programs and women in 22 programs. The studies reveal that most top earners among bachelor’s degree graduates came from various engineering specialties. Six of the top 10 disciplines among men and seven of the top 10 disciplines among women were in engineering.
Mining and mineral engineering graduates ranked first among men with $111,533 in median earnings five years after graduation and second among women with $89,680. Their counterparts that graduated from chemical engineering also ranked high, landing fifth among male graduates ($89,637) and third among female graduates ($82,193).
In contrast to their counterparts with a bachelor’s degree, individuals with a master’s degree in engineering specialties often registered median earnings that were below the overall median for all master’s degree graduates.
STEM kit helps First Nations youth
Fort McMurray Today - First Nations youth in the region have been continuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning outside the classroom after Actua delivered dozens of at-home learning kits earlier this summer.
The kits include activity books, worksheets and innovative challenges that can be worked on independently.
Doug Dokis, Actua’s director of national Indigenous youth in STEM, said the kits help the youth who are out of school build skills and confidence while keeping them physically and intellectually engaged.
The kits include a variety of activities, including online coding, water monitoring, growing plants and making musical instruments. There is also an activity that involved mapping the community and seeing how STEM has always been in the community such as through water systems and culture systems.
Dokis said they put a focus on local and Indigenous knowledge.
The kits were delivered to the communities by Indigenous undergrad students. Dokis said this allows the youth to see themselves in careers such as engineers or scientists.
Engineer hopes to bridge the cultural gap between Indigenous people and energy projects
Northern Ontario Business - An aspiring Indigenous leader from northeastern Ontario is ready to make her voice heard in a national forum.
Kaella-Marie Earle, an engineer-in-training with Enbridge Gas and member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, is taking a seat with the Indigenous Advisory Committee of the Canada Energy Regulator (CER).
The CER formed in August 2019 to replace the former National Energy Board, the federal regulator of pipelines, power lines and imports and exports of energy products. The updated mandate of the Crown organization is to transition Canada to a low-carbon economy and bring about greater participation for Indigenous people in the energy sector.
Earle is one of eight people recently named to the newly formed committee. She is a Laurentian University engineering graduate and who works as a construction project manager for Enbridge Gas in the Chatham-Kent area of southwestern Ontario. Committee members are drawn from First Nation communities and organizations across Canada, each representing a diverse range of knowledge and unique perspectives of the industry.
The committee won’t be making decisions on specific energy projects but will assist the CER’s board of directors on strategy issues.
One idea Earle wants to bring forward is the creation of a collaborative database for industry to better consult with First Nations on energy projects.
Such a database, she believes, would serve as a critical cultural bridge to help steer the consultation process, provide meaningful engagement, deliver palatable project information to the communities, save companies money and provide down-the-road project procurement opportunities for communities.
Energy megaprojects employing thousands in B.C.
Alaska Highway News - While the big energy story of 2022 will likely be the completion of the $12.6-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, B.C.’s economy will also be benefitting from the construction of three other energy megaprojects – the $17-billion LNG Canada plant in Kitimat, the associated $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline and the $10.7-billion Site C dam.
By 2022, BC Hydro also hopes to have completed the $280-million Peace River Electricity Supply project – construction of which is underway – that will link the LNG Canada and Site C dam projects by providing clean power to natural gas producers supplying the new liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat. The idea there is to lower the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of LNG produced in B.C. by electrifying the upstream.
These big energy projects are already employing thousands of workers. There are about 1,600 people employed in Kitimat at the LNG Canada project. The workforce is expected to peak at about 4,500 throughout 2022 and 2023.
Close to 600 workers are employed on the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is expected to have peak employment of 2,500, with completion slated for 2023. Meanwhile, Site C dam employs more than 3,200 workers, but typical pre-pandemic workforce numbers for the project were around 4,000. It is slated for commissioning in 2024.
The biggest challenge in 2022 may be finding enough qualified workers for all the big projects being built.
LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink and Site C dam alone will employ roughly 11,500 workers at peak construction. BuildForce Canada estimated that 13,000 new jobs would be added in B.C. in 2021, with LNG Canada and Site C dam being major drivers, although it also included projects like the Pattullo Bridge replacement project.
MineWare develops AI-based drill automation platform
Canadian Mining Journal - MineWare, a provider of mining equipment monitoring and automation solutions, developed an industry-first artificial intelligence-based drill automation platform, Phoenix AI, to optimize aftermarket blasthole drill operations. In autonomous mode, Phoenix determines the design hole depth based on the drill plan and uses AI algorithms to generate and adjust force to match ground conditions. The AI-based decision engine continuously monitors and responds to geologic faults, taking instant action to correct them in a nearly predictive manner as it works to ensure the highest quality blast hole.
According to Curtis Stacy, product manager for Phoenix AI, the interoperable platform features advanced AI to help with common drilling issues and improve performance. “Compatible with all blasthole drill makes and models, Phoenix AI is an independent system that allows machine operators to automate their entire drill cycle at the push of a single button, without compromising the OEM control system,” Stacy said in a release. “The new layer of technology helps drills work faster and smarter to improve machine performance, hole quality, detect and correct down-the-hole faults, optimize drill and blast outcomes, and drive efficiencies downstream.”
By giving operators the ability to hand more control to the machine, Curtis added that drill and blast teams can eliminate operator variability, one of the major causes of poor hole quality and machine stress.