NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Indigenous Consulting partnership created in Saskatchewan
Stantec - Stantec has partnered with FHQ Developments (File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments) to create Stone and Arrow Consulting.
The newly formed partnership will create opportunities for both organizations to explore engineering and design work across Saskatchewan.
FHQ Developments is the Investment and Economic Development Corporation for the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council and is owned by the 11 Nations including Nekaneet, Piapot, Muscowpetung, Pasqua, Wood Mountain, Standing Buffalo, Carry the Kettle, Star Blanket, Peepeekisis, Little Black Bear and Okanese.
The Nations ownership represents over 16,000 citizens throughout southern Saskatchewan within the Treaty 4 territory.
“This is the beginning of a partnership that will bring new capacity, equity and impact for our Nations of the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council as we begin growing this business throughout Saskatchewan and beyond,” says Thomas Benjoe, President & CEO of FHQ Developments.
“We are excited to be able to offer our customers a new diverse set of services across multiple industries including mining, oil and gas, energy, construction, infrastructure and consulting.”
Saskatchewan Indigenous companies to explore SMR investments
Global News - Three Saskatchewan Indigenous-owned companies have signed an agreement to pursue small modular reactor (SMR) investments. Kitsaki Management, Athabasca Basin Development and Des Nedhe Group say they are in a position to support this emerging technology from construction to operation and maintenance.
Sean Willy, CEO of Des Nedhe Group, said their companies have supported uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan since the 1980s and they want to make sure their voices are heard in this “new and exciting technology.”
“We think if you’re serious about climate change and you want to make a difference decarbonizing the power-producing aspects, small nuclear reactors is the way to go,” he told Global News.
“We look at this as a made-in-Canada approach because all the uranium that’s coming out of Canada is coming from northern Saskatchewan.”
Willy feels they will be able to bring an Indigenous business focus to the development and construction of SMRs, one he believes no one else can bring to the table.
The Saskatchewan government is exploring the viability of SMRs. It has signed MOUs with the governments of Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick to collaborate on advancing SMRs as an option to provide clean energy to address climate change.
Under the proposal signed by the provinces, Saskatchewan could have the first of four grid-scale SMRs in service by 2032.
Willy said their organizations have already been consulted by the Saskatchewan government, which he commended.
“I just think it would make good business sense to work with three business entities who have the strong experience and the strong, positive history in the nuclear industry that our three groups have,” he said.
The Ministry of Environment said it is open to exploring partnerships as SMRs develop and that having Indigenous participation in the economy remains a key goal for the government.
Willy said SMRs have the potential to supply power to isolated regions of the country, not just Saskatchewan.
“As three Indigenous organizations who are highly experienced in servicing the nuclear industry, it made perfect sense for us to get together and jointly pursue exploring opportunities in this exciting and emerging industry.”
Biofuel from flax straw
Canadian Biomass – A new start-up based in Regina called Prairie Clean Energy has developed a process for turning flax straw, which is often burned or trashed, into biofuel.
There are two processes that Prairie Clean Energy is researching, in conjunction with the University of British Columbia’s Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group and the University of Saskatchewan’s engineering department. The first process is compressing bales of flax straw.
“That’s the simplest solution for us – the farmers bale the product, typically in round bales, and deliver it to our facility where we shred, dry, re-bale and compress the product,” CEO Mark Cooper explains. The bales are then shipped to customers, and can be used in fluidized boilers or similar systems that can accommodate baled product.
Prairie Clean Energy is also exploring the possibility of pelletizing the flax straw.
So far, tests show that biofuel produced from flax straw is highly efficient.
“When properly dried, flax straw produces 8,500 BTUs per pound, and the chemical composition is fairly similar to wood,” Cooper says.
Big biodiesel investments in Sask.
Regina Leader-Post - A sudden rush of canola crush investments could add billions to Saskatchewan’s economy and drive up already sky-high prices for farmers, as the province looks to cash in on a new oil boom. That’s according to producers and economic analysts who’ve been watching the run of good news, as four companies announce plans to expand crush capacity or build brand-new facilities in southern Saskatchewan.
John Lee, president and CEO of Economic Development Regina, said the new crushing capacity is equivalent to adding four Chinas to Saskatchewan’s export market for canola seed.
Richardson International is looking to double its capacity in Yorkton. Cargill is planning a million metric tonne facility in the Regina area, while Viterra is aiming to build a massive facility able to crush 2.5 million metric tonnes per year.
The latest announcement came from Ceres Global Ag, which is spending $350 million to crush an annual 1.1 million metric tonnes in Southern Saskatchewan. Ceres mentioned galloping demand for vegetable oil to supply biodiesel feedstock as a factor in its investment.
According to Richard Gray, an agricultural economist at the University of Saskatchewan, the price on carbon and the wave of clean fuel standards should keep driving up demand for renewable fuels.
The United States currently relies on soybeans for about half of its biodiesel feedstock. But Gray pointed out that canola has higher oil content — and is likely to win a growing share of a growing market.
500 Sask. companies work on inactive oil well cleanup
CBC News - The Saskatchewan government says the first year of its abandoned oil well clean-up program resulted in $184 million in contracts to 500 companies in the province.
Last May, the federal government provided $400 million over two years to the province for its Accelerated Site Closure Program. It aims to clean up 8,000 inactive wells and create the equivalent of 2,100 full-time jobs over two years.
The first phase of the program ran until December 2020 and used $100 million of the allotted $400 million. The second phase started in January 2021 and runs until March 2022.
Under the program, oil companies nominate wells they want cleaned up. Then the system allocates money based on the company’s share of inactive wells across the province.
The Saskatchewan Research Council contacts eligible service companies to carry out the work.
The provincial government said $61 million has been paid for work already completed under the program, including: 1,385 well abandonments and decommissions; 237 flowline abandonments; 13 facilities; and 2,545 site remediation and reclamation activities.
The program includes more than $184 million in work packages to the following regions:
- Estevan - $59,513,766.
- Swift Current - $36,714,611.
- Kindersley - $27,863,467.
- Lloydminster - $60,579,289.
New construction codes act coming
Construction Links Network - The Government of Saskatchewan recently passed The Construction Codes Act (Bill 4) in the Legislative Assembly. The new Act will allow better alignment between construction codes and accessibility standards, including how they are applied to buildings, ensuring people with disabilities can better access and use buildings in Saskatchewan.
The new Construction Codes Act (CCA) repeals and replaces The Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Act and will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022 and will continue to oversee how construction standards are developed, adopted and implemented in the province.
The CCA also modernizes the powers and responsibilities for building owners, local authorities, building officials and the construction industry.
$350 million wheat straw pulp mill
Industry West - Red Leaf Pulp Ltd. has announced that Regina will be the home of its new $350 million proprietary wheat straw-based pulp mill. The new facility’s exact location will be announced at a later date, but the Red Leaf Pulp has secured properties on Regina’s west side and construction will begin in early 2022. The project will be Canada’s first non-wood pulp mill.
The plant will have the capacity to produce 182,000 tonnes of market pulp annually from locally-sourced waste wheat straw, and is expected to create 110 permanent full-time jobs with 250 additional jobs created during construction of the plant.
Red Leaf Pulp selected Regina for their first facility of this kind because of its access to feedstock supply, infrastructure, utilities, access to rain and transportation and overall population.
Global uranium output tipped for growth
Mining.com - Worldwide uranium production will recover by 3.1 per cent to reach 51,200 tonnes in 2021 as significant mines come back online following a Covid-19 hiatus, a new analysis shows.
GlobalData expects uranium output to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.2 per cent between 2021 to 2025 to 62,200 tonnes.
In March 2020, Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine, which accounts for 12 – 13 per cent of global production, was suspended to contain a Covid-19 outbreak. The suspension stayed until September 2020 but was later halted again in mid-December because of the increasing risks. It reopened in April 2021. In April 2020, the Kazakhstan state-owned miner Kazatomprom, the world’s largest uranium supplier, reduced activities for nearly four months at all uranium mines across the country. The pandemic also led to restrictions in other countries, including Australia, Namibia and South Africa.
There has been recent optimism surrounding the global nuclear industry, with several governments incorporating nuclear energy within their plans to reach climate goals.
For instance, the U.S. is currently evaluating extending the operating life of its nuclear power plants for up to 100 years. The plants were initially licensed for up to 40 years but can now apply for renewals for up to 20 years.
Other countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, and the EU, all upgraded their climate change policies during 2020, indicating higher demand for nuclear power going forward – alongside higher electricity generated from sources other than coal.
Chinese nuclear buildouts may also help drive a meaningful demand increase to send uranium prices to levels that incentivise new production.
BMO Capital Markets forecasts a 15,000 tonne deficit of uranium this year, or about 18 per cent of current demand, even with the restart of Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine.
Flood risk closes Canadian potash shaft
Reuters - Fertilizer producer The Mosaic Company said it would immediately cut production at its biggest potash mine due to flood risks, and restarted an idled mine to offset some of the reduction. Mosaic’s K1 and K2 mine shafts at Esterhazy have long been prone to flooding, forcing the company to continuously pump out salty water. The company is building a new shaft, K3, to eliminate the problem and its associated costs. Mosaic decided to close the K1 and K2 shafts early when the water inflow accelerated beyond the company’s pumping capacity. No workers have been injured. Florida-based Mosaic accounts for 13 per cent of global potash production, according to Scotiabank, and also produces phosphate fertilizer.
The closure will cut Mosaic’s potash production by 1 million tonnes until the company can fully ramp up production at K3 by March 2022.
It is unclear how soon Mosaic could restart its idled Colonsay, Sask. mine. Mosaic’s production cut comes as global potash prices climb, following soaring corn and soybean prices. Potash is a crop nutrient that farmers apply to increase yields.
The impact of the closure will be minimal for workers as Mosaic moves employees from the closed mine shafts to K3.
Once K3 reaches full capacity next year and Colonsay returns to service, Mosaic forecasts its annual potash production to increase by 2 million tonnes from 2020 levels.
BHP approaches final decision
Financial Times - BHP Group is set to make a final decision on Jansen, a giant Saskatchewan potash project that could cost as much as $5.7 billion. As the deadline approaches, BHP is talking with Nutrien about a potential partnership to make the project less risky and provide critical infrastructure.
In order to feed a growing global population from limited arable land, crop yields will have to rise and fertilizers will play a critical role. Scotiabank forecasts that the 70-million-tonne-a-year potash market will grow at about two million tonnes a year between 2022 and 2030.
But establishing a foothold in the fertilizer industry will not be easy for BHP because of competition from established producers in Canada and eastern Europe that have sophisticated logistics networks and large reserves of potash.
BHP is expected to make a final decision on Jansen before August. It has already spent more than $4 billion sinking two one-kilometre shafts at Jansen but it will need to spend between $5.3 - 5.7 billion to bring the mine into production. It also needs to find access to a port.
Construction is expected to take about five years, but the mine is unlikely to reach full capacity of about 4.5 million tonnes a year until 2030. As BHP moves closer to a decision, it reportedly started discussions with Nutrien, the world’s biggest potash producer. It is not clear what form any deal would take but options could include BHP swapping a minority stake in the project for access to Nutrien’s rail and port facilities.
However, a deal on Jansen is by no means certain.
Nutrien has five million tonnes of idled capacity it could restart. It is also a member of Canpotex, an Opec-style export organization that is anathema to a free marketer such as BHP.
“Is Jansen a necessary investment for the potash industry? That’s debatable,” said Humphrey Knight of consultants CRU.“ Outside Canada there is plenty of new capacity under development, particularly in Russia and Belarus, which is expected to come online before Jansen.”
Nutrien to boost potash output
Reuters - Canadian fertilizer company Nutrien Ltd expects to increase potash production by about half a million tonnes in the second half of the year compared to earlier expectations, due to strong global demand. As crop prices rise, farmers have greater incentive to use fertilizer and maximize yields, boosting potash demand and spurring a surge in global sales of potash fertilizer.
Largest helium plant in Canada
MooseJawToday.com - Canada’s largest helium purification plant is now operating in Saskatchewan and can produce over 50 million cubic feet per year of purified helium for commercial sale – equal to filling 400,000 party balloons a day.
The new $32-million plant is located near Battle Creek in southwest Saskatchewan about 50 km south of Maple Creek and is owned and operated by North American Helium Inc. (NAH).
Helium is a commodity in high demand worldwide since it can be used in medical research, semiconductor manufacturing, space exploration, fibre optics and advancements in nuclear power generation.
Helium is included on both the Canadian and American lists of critical minerals, considered necessary for the modern economy and emerging technologies.
Helium prices have risen by more than 160 per cent since 2017 due to increased global demand and shortage of supply. Canada currently has the fifth-largest helium resources in the world, with significant underground reserves in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that can support drilling dedicated helium wells rather than producing it as a byproduct of hydrocarbon production.
This makes helium production significantly more environmentally friendly in Saskatchewan than in competing jurisdictions.
With the NAH plant, there are now nine active helium wells in the province and 24 in the drilling process. The Government of Saskatchewan expects the number of helium wells will eventually surpass 100.
Helium company makes massive discovery
CTV News - Saskatoon-based helium company Royal Helium Ltd. has discovered a large amount of the element in southwestern Saskatchewan.
“The funny thing about it is, we found everything we expected to find and then we found something much bigger below it,” said CEO of Royal Helium Ltd., Andrew Davidson.
The discovery happened near the Village of Climax, located about 429 kilometres south of Saskatoon.
The drilling for the project takes up 50,000 hectares of land. The company estimates there is six billion cubic-feet of helium in the prospective area.
When many people think of helium, they consider helium balloons. Davidson said there is much more use for the element.
“Microchips, semiconductors, fibre optic cables, LCD screens. All these things cannot be manufactured without helium,” he said.
Hospitals also use helium as the health-care field accounts for 20 per cent of helium’s demand in North America.
“In North America the largest use for helium is health-care,” said Davidson. “Helium is used in MRI machines to cool the magnets as they spin.” It’s also used for rocketry, small-scale nuclear reactors and the cryptocurrency market has also found a use for it.
Scientists measure new depths of hydrologic cycle
University of Saskatchewan - New research could allow people to make predictions about where it might be safer to store contaminants deep underground.
“It seems every time someone scratches a new spot in the subsurface, we find life existing somewhere we didn’t think it could before and one of the key aspects to that seems to be circulating water,” said co-author Dr. Grant Ferguson, Ph.D., P.Geo., Engineering Licensee, a professor with the University of Saskatchewan College of Engineering, School of Environment and Sustainability, and Member of the Global Institute for Water Security. The article, Deep Meteoric Water Circulation in Earth’s Crust, was recently published by Geophysical Research Letters.
The research shows that water that began as precipitation can reach depths of more than one kilometre and as deep as five kilometres over much of North America. Steep mountains have deeper circulation of meteoric water and in places where the topography is relatively flat, the circulation depth is shallower.
This research touches on geological forces from when the Rocky Mountains were bigger or when the Grand Canyon was formed, so the water is hundreds to millions of years old.
The researchers used a “fingerprinting” technology with water stable isotopes – non-radioactive forms of atoms that can be measured in water samples. The stable isotopes told them the origins and history of the water, which they compared to the predictions they had made on the depth of circulation based on topography and the geometry of the subsurface.