NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Power station closure will affect city
CJME - A study commissioned by a City of Estevan committee predicts job loss, population loss and a decline in economic activity after the partial closure of the Boundary Dam power station.
As Canada phases out coal-fired electricity by 2030, units 4 and 5 at the plant are set to close in the next few years.
The Estevan Economic Development board hired MDB Insights to study the effects and it determined the following impact on the city: approximately 150 direct job losses (100 in mining and 50 in utilities); 350 total jobs lost (four to five per cent). The committee said understanding these impacts is key to figuring out a plan for economic transition.
It calls on provincial and federal leaders to develop a “Centre Of Energy Excellence” in the region, which would include implementing carbon capture and storage technology for Unit 6 of the power station and the Shand Power Station.
This would “ensure employment opportunities in coal mining and power production remain in the area”.
The group also calls for the construction of small modular nuclear reactors, along with projects in renewable energy.
Also, the release says all levels of government need to advocate for clean coal technology and for the federal government to introduce a tax credit for carbon dioxide stored.
Environment group plans for nearly 1,000-panel solar array
Global News - The Saskatchewan Environmental Society Solar Co-op announced plans to build a solar panel array — with nearly 1,000 panels — at the CNH Industrial-New Holland site in Saskatoon.
The partnership, said Co-op vice-president Michael Nemeth, P.Eng. would create an array that would yield 375 kilowatts for the plant on 71st Street.
He also said the project works towards fulfilling the Coop’s goals of accelerating the use of solar power in Saskatchewan.
To that end, he said the Co-op would organize volunteers to regularly clean the panels to maintain maximum efficiency and to hire professional contractors for any repairs. Co-op board member Jason Praski said the industrial size of the project was new, but he’s still excited to partner with a company that is “taking steps into electric machinery”.
The Co-op is currently looking for shareholders and said construction could be completed by the end of the year, pending a mutual agreement to pause the building process if the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Former APEGS president takes on new role
Pipeline News - Steve Halabura, professional geoscientist and past president of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS) has probably forgotten more about Saskatchewan rocks and geology than most people will ever know. He will now be contributing to Pipeline News with a column focusing on the next “Big Thing.”
As a self-described home-grown Saskatchewan patriot, he wants to contribute to getting this province up and running again, so he has offered to dig through his ‘Garage Files’ and prepare a series of columns looking at a number of Saskatchewan hosted commodities that might deserve a new look.
As Halabura said, “I remember $10 oil – March 1986 – and it was brutal. After that experience, I swore to diversify so that my success was no longer dominated by outside forces. Over the next while, I will be examining the question ‘what else can our drill bits do?’”
Halabura continues to “geologize” in the helium, potash, aggregates, lithium, light oil (shallow and subsalt), heavy oil and bitumen, geothermal, oil shales and natural gas sectors of this province.
“I’ve got 40 years of stuff sitting around, and I can’t think of a better time to be looking for ‘The Next Big Thing,’” he says.
Government to help oil and gas sector
Global News - The Saskatchewan government announced help for the provincial oil and gas industry.
The measures address administrative issues and did not include any funding. Deadlines for a series of filings were extended to help the oil and gas industry stabilize while employees transitioned to working from home.
As well, mineral rights which would have expired in 2020 have been extended by one year.
The only measure for which a dollar figure was given was the 50-per-cent reduction of the Oil and Gas Administrative Levy for 2020, with the fee payment delayed until October. The statement said the reduction will save the industry $11.4 million.
Feds commit funding to orphan well cleanup
CTV News - Saskatchewan’s energy sector will be receiving a boost from the federal government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1.7-billion investment into orphan and inactive well cleanup in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
Saskatchewan has 157 inactive wells, while 2,030 inactive wells were cleaned up in 2019.
An abandoned well is one that has been properly decommissioned in a safe and environmentally benign state. More than 37,000 wells have been successfully abandoned in Saskatchewan.
Premier Scott Moe says the Government of Saskatchewan has been calling for federal funding to clean up inactive oil and gas wells since 2016.
In 2016, then-premier Brad Wall proposed a similar plan to the federal government and estimated that it would create 1,200 jobs in the province.
The federal government also announced it is creating a $750 million emissions reduction fund, which will focus on methane pollution. It will be distributed as a repayable contribution to help businesses maintain their competitiveness, staff and climate targets.
Geothermal company welcomes support
Pipeline News - Deep Earth Energy Corp. (DEEP) says it welcomes the announcement from the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) and its clean energy partners to move forward with a plan to expand geothermal energy in Canada.
In the midst of this historically impactful oil and gas downturn and the economic consequences from COVID-19, there is a unique opportunity to leverage oil and gas capabilities and technologies into the geothermal sector while preserving jobs and regional economic viability.
If funding was available DEEP would be able to make use of modern oil and gas sector services for test and definition drilling for geothermal energy.
Each well drilled would employ dozens. This would identify more geothermal resources which can quickly be developed and connected to the grid and would utilize otherwise unemployed professionals from the service sector.
Geothermal plays an important part in a diversified Saskatchewan energy mix as the province works towards a cleaner Canadian energy future. The same world-class Canadian drilling technology and expertise that has supported the oil and gas sector can now be deployed for developing clean renewable energy.
Major shutdown on way for oil industry
Weyburn Review - A major glut in the supply of oil led to oil prices tanking into negative territory and the result will be a major shutdown of oil production as the lockdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic have severely cut into consumption.
According to a report by Reuters, a major oil hub in Oklahoma was nearing capacity (about 73 million barrels of crude oil) with more oil on the way. This caused traders to panic and send the oil price crashing to the negative for the first time ever.
This oil hub feeds the major oil refineries on the Gulf Coast, but the world demand for oil and gas products has gone down by at least 30 per cent, causing a major backup in oil supplies, even with the promised cut in production by OPEC recently.
The result is many companies are shutting in production because they can’t sell crude oil at this point. Once the restrictions for COVID-19 are lifted, it will take a long time for demand to grow again.
There is a possibility once activity levels start returning to normal and demand rises again for oil and gas, the price of gas could spike because it takes time for oil companies to ramp up their activities and get the oil flowing again.
What worries oil producers in Saskatchewan is the question of whether any investors are going to come back to invest in oil production here or take their money elsewhere to a more business-friendly environment.
Mining companies scouring Estevan area
Discover Estevan - Saskatchewan’s natural resources have long been a huge part of the provincial economy. Another such resource is coming to the forefront. The province announced in late April that mining companies purchased land at their Subsurface Mineral Crown Disposition Public Offering. Some of that land was very close to Estevan.
The public offering raised nearly $170,000 in revenue for the province. Mining companies that bought land include Deep Earth Energy Production Corporation, Prairie Lithium Corporation and Sun Valley Land Ltd.
“The subsurface mineral public offering uses a transparent and competitive bidding system to issue subsurface mineral dispositions that grant the holder exploration and development rights for potash and natural mineral salts occurring more than 60 metres below the land surface,” read a statement from the provincial government.
“These include boron, calcium, lithium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bromine, chlorine, fluorine, iodine, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur and their compounds.” Sun Valley picked up the biggest plot of land - practically in Estevan’s backyard. It bid $30,000 on a 1,656.78-hectare permit block about 18 kilometres southwest of the city. The goal is to find minerals like lithium.
Saskatchewan has seen a significant interest in its lithium potential.
Closure will affect northern Saskatchewan
National Observer - The economic cost of COVID-19 is hitting northern Saskatchewan — causing closures and lost jobs.
Cameco’s shutdown of the Cigar Lake mine, combined with that of partner company Orano Canada’s McClean Lake mill, are now taking place.
Real and far-reaching impacts of these closures have started to hit home.
Cameco announced in March that the company is temporarily suspending production at Cigar Lake uranium mine and is placing the facility in care and maintenance mode due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impact on the ground is starting to play out.
Cameco is the biggest publicly traded uranium company in the world and accounted for 18 per cent of production worldwide in 2015. It is also an economic staple for northern Saskatchewan.
Cameco’s partner, Orano Canada Inc., simultaneously shuttered its McClean Lake mill where ore from Cigar Lake is processed.
Cameco has ceased commercial ore extraction at Cigar Lake mine. It is moving already extracted material through the remainder of the process.
The total workforce at Cigar Lake is about 320 Cameco employees and another 240 contractors. In care and maintenance mode, the total workforce will drop to about 75, split across two shifts.
All impacted Cameco Cigar Lake employees will continue to receive their regular pay and benefits during the four-week care and maintenance period, but Cameco says it can’t speak for the contract workers, since those arrangements would be up to their employers.
The Cameco shutdown also meant closing the partner mill where the ore from Cigar Lake is processed. The workforce at McClean Lake mill is being reduced from 160 to 50 during maintenance.
Government to fund energy innovators
Estevan Mercury The Government of Saskatchewan is providing $658,000 for three Saskatchewan energy innovators through the Saskatchewan Advantage Innovation Fund (SAIF).
SAIF supports commercialization of game-changing technological innovations in the province’s core economic sectors.
The three emerging technologies in the energy sector, developed with assistance from the SAIF:
Ground Effects Environmental Services - $395,000 to support development of a cutting-edge water treatment system for oil extraction that operates on a reduced environmental footprint, removing key containments from wastewater at a fraction of the cost.
LiEP Energy - $113,000 to support the development, validation and scale-up of a working prototype for new lithium resource extraction technology to pull lithium ions out of concentrated brines faster and using less energy and chemical inputs.
Wave9 - $150,000 for an oil site monitoring system which uses remote cameras and sensors to feed information into artificial intelligence software and issues alerts through a smartphone app, reducing operating costs and improving worker efficiency.
U of R Project Day goes digital
University of Regina - Every year, fourth-year Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science students at the University of Regina look forward to showcasing their capstone design projects at Engineering Project Day – a lively event attended by local industry representatives and community members.
This year, with social/physical distancing measures in place, faculty members had to be innovative and find new and meaningful ways to engage with their students and evaluate their submissions.
Student groups presented their projects through various multimedia presentation methods, including videos, audio recordings and PowerPoint slides. They also participated in a live Zoom Q & A with faculty members and instructors. Many of this year’s design projects had real-life applications, including a web app that helps students manage classes and grades; a robotic system that helps detect security issues at university residences; and a system that helps with varying degrees of mobility.
A mobile homecare support app was designed in collaboration with industry partner Eden Care Communities to assist people who require homecare.
Petroleum Systems Engineering students addressed key areas of petroleum production in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada.
This year, the top two projects in both the Petroleum Systems Engineering and Industrial Systems Engineering programs will receive the Gospel Nkinanee Prize. The prize includes a $500 award for each team.
In 2019, Gospel Nkinanee, an international student who graduated from the U of R in 2015 with a degree in Petroleum Systems Engineering, passed away due to a medical condition. At the time, he was working toward a second degree in Industrial Systems Engineering at the university.
The winners of the Gospel Nkinanee Prize in Petroleum Systems Engineering are Nicholas Leslie and Mark Hellman for their project, Multilateral Well Design and Performance Analysis for Low Viscosity Heavy Oil Formations and Karim Sobh, Amr Sobh and Aya Mahmoud for their project, Design of An Optimal Thermal Recovery Strategy for An Alberta Heavy Oil Reservoir.
U of S conference aims to increase Indigenous STEM representation
CTV Saskatoon - About 200 Indigenous students, teachers and professionals participated in a science, technology, engineering and math conference at the University of Saskatchewan in late February.
Co-organizer and APEGS vice-president John Desjarlais, who grew up in the Cumberland House and is an engineer, said Saskatchewan needs more Indigenous people in those areas.
“In a province like ours, representation is incredibly poor. About 16 per cent of the population of Saskatchewan is Indigenous, however there’s only one or two percent Indigenous people in my profession.”
Kindergarten through Grade 12 students as well as post-secondary students and some teachers are learning about STEM fields and careers. Delegates are coming from across Canada and the United States.
This is the first time the conference has been held in Saskatchewan. The idea was modelled after a similar event in the U.S. Two other such conferences have been held in Canada and delegates from Saskatchewan have attended. They wanted to bring the opportunity here and showcase Saskatchewan’s strengths in the four disciplines.
Enter the Couch Potato Lab
University of Regina - Given the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and their parents have suddenly been spending a lot more time at home together. Many parents have found themselves trying to juggle working from home with home schooling and keeping the kids meaningfully occupied.
A highly successful University of Regina program that makes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) accessible and fun has stepped in to give parents a break and keep their kids busy, educated and entertained – all from the comfort of their couch and all for free.
Part of the U of R’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the Educating Youth in Engineering and Sciences (EYES) program launched The Couch Potato Lab – a series of science lessons for kids streamed through YouTube.
EYES is a not-for-profit organization that provides Saskatchewan youth with the opportunity to experience STEM in a fun, hands-on way.
Typically, EYES offers STEM workshops and camps for kids in grades 1-9 across the province, but has adapted its delivery method to suit a free, online format. Each episode of The Couch Potato Lab features a revolving cast of three scientists – chosen based on expertise – presenting a fun and engaging lesson centred on Saskatchewan curriculum.
Accompanying each lesson is a manual with detailed instructions, a list of items needed and an experiment for the kids to complete on their own – reinforcing what they have learned from the lesson.
If anything is unclear, kids can get their parents to text in or ask questions through the EYES social media pages and have the questions answered by the scientists during the livestream.
Content is designed to be understood at any age and experiments that make use of readily available household items like plastic cups, water and dry cereal. Experiments so far have included dissecting a banana to teach about DNA and finding out what household items will sink or swim to teach about buoyancy. The lessons take place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m., on the EYESYouth YouTube channel and are available for viewing any time after the stream ends. Visit the EYES website to learn more about The Couch Potato Lab and to see the schedule of free upcoming livestreams.