NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Swine trailers shouldn’t be pig sties, says prof
Farmscape.com - A professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering says a redesign of swine transport trailers is ultimately needed to make them easier and more economical to clean.
This is part of a project being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Park the University of Saskatchewan, Prairie Swine Centre, VIDO-InterVac and the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute aimed at reducing the time it takes and the costs associated with washing and disinfecting swine transportation equipment and ultimately automating the system.
Dr. Terry Fonstad, P.Eng. a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, says a study conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre, which looked at swine transport trailers from an animal husbandry and cleanability standpoint, found that many of the trailers used to move swine are retrofitted cattle trailers and, while they do work, they are really hard to clean. Dr. Fonstad says the current challenge is to design a system to clean the trailers in use now but ultimately we need to work with the trailer manufacturers and the industry to build trailers that are more conducive to biosecurity.
Calling Galaxy: CLS research may stop exploding batteries
CBC - Research at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan could help stop a big battery problem before it starts.
These days, many gadgets, from hoverboards to cellphones to electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. The rechargable batteries can hold big charges for hours, something that’s more and more important in the tech world.
But there’s a problem. Every so often, these batteries pillow. The components inside the battery generates gas, which makes the outside of the battery swell. Pillowing can not only decrease battery performance, it can cause the battery to leak, or, in some cases, explode.
That’s where Toby Bond comes in. An energy storage researcher at the synchrotron, Bond is using the machine to make highly-detailed CT scans on the batteries before and after pillowing happens.
Many of these lithium-ion batteries are built by a jellyroll process, where electrodes are wrapped in a circle. The process creates many energy-producing layers, but Bond also found it can increase pillowing.
Bond found that most of the battery problems happen in the flat parts of the jellyroll, especially where there were already defects in the battery’s shape.
He hopes that the research can be used to improve battery design and how they respond to stressful conditions.
Sask gets its maps straight
DirectionsMag.com - Esri Canada, a distributor of enterprise geographic information technology, recognized the Government of Saskatchewan with an Award of Excellence for its outstanding use of geographic information system (GIS) technology.
The government leveraged GIS for the Saskatchewan Enterprise Geo Database project, a spatial data warehouse that consolidates more than 350 datasets from various government archives and makes the information widely available.
Before the consolidated geodatabase came online earlier this year, all the government’s datasets were managed in separate systems, which greatly hindered sharing the data. This siloed approach led to costly data duplication, inaccuracies and productivity losses, as staff struggled to find information and verify its accuracy.
The provincial government has already put its new spatial data warehouse to good use by offering a selection of maps and datasets related to the environment, agriculture, forestry, geology, health and social services, mining, recreation, transportation, wildlife and other topics available on its website.
De Beers out but diamonds still sparkle
Mining.com - The Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan is best known for its substantial uranium deposits, but De Beers hoped to discover diamonds there too.
In late December, the world’s largest diamond miner decided that several exploration targets in the area are not diamond-bearing. The revelation means that De Beers will stop drilling and return the 43,000-acre (17,401-hectare) property to CanAlaska Uranium, the Vancouver-based junior from which it optioned the property back in June.
De Beers is estimated to have spent up to $20 million over seven years to explore the targets which had kimberlite (diamond-like) qualities identified in a 2011 Saskatchewan Geological Survey.
CanAlaka Uranium maintains the Western Athabasca Basin has “the right geological and structural setting “ … and will keep exploring the remaining 78 targets for diamonds.
Buoyant helium market hits SW Sask
CBC - A shakeup in the global helium market has sparked an exploration rush in southern Saskatchewan, where the gas can be found in the province’s Precambrian basement, trapped in rock that’s about 1.8 billion years old.
Not just the stuff of birthday balloons, helium is a workhorse of an element, supplying an industry worth an estimated $4.7 billion US. It gives airships a lift and helps deep sea divers breathe safely. It’s also used in rocket engines, nuclear plants and MRI scanners, and has a growing number of high-tech applications.
In the 1960s, when helium was considered a strategic military resource, the U.S. government built up an underground stockpile in Texas. That reserve has supplied almost three-quarters of US demand but the government has said it wants out of the commercial helium business by 2021.
As the US federal supply dwindles, industrial gas companies are looking north to fill the gap. Saskatchewan issued 59 helium leases in 2016; it didn’t issue any the year before.
Weil Group Resources tapped two old natural gas wells near the village of Mankota, in southwestern Saskatchewan. Earlier this year, the Virginia-based company started up a high-grade helium-processing plant in the area.
The plant is not a big local employer — only two operators are needed to run it — but Saskatchewan’s fledgling helium-refining industry is getting a toehold at a time when the province could use the business.
Canada has the fifth-largest helium resource in the world, behind the U.S., Qatar, Algeria and Russia, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Riverbank shifts common, says U of S geologist
CBC - Ground movement that led to a break in a Husky Energy oil pipeline happens often along Saskatchewan riverbanks, according to a geology engineer at the University of Saskatchewan.
Grant Ferguson, P.Geo., Engineering Licensee an associate professor in civil geological and environmental engineering with the U of S, said ground movement and slope failures along the riverbank are common and all infrastructure near the rivers is at risk of ground movement.
He said all infrastructure built near the riverbank is susceptible to ground movement and engineering studies should be done to help assess the risk of slope instability.
“We know that when the water tables come up, the soils become weaker and these things are more likely to happen,” Ferguson said, adding that although engineers deemed the site for the pipeline inactive, “…over time conditions changed.”
Denison looking forward with uranium
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - The Toronto-based company that owns 22.5 per cent of the McClean Lake uranium mill says it is gearing up to look for nuclear fuel on two northern Saskatchewan properties it acquired. Denison Mines Corp., said it has completed the acquisition of two properties totalling almost 50,000 acres on the southern edge of the Athabasca Basin, west of Cameco Corp.’s McArthur River uranium mine.
Denison Mines acquired an 80 per cent stake in the 41,000-acre Hook Carter property from ALX Uranium Corp The company also bought the 6,800-acre Coppin Lake property from Areva Resources Canada Inc. and UEX Corp. in a deal that closed in December. The Coppin Lake property is adjacent to its Hook Carter acquisition.
NEB gets overhaul
CBC - Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has appointed a five-member panel to consult with Canadians and produce recommendations on how to reform the National Energy Board (NEB.)
The group will examine the structure, role and mandate of the NEB, which has become embroiled in controversy over its reviews of contested oil pipeline proposals. The panel is to report to Carr by March 31.
The NEB’s consultations in Montreal over the proposed TransCanada Energy East Pipeline Project were stopped in August by disruptive protests, prompting a temporary shutdown of the consultation process.
The three members of the NEB who were reviewing the project also recused themselves after reports surfaced that they had met with lobbyists, including Quebec’s former premier Jean Charest, who were pushing the pipeline. They are still NEB board members and have since been reassigned to review other projects.
Pipeline laws get laid down
Regina Leader-Post - Four years after a damning auditor’s report and four months after a major oil spill, the provincial government introduced legislation to beef up pipeline safety across Saskatchewan.
The Pipelines Amendment Act replaces the 18-year-old Pipelines Act and includes stiffer penalties for offenders, new safeguards to ensure companies cover the cost of incidents and new inspection and compliance power for government officials.
The legislation, which will be phased in over time, also creates a framework to license 80,000 flow lines – which connect wellheads to larger pipelines – in the province. In 2014, the Provincial Auditor said the province had implemented two of seven recommendations in her initial report on pipeline safety and had partially implemented two others. Government officials said in August they were “working on” the remaining recommendations.
Refinery proposed for Sask. oilpatch
Regina Leader-Post - Stoughton, a town of 700 located about 140 kilometres southeast of Regina in the heart of the Bakken light oil play, could someday be the site of a 40,000 barrel-a-day (bpd) oil refinery worth an estimated $600 million, according to representatives with Quantum Energy, an over-the-counter traded energy company based in Tempe, Arizona.
Quantum Energy Inc. announced the incorporation of a wholly owned Canadian subsidiary, Dominion Energy Processing Group Inc., “to conduct the development, construction and operation of a 40,000 bpd full slate refinery in Saskatchewan”.
Dominion is headed by Keith Stemler, who has 35 years of construction and senior project management experience in Western Canada’s natural resources sector, including multi-billion dollar capital projects for major bitumen producers, such as ExxonMobil, Husky Energy and Suncor, the release said.
Stemler said the company has been working with the Ministry of the Economy for about 18 months on the proposed refinery project.
Stemler said typically these plants cost from $500 million to $1 billion, although he estimated the cost of the Stoughton project at about $600 million.
Husky eyes steam assisted oil extraction in Sask.
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Husky Energy plans to spend more than $1 billion on three new steam-assisted heavy oil extraction plants in Saskatchewan as part of its ongoing transition to “low sustaining capital” operations. Husky Energy Inc.’s board of directors sanctioned one new $350-million plant, which can produce 10,000 barrels of heavy crude per day, at Dee Valley near Maidstone and two near the Hamlet of Spruce Lake, the company said.
The plants are similar to the Calgary-based company’s steam-assisted plants near Edam and Vawn, which came online this year. The plants are expected to begin operations in 2020 and employ 30 people each.
Construction of a fourth plant, the company’s second near Rush Lake in southwest Saskatchewan, is also underway, with production slated to begin in 2019.
Husky said in October that it has identified but not yet sanctioned an additional 17 steam-assisted heavy oil plants in Saskatchewan and Alberta, representing 150,000 barrels-per-day of new production, that could be brought over time.
The company’s projects in the Lloydminster region of western Saskatchewan and northeastern Alberta feed its upgrader in Lloydminster, which converts heavy crude into the synthetic oil used to produce diesel and gasoline.
Sask. continues top marks for oil and gas investment
Estevan Mercury - Saskatchewan continues to receive high marks in the Fraser Institute’s Global Petroleum Survey, which ranks the best jurisdictions for oil and gas investment in the world.
The report, released by the think-tank on December 6, rates Saskatchewan as the number four jurisdiction in North America, trailing only Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Saskatchewan advanced three spots from seventh in 2015 to fourth this year. The Fraser Institute has ranked Saskatchewan as the top area for investment in Canada for five consecutive years.
Saskatchewan earned high marks from petroleum executives in the areas of fiscal terms, the cost of regulatory compliance and clear environmental regulations.