NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Sask. encouraging flare gas capture
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Plum Gas Solutions is a joint venture with the US liquefied natural gas (LNG) firm, Plum Energy LLC. Most of its business comes from supplying gas during pipeline outages, but that could change due to major changes in Saskatchewan.
In November 2015, the provincial government introduced new rules limiting wellhead gas flaring and venting. It said the regulations echo those already in place in Alberta and are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating economic benefits.
Earlier this year, SaskEnergy pledged to buy LNG or compressed natural gas from companies that capture it far from existing pipelines and truck it to wherever it is needed.
A SaskEnergy spokesman said the company’s promise to buy the gas – which it uses during maintenance and as a backup supply in the depths of winter – should help firms like Plum Gas to introduce mobile facilities.
While the technology is comparatively new and the gas volumes comparatively small, mobile LNG recovery could eliminate the need to build expensive pipelines, reduce emissions across the industry and add jobs to the provincial economy, he said.
One of those companies could be Raging River Exploration Inc., which extracted an average of 20,447 barrels of oil equivalents from the Kindersley area last year – far less than industry giants such as Husky Energy Inc., but more than many “junior” producers.
Companies are already collaborating to develop permanent gas infrastructure near well clusters, but mobile LNG technology could have potential in more remote areas of the Viking oil play in west-central Saskatchewan, according to its chief operating officer.
While there are major challenges to overcome, including the high cost of the mobile gas conservation trailers, the combination of rising prices and tighter regulations means there is a huge incentive for producers to conserve associated gas.
Northern village switches to solar
CBC - An unreliable power grid, high costs of energy and frequent power outages have prompted the northern Saskatchewan village of Green Lake to flip the switch to solar energy.
The solar panels will be owned and operated by the village. Currently, electricity is provided to the community by SaskPower, which maintains power lines and poles.
Locals estimate there are about two or three outages per month in the northern Saskatchewan community. Some of them are lengthy due to the landscape of the area, which includes forest and rugged terrain – a problem which is only exacerbated during the winter.
Hundreds of kilometres worth of power line and hundreds of poles – many of which are in remote areas of the province – mean in the event of a power outage it could be hours before the source of the problem is discovered, let alone repaired.
One outage lasted several hours when the temperatures were around –20 C.
Raising funds was one of the biggest challenges. The province helped with a portion of the costs. The community has received both federal support and private sector support from Ontario worth $20,000.
The federal government's Canada 150 Program provided "just under" $60,000. The province has a program in place which provides up to $20,000 on a $100,000 project.
The cost of the development has been about $137,000. The project itself has been years in the making.
The first phase will power the community centre with about 31 kilowatts of energy.
The province is administering a net metering plan.
BC researcher makes SK roads better
Research KELOWNA - A team of researchers has identified an improved method to predict the strength and durability of shale embarkments that line roads.
Called geochemical modelling, this type of analysis can lead to potential savings when it comes to road design and construction, particulary in Saskatchewan.
Craig Nichol, P.Geo., senior instructor of earth and environmental sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, says when shale is exposed to the weather, oxidization can occur – along with other geochemical changes which can affect the strength of the material. Shales, rocks that are made of clay or mud, are used for roadbed or embankment construction across the prairies due to their abundance in this area. Nichol, who worked on the study with engineering researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and York University, says the strength and durability of these materials are central to road construction and design.
The cost of bringing in stronger building materials such as sand and gravel can be high,” he says. “This led us to the concept that perhaps shale could be used more than previously believed.”
The team studied the residual shear strength of shale within the Lea Park Formation, a dark shale that stretches across parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The researchers used geochemical characterization and geochemical modelling methods, along with physical tests, to study the strength and quality of the shale, especially when oxidized by weather.
Nichol says their research determines that combining traditional physical testing with geochemical modelling is a better method to accurately predict strength properties and can ultimately save money during road design and construction.
“Now we know these materials can be used instead of importing materials like sand and gravel from a considerable distance away. It’s good to know that shale in this area is stronger than first believed.”
U of S program shines a light on indigenous engineering
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Sean Maw, P.Eng. wants young students to take another look at the humble canoe or kayak.
“They’ve been around for hundreds of years,” said Maw, a University of Saskatchewan College of Engineering professor. “What does that tell you about them as designs? That they’re good – and they’re indigenous designs; they came from Canada’s indigenous peoples.”
A new U of S program aims to spread the word about indigenous ingenuity – from watercraft to weapons to traps to living quarters to snowshoes – to public schools across the country and inspire indigenous youth to consider engineering as a career.
Everyone involved in the project is excited; nobody has done this work systematically before, and it’s an opportunity to document a neglected part of Canada’s history, Maw said.
“We are under-represented in the college and in the profession,” Indigenous Peoples Initiatives coordinator Matt Dunn, P.Eng. said.
“There’s so much value to having a diverse workforce and the diverse thinking, the diverse processes that First Nations, Metis and Inuit engineers … can provide will really help enrich the engineering profession.”
“I think there’s lots of positive lessons to be learned there and I think if this brings pride to indigenous kids who are learning about it, I think that would be fantastic … And if it brings respect to Canada’s first peoples, I think that would be a great thing, too.”
Next phase for automated swine vehicle washing
Manitoba Pork Council - A team of engineers and scientists, working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, is preparing to move into phase three of an initiative to adapt technology to speed up and reduce the cost of washing and disinfecting swine transport trailers.
Terry Fonstad, P.Eng., a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, explains swine transportation has been identified as the primary risk for transferring disease causing pathogens.
“Prairie Swine Centre is involved in doing a trailer inventory. They went out and looked at all the trailers that are being used and then looked into both animal welfare and cleanability aspects of those trailers. The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute is developing with us a cleaning system based on a concept of using vacuum and pressure washers,” Fonstad said.
“The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization is working on the side of pathogen destruction and giving us the engineering parameters that we need to destroy pathogens and verification of that. Then, on the engineering side at the university, we're looking at measuring those parameters in the trailers to verify that we're meeting the conditions that'll destroy the pathogens.”
Fonstad also noted that the research included a strong component of industry input.
“We made sure that we put in an advisory team that's everywhere from producers to veterinarians to people that actually wash the trucks. We get together every six months and have them actually guide the research.”
He says the next step is to automate or semi-automate the system.
Universities exploring small nuke
CBC - Researchers from the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan are looking into what it would take to build a small modular nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan.
The $1.1 million multidisciplinary project is led by Esam Hussein, P.Eng., dean of engineering and applied science at the U of R. It brings together researchers from five faculties and departments at the universities.
The project is meant to provide the researchers with a better understanding of nuclear energy and to help Saskatchewan graduate students develop expertise around building a small nuclear reactor somewhere that has not previously used nuclear power. Saskatchewan will be used as the case study.
"Small modular nuclear reactors will inevitably play a role in the clean energy mix, and it is important to explore their technical licensing processes," said Hussein in a press release.
"This project will build the capacity of Saskatchewan researchers and students to address technical, engineering and regulatory questions related to introducing this new technology."
The work will be done by graduate and doctoral students working in the fields of geology, geography, engineering, transportation and law.
Small modular reactors have a physical footprint and power output that make them better suited for smaller electrical grids.
The project is meant to benefit countries considering adopting nuclear power, and aims to provide a comprehensive approach for adopting nuclear energy and siting nuclear power plants.
Sask. stuck with uranium mine cleanup cost
CBC - When cleanup began on the abandoned Gunnar uranium mine near Uranium City, the total price tag was estimated at under $25 million and the federal government agreed to pay for half the cost.
But a decade later, the expected cost for remediation of the remote Gunnar mine has swelled to about 10 times that and Ottawa isn't offering any more money, even as the province starts this summer to remediate millions of tonnes of tailings and waste rock left when the mine closed in 1964.
The property reverted to the Saskatchewan government In 1990. In 2006, Saskatchewan and Natural Resources Canada agreed to share the remediation costs, although the province would be responsible for building demolition.
The estimated cost was $24.6 million over 17 years.
Over the last decade, detailed environmental impact studies have been completed, public consultations have been held and regulatory hurdles of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have been cleared.
Preliminary work to build roads for crews has already started and workers are to begin using waste rock to cover the tailings this summer.
The work so far hasn't been cheap. A Natural Resources Canada report from 2012 said the buildings, some of which contained asbestos, cost $20 million to tear down. Heavy equipment has to travel to the site in winter on an ice road.
In 2014, the province set up a liability for the remaining work, then expected to be $208.5 million.
The province will spend just under $25 million for the work that's being done, he said. The province is hoping Ottawa will kick in to cover more of the cleanup's cost, but the response so far hasn't been promising.
Natural Resources Canada says Saskatchewan owns the site and is responsible for funding the project.
Sask. weathering oil downturn better than AB
JWN Energy and Estevan Mercury - The Western Canadian oil and gas industry has taken it on the chin since global oil prices collapsed in late 2014. While Saskatchewan was hit hard by the decline in investment and activity, it fared a little better than its neighbour to the west. The well count declined by around 70 per cent in Alberta from 2014 to 2017, while Saskatchewan saw a decline of 55 per cent.
There are a number of reasons for Saskatchewan faring better than Alberta.
The first is geology, according to industry analysts at Scotia Waterous. A study by the investment house released in late 2016 shows six Saskatchewan oil plays are in the top 10 in Canada and the US when ranked by profit/investment ratio. All six plays breakeven at oil prices of US$40/barrel and some breakeven at US$35.
All of these plays are relatively shallow and cheap to drill compared to some of the deep shale plays. The two top-ranking Saskatchewan oil plays on the list – the Frobisher and the Ratcliffe – are conventional Mississippian plays that don’t require fracture stimulation.
A spokesperson from Scotia Waterous noted that the stable political and economic environment in Saskatchewan has also helped maintain activity.
“People aren’t worried about the royalty regime changing like it has in Alberta. And in Alberta there are new carbon levies coming in. So there is some concern about how that’s going to affect the Alberta economics.”
The number of wells drilled in the province from January to the end of March was 856, compared to 399 wells drilled during the same period in 2016.
Sask. and Man. most attractive mining destinations
Mining.com - Two provinces – Saskatchewan and Manitoba – are the world’s top two most attractive mining investment destinations, displacing Western Australia from first to third place, according to the latest annual global survey of mining executives by the Fraser Institute.
According to Canada’s policy think-tank’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, the other seven jurisdictions that currently attract the most investors to their resources sector are Nevada, Finland, Quebec, Arizona, Sweden, Ireland and the Australian state of Queensland, in that order.
Within Canada, Saskatchewan remains the top-ranked province, though Quebec is showing clear signs of improvement. It now ranks third in the country and sixth globally – up from eighth spot last year – and is the only other Canadian jurisdiction in the top 10 worldwide for overall investment attractiveness.
Gensource acquires new investor
Mining.com - It's no secret that building a potash mine to compete with the big companies is no small feat in Saskatchewan. But success could come via some outside-the-box thinking from Gensource Potash Corp. which inked a joint venture with Essel Group ME Ltd., an Indian conglomerate.
Gensource, whose most advanced project is the Vanguard property in central Saskatchewan, has formed a new company with EGME called Vanguard Potash Corp., which is the corporate entity they plan to use to develop a small 250,000 tonnes per annum potash mine.
The agreement builds on a memorandum of understanding published by the two companies last November.
The plan is to build out the mine in phases, eventually reaching a million tonnes per year.
It would be mined using the solution method, where wells are sunk into the deposit and a heated brine solution is injected to dissolve the potash salts. The dissolved salts are then pumped to the surface where the water is evaporated, leaving potash and salts behind.
According to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Gensource's business model is to sell its potash product directly to farmers and farmer groups, thus avoiding competing with large companies like PotashCorp "which have better supply chains and the ability to soak up costs in a weak market."
Gensource plans to commission the mine in 2018, with first production by the end of that year, or the first quarter of 2019.
K+S opens first new SK potash mine in 40 years
Canadian Press - The first tonne of marketable potash is expected to be produced at the end of June from the first new mine in Saskatchewan in more than 40 years.
After five years of construction, German fertilizer company K+S AG is opening the new mine near the village of Bethune, about 70 kilometres north of Regina.
The company said it expects to achieve its desired production capacity of two million tonnes by the end of this year.
The Bethune mine, which is a solution mine, is the largest single project in the history of K+S.
K+S said the first train shipment of potash will head from the mine to its port facility in Vancouver. From there, it will be exported to customers mainly in South America and Asia.
Western Potash moving ahead
Mining.com - Western Potash, a subsidiary of Western Resources, seems to be finally moving ahead with its long-delayed Milestone project property in Saskatchewan, even though prices for the fertilizer ingredient remain weak.
The company, which recently held one of many open houses in the community of Kronau, located 28 km southeast of Regina, said that instead of shelving plans due to gloomy market conditions, it has chosen a new approach to develop the mine, which makes it feasible.
First proposed in 2009, the Milestone project will produce 146,000 tonnes of potash annually over 12 years of planned operations, which are expected to kick off in 2019.
The purpose of the pilot plant, the company says, is to test and optimize the horizontal solution mining method in Saskatchewan, as well as to investigate how the method can be applied to full-scale potash production.
Western Potash expects to finish the pilot project by the end of the year or start of 2018, with operations beginning in 2019.