NEWS FROM THE FIELD
SaskPower exploring geothermal power
SaskPower news release - The province of Saskatchewan, SaskPower and private geothermal developer DEEP Earth Energy Production Corp. (DEEP) have signed a power purchase agreement that will allow further research into the potential for Saskatchewan’s first geothermal power project.
Geothermal power generation passes hot water through an exchanger, creates steam and drives a turbine to produce electricity. The signed agreement allows DEEP to continue a proof of concept study to determine the feasibility of a 5-megawatt project near Estevan. The proposed plant would generate renewable, zero emission, baseload power from a hot aquifer 3 kilometres under the Earth’s surface.
The electricity provided by the proposed plant would generate roughly the power required by 5,000 homes and offset about 40,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – equal to taking over 8,000 cars off the roads annually.
Saskatoon bridging to sustainable future
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Saskatoon residents can catch a glimpse of the city’s sustainable energy future just southwest of Circle Drive near the Montgomery Place neighbourhood.
The City of Saskatoon and several partners have installed 92 solar photovoltaic panels to produce energy to help power the nearby landfill gas generation facility.
The city partnered with Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) and the SES Solar Co-operative Ltd. for the project. Dozens turned out for an open house at the landfill gas facility on Tuesday.
The solar panels are expected to produce about 40,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough to provide 40 per cent of the power for the landfill gas facility. The panels are adjustable so they can be moved to capture more sunlight at different times of the year. The amount of energy produced by the panels would be enough to power four 1,200-square-foot bungalows, but the project’s symbolic power is seen as much greater.
The SES Solar Co-operative allows Saskatchewan residents to invest in the installation of solar panels and increase the amount of solar power produced in the province.
The solar demonstration project helps power the exhaust and cooling fans, lighting and computer equipment at the landfill gas facility. The facility converts gas into energy, which amounts to about 1.5 per cent of the energy needed to power the city. City hall has set a goal of producing 10 per cent of city-wide energy through local renewable resources.
Manitoba pitches east-west power grid
Canadian Press - Manitoba’s energy minister is recharging the idea of building an east-west power transmission grid and says the federal government needs to help.
Manitoba Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade Cliff Cullen told the Energy Council of Canada’s western conference that Manitoba has “a really clean resource that we’re ready to share with our neighbours” as new hydro generation projects come online.
“We’ve been focused on transmission . . . north and south, and we haven’t had that dialogue about east-west.”
Most hydro-producing provinces currently focus on exports to the United States.
Saskatchewan Energy Minister Dustin Duncan said his province, which relies heavily on coal-fired electricity plants, could be interested in getting electricity from Manitoba, but is cautious. “They’re big projects. They’re multi-billion-dollar projects.
Even trying to do the interconnects to the transmission grid, I don’t think they’re as easy or as maybe low cost as we would just imagine, just hooking up some power lines across the border. It takes much more work than that.”
Cullen said there’s a lot of work to do on building east-west transmission lines if provinces are going to buy and sell electricity from each other. He suggested that money is a key factor.
“Hopefully the federal government will be at the table to have a look at that because it’s a fundamental expense, a capital expense, to connect our provinces.”
The idea of developing an east-west transmission grid has long been talked about as a way to bring energy reliability to Canadians.
At their annual meeting in 2007, Canada’s premiers supported development and enhancement of transmission facilities across the country, although the premiers fell short of a firm commitment to an east-west energy grid.
New Sask hydro project on hold
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - A $630-million hydroelectric project in northern Saskatchewan could be put on hold indefinitely due to decreased mining activity in the region. At one point, the Tazi Twé hydroelectric project in Black Lake was supposed to have been completed by 2017. But construction has not begun and a SaskPower spokesman says the Crown corporation is conducting an economic assessment of the project to see if starting construction is a smart move or not.
The need for power in northern Saskatchewan is largely driven by mining operations, which have experienced a slow-down in the last decade.
Tazi Twé – a water diversion hydroelectric project that would supply 50 megawatts of power to the provincial power grid –has been in the works for more than 20 years. SaskPower and Black Lake First Nation signed an agreement in principle in 2013 to work together on the project, which was expected to be the first new hydro project in Saskatchewan in more than 30 years and the first power production project built entirely on First Nations land in the province.
Estimates suggest it would have brought $1.3 billion into Black Lake over the project’s 90-year lifespan.
The Tazi Twé board hopes to look at an economic assessment of the project by the end of the year and will then make a recommendation about whether to move ahead with it.
CP Rail challenged by K+S infrastructure
Journal of Commerce - K+S Potash Canada’s (KSPC) Legacy Project mine site, which opened this month, was no easy task to work on for Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway.
Now named Bethune Mine, it is the first of its kind built in Saskatchewan in more than 40 years. The rail infrastructure built to serve the mine is the most significant engineering project undertaken by CP since the mid-1980s.
“While CP has achieved many great feats in its 136-year history, what we have achieved in close collaboration with K+S Potash Canada is right up there,” said Justin Meyer, P.E., CP’S vice-president of engineering.
He said construction of the Belle Plaine subdivision is the largest single rail infrastructure project CP has been involved in since the building of the Mount Macdonald Tunnel in British Columbia in the mid-’80s.
“It wasn’t easy and required innovative thinking, hard work and the will to succeed despite all obstacles,” he said. The 30-kilometre route to the mine site was a geotechnical challenge as grading through the valley required the movement of millions of cubic metres of earth. That’s equivalent to 1,500 football fields with 1 metre of dirt piled from goal line to goal line.
Adding to the scope of the project was the construction of a 137-metre bridge and 70-metre tunnel.
Crews used 50,000 ties, 4 500 tonnes of steel for plates, rail and bolts and 90,000 tonnes of ballast to complete the project. CP will primarily use unit trains – trains that consist of only one type of cargo – to ship the potash products to KSPC’s handling and storage facility in Port Moody, BC then on to overseas markets. These unit trains will be approximately a mile-and-a-half long, consisting of 177 railcars.
In 2013, CP signed an exclusive long-term contract with KSPC to deliver its potash products safely and efficiently to international markets.
Gardiner anniversary: insert “dam” joke here
Regina Leader-Post - Frankly my dear, it’s time to give a dam. In July, the Gardiner Dam, Saskatchewan’s largest piece of infrastructure, celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Located 25 kilometres north of Elbow, the dam was built between 1958 and 1967. Sixty-four metres tall and 5 000 metres long, the dam was officially opened in July of 1967 as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations, along with the Qu’Appelle River Dam.
Together the dams created Lake Diefenbaker, a 225-kilometre-long reservoir. The lake serves a multitude of purposes, including power generation, irrigation, recreation, wildlife habitat and flood control. Because the dam supports renewable energy, the province also touts it as a means of helping to reduce SaskPower’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some 60 per cent of the population of Saskatchewan depends on the South Saskatchewan River and Lake Diefenbaker for water.
U of S program focuses on indigenous ingenuity
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.”
Traditional indigenous design was different than modern techniques, which focus on analyzing and solving specific problems, Maw said. “It was more deeply embedded in culture, and it was a more gradual process over decades — and I would say not coincidentally, you ended up with better designs of things like canoes. And they were very sustainable designs. I mean they were not wasteful. They were very resource efficient, they were very functional.”
“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.”
U of S studying glaciers
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - The University of Saskatchewan is opening a research facility near the Rocky Mountains to study the effects of climate change on Canada’s waters.
The new Coldwater Laboratory in Canmore, Alberta will be used to study the retreating glaciers and nearby water sources in the mountains to get a better understanding of how climate change will affect nearby communities.
John Pomeroy, a professor of geography at the U of S and Canada Research Chair in water resources and climate change, said his team can better understand how waterways work in Saskatchewan by conducting research at the western edges of Alberta.
“We identified about 15 years ago that the university hydrology research needed to focus on the source waters of the waters that sustain the province,” Pomeroy said, noting Saskatchewan’s economy and the livelihood of all its residents is connected to the province’s waters.
The Global Water Futures program, funded through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, awarded the water research program at the U of S $77.8 million – the largest grant ever given to the university, and the largest grant for any university water research program in the world.
In the short term, Pomeroy said he hopes the research conducted from the Coldwater Laboratory will help develop new technologies to predict avalanches and floods in the mountain areas. Long-term research will focus more on the Saskatchewan rivers that originate from mountain sources.
U of S expands northern access to engineering programs
Global News - The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is aiming to improve access to post-secondary science and engineering programs for northern Saskatchewan students.
A program being offered at Northlands College is designed to help the students successfully transition to the university. The 42-week pre-engineering and science (PRES) program includes high school upgrading, 10 university courses and programming. Patti McDougall, the vice-provost of teaching and learning at the U of S, said the program recognizes that indigenous people are under-represented in engineering and science.
“It can be quite challenging for people living in northern Saskatchewan to pursue an education in science or engineering, and since 2014 we’ve been in discussions with Northlands College to figure out how we can help,” McDougall said in a release. “I am proud to say that this new PRES program will provide residents of northern Saskatchewan the chance to locally begin science and engineering programming leading to a range of colleges at the U of S.”
McDougall said the program will give support to the students taking math courses and give them a foundation in chemistry and physics.
The first students will start the PRES program in September 2017 in either Buffalo Narrows, Creighton, Île à la Crosse or La Ronge.
Students who choose to attend the U of S will be able to take part in a free two-week transition program in August, which will offer personal support and program-specific information.
New Dean of Engineering at U of S
University of Saskatchewan news release - The University of Saskatchewan has appointed Suzanne Kresta, P.Eng., FEC as dean of the College of Engineering for a five-year term. Kresta, who is currently a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, and associate dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Alberta, will step into the role effective January 1, 2018. Kresta is an accomplished researcher in the area of turbulent mixing, who has worked in sectors ranging from drinking water to cosmetics and from hydrometallurgy to oil sands extraction. She is perhaps even more regarded for her teaching excellence, having received the Engineers Canada Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education – the highest engineering education award in Canada – in 2014.
“Teaching is central to our work as scholars,” said Kresta, who also received the Award for Excellence in Education from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. “It is a privilege to educate and train the next generation of Professional Engineers and the high priority the University of Saskatchewan places on learning is one of the things that I value most about the institution.”
Kresta replaces Donald Bergstrom, P.Eng., who has served in this role on an interim basis since January 2016. Kresta said she wants to continue to build on the college’s proud history to ensure its academic and research programs both continue to meet the expectations of students, government and industry and step out to be a national leader in engineering education and in key strategic research areas.
U of R wins agBOT Challenge for second year running
Regina Leader-Post - For the second year in a row, the Prairie Robotics team has placed first in the agBOT Challenge in Indiana.
The group of four University of Regina engineering graduates competed in the international competition that promotes technology in agriculture.
Last year, the group won the seeding competition. This year, their spraying robot took first place and a $25,000 prize in the weed-and-feed competition on June 25. “It felt great to win a second year in a row,” said Sam Dietrich, though he was surprised at the win for his team, which includes fellow Reginans Joshua Friedrick, Caleb Friedrick and Dean Kertai.
“The level of competition has really increased,” said Dietrich, and the other teams “really raised the bar.” Last year’s contest saw four ag-bots demonstrating in one event. This year, 17 teams competed between two different competitions. Another Saskatchewan team, Muchowski Farms from Odessa, placed third in the seeding competition.
Prairie Robotics’ project was a sprayer hooked onto a Yamaha ATV. Their bot uses GPS to navigate a field, while cameras provide an up-close view of plants. Their technology can differentiate a crop from a weed and spot-spray accordingly, which would ultimately save farmers money on chemical spray and cause less damage to a field.
The Prairie Robotics team plans to continue working to put its technology into farmers’ hands.
Hopeful signs for potash
Mining.com - Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit thanks to lower costs and increased sales volumes.
The company expects potash demand to remain strong this year, adding that its 2017 earnings outlook has improved since January on the back of recovering prices, which are finally helping producers turn around their fortunes.
The firm kept its forecast for worldwide industry potash shipments of as much as 64 million tonnes for 2017, up from 60 million in 2016. But it increased expectations for the Latin American market and noted that China, the largest buyer, is now seen consuming as much as 15.5 million tonnes.
A global oversupply of the fertilizer has caused prices to tumble in the last decade, leading to layoffs, mine closures and reduced capacity across the sector as the downward trend became more dramatic in the past two years.
Vanguard Potash making progress in tough market
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - After months of aggressive cost-cutting, Saskatchewan’s beleaguered potash industry appears to be turning the corner, with established mining companies recording higher profits and several new firms working to develop greenfield projects.
The latest is Vanguard Potash Corp., a joint venture formed last month by Gensource Potash Corp. and Essel Group ME Ltd., which says it could have a mine that does not require surface tailings deposits operating near Tugaske by 2019.
“The first one is a huge deal for us,” said Mike Ferguson, P.Eng., a potash industry veteran who steered Potash One Inc. to its 2010 friendly takeover by K+S AG before forming Gensource with the notion of “disrupting” the industry.
That disruption hinges on building small “selective dissolution” mines about a tenth of the size of most conventional underground operations and then selling 250,000 tonnes of potash on long-term contracts each year.
Vanguard’s formation was a significant victory for Gensource, but the joint venture still has major hurdles to clear before it can start work on the mine northwest of Moose Jaw, which could create 400 construction jobs and 46 permanent ones.
The company is about 90 per cent done its feasibility study, expects to apply to the provincial government for environmental approval this month, and is working toward raising the US$200 million it needs to build the mine.
Analysts have questioned the ability of junior firms to compete with established companies like Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. Last summer, Karnalyte Resources Inc.’s plan to do just that failed after its financing fell through.
Ferguson admitted there are significant risks, including the major miners being able to “bleed” longer in an oversupplied market, but said the joint venture will be at least partially shielded from market forces.
“The important part is that we will have the guaranteed sales. Coupled with our very low operating cost (which is estimated to be around US$42 per tonne), that should keep us solvent.” Vanguard’s announcement comes as Encanto Potash Corp. works to build a $3 billion mine on a First Nation near Regina, and days after BHP Billiton revealed plans to get its under-construction Jansen mine running as soon as 2023.
Oil drilling may beat projections
CKOM Radio - More oil wells are expected to be drilled in Saskatchewan in 2017 than originally forecast.
The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) is forecasting a major increase of oil and gas activity in the province.
An update stated approximately 2,670 oil wells will be drilled, up from 1,940 wells in the original forecast.
PSAC said the number of wells drilled in the first three months of 2017 is 856, compared with 399 wells drilled during the same period in 2016.
PSAC estimates 6,680 wells will be drilled in Canada in 2017, an increase of 2,505 wells and a 60 per cent increase from the original 2017 drilling activity forecast released in November 2016.
2016 “a pretty lean year” in oil
Pipeline News - “2016 was a pretty lean year,” said Melinda Yurkowski, Saskatchewan’s assistant chief geologist with the Ministry of Environment, when she provided the Saskatchewan update to the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference on May 3. There were 1,650 wells drilled in Saskatchewan, slightly less than the 1,838 in 2015.
“The very good news is we’ve seen an increase in drilling in 2017,” she said. By March 31, there were 856 wells drilled in Saskatchewan, of which 723 were horizontal. That’s over double the pace of the previous year for the same time period. She noted that the Petroleum Services Association of Canada recently revised its forecast to 2,670 wells for this year. Almost 90 per cent of wells drilled in Saskatchewan are horizontal now. The average length in 2016 was about 2 100 metres, a slight increase from the year before.
In 2016, there were a total of 52,786 active oil and gas wells, 31,022 inactive wells, and 425 abandoned wells. In 2015, there were 55,247 active wells, 27,614 inactive wells and 958 abandoned wells.
Oil production is down from a peak in 2014. Production in 2016 was about 460,000 bpd, compared to 486,000 bpd in 2015. Light oil was about 38 per cent of production, medium oil was about 21 per cent, and heavy oil was about 41 per cent.
Roughly 30 per cent of production in southeast Saskatchewan came from the Bakken in 2016. The Bakken produced 45,464 barrels of oil per day, down from about 54,000 bpd in 2015. The high was in 2012, when Bakken production peaked around 65,000 bpd. Land sales brought in $53.5 million in 2016, down from $56.48 million in 2015.