NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Province invests in geothermal research
Regina Leader-Post - An underground aquifer could one day power hundreds of thousands of Saskatchewan homes — and the province is pitching in to figure out how.
The government announced this week that it’s investing $175,000 in a geothermal energy project near Torquay, southwest of Estevan. The money will help fund a five-megawatt facility that draws steaming hot water from deep underground, pumping it up 3,400 metres to run turbines on the surface.
It’s a small test plant that Kirsten Marcia, P.Geo. hopes will lead to a much bigger project. A geoscientist and CEO of the company running the project — DEEP Earth Energy Production Corporation — she finds it “shocking” that there’s no geothermal energy generation anywhere in Canada.
Wes Jickling of Innovation Saskatchewan confirmed that the project will be the first attempt to generate commercially viable electricity through geothermal power.
Marcia said drilling will begin this summer. SaskPower has already signed a deal to buy the energy, which Marcia thinks will start flowing out in about two and a half years. She said there could then be opportunities to build 10, 20 or even 30 megawatt facilities, which could be repeated across the 100-kilometre-long aquifer.
Ultimately, she suspects the aquifer could yield up to 500 megawatts of power – enough to power 500,000 households.
But there’s a lot of uncertainty over whether the technology can be economically viable. The first facility is meant to demonstrate that it can work. Marcia said the government funding will help them get the $8 million project off the ground.
Marcia is optimistic that the Estevan region is well suited to geothermal technology. The water is hot enough — at about 120 degrees celsius — and the expansive sedimentary rock formations are ideal. The site isn’t far from SaskPower’s carbon sequestration facility.
SaskPower announces 10 MW solar project
Global News - In 2019, just east of Swift Current, the province’s first utility-scale solar plant will be operation. The 80-acre-project in the RM of Coulee is the first of two 10 megawatt (MW) plants that SaskPower plans to have operational before 2021 – part of its foray into solar energy.
“Ten megawatts is relatively small compared to the amount of generation we have in the province,” admitted Doug Opseth, P.Eng., generation asset management director for SaskPower.
It’s just 0.22 per cent of Saskatchewan’s nearly 4,500 MW generating capacity, but the province has set the goal of generating up to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
“Adding this first utility scale solar project will allow us to get an understanding of how it operates on our grid. Certainly as you look towards the future the prices of solar and wind are coming down so I can see us adding lots more solar and wind in the future,” Opseth said.
The Highfield Solar Project will generate enough energy to power 2,000 homes and will cost roughly $15 million according to Saturn Power Inc., the company who was awarded the contract.
“We’re looking at doing a similar type process that will come out next year and then we’re also looking at adding more solar through our customer programs and then through our partnership with the First Nations Power Authority,” Opseth added.
The Highfield Solar plant is expected to last decades as it could be 40 years before the panels need to be replaced.
Boundary Damsurpasses a safety milestone
Estevan Mercury - On May 14, SaskPower celebrated two years without a single lost-time injury at the coal-fired power station near Estevan.
“This reflects a lot of hard work by the 350 men and women working at Boundary Dam,” said SaskPower vice-president of power production Howard Matthews. “It also shows how SaskPower has made safety a core value in recent years.”
“We’ve put our money where our mouth is and we’re achieving real results. Our employees continue to bring power to homes and businesses every day and they have to stay safe to keep you safe at home.”
“We tell farmers to be safe during seeding and to ‘come home safe tonight’ to their families. We also need to do the same for every employee at SaskPower.”
SaskPower continues to emphasize public and employee safety in all things, from recruitment to project planning and outage response. As part of the Canadian Electricity Association, SaskPower also collaborates with other utilities to make sure they share their lessons learned with others and bring new best practice back to Saskatchewan.
Flin Flon fosters future geologists
The Reminder (Flin Flon) - Students are saying a program run in collaboration between Creighton Community School and the Northern Manitoba Mining Academy (NMMA) really rocks.
Through a university-level geology class at the NMMA, some students had the chance to study the geology of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba at the academy, learning how to use advanced equipment and discovering more about the region.
The origin of the program came from Creighton Community School teacher Ryan Gray, who reached out to the mining academy to determine if they could help him expand his high school geology class.
The two schools quickly agreed on ways to expand the course. Now, every Thursday morning a van load of Creighton students heads to the academy for hands-on, in-depth learning.
At times, those teachings have included field trips around the Flin Flon area to study the area’s geological roots.
From the beginning, one of the program’s main goals was to provide field learning and training with specialized equipment that a typical geology class may not deliver. The students are big fans of the approach.
“It’s a lot more in depth and hands on. We can actually use the knowledge more – instead of just hearing it in class, we could actually go out and do it,” said student Christin Straile.
Janessa Berezitzky, one of the Grade 11 students in the program, said she has thought about pursuing geology as a career after high school.BACK TO TOP
Synchrotron researchers discover irony
Phys.Org - University of Saskatchewan researchers have found that chemicals commonly used to protect samples in synchrotron experiments actually help to damage those samples, potentially misleading scientists around the world.
“Because of this discovery, we have changed the way that we operate in our lab and we’re hoping to change the way that other people operate,” said Kurt Nienaber, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geological Sciences and lead author on the research.
In current techniques, samples of matter are blasted with a beam of X-rays, typically from a synchrotron light source. From the interactions between the X-rays and the samples, scientists learn detailed information about the positions of atoms in biological molecules and deduce how these molecules work within living things.
To protect the delicate samples from freezing damage at the extremely low temperatures required by the experiments, chemicals called cryoprotectants are added. But there is a risk that the radiation can cause chemical changes within the samples through a process called photoreduction.
A small amount of photoreduction is expected in synchrotron X-ray research. But the U of S researchers found that treating samples with common cryoprotectants such as glycerol made the problem of photoreduction ten times worse.
The discovery has particularly serious implications for medical research.
“Basically, almost every modern medicine development, every new drug, [is affected],” said Graham George, professor of geological sciences, Canada Research Chair in X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and Nienaber’s Ph.D. supervisor.
The discovery will not mean throwing away past crystallography research results, which are “still incredibly useful,” said George. But in many cases, researchers might need to go back and reexamine their findings.
Armed with this new knowledge that cryoprotectants come with a catch, scientists will be able to correct for the problem. The U of S researchers have already found ways to mitigate the issue — such as adding compounds that protect against the damage or decreasing the amount of radiation that strikes each area of a sample—and will soon be publishing their methods.
Super funding for SuperDARN
Global Saskatoon - New provincial funding will help researchers at the University of Saskatchewan monitor solar winds in space. Nearly $1.6 million will be provided to operate SuperDARN Canada’s radars over four years.
SuperDARN, which stands for the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network, is a global network of high-frequency radars operated and maintained by multiple universities and research institutions to monitor space weather.
The U of S is home to SuperDARN Canada’s headquarters, which operates radars in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Each of the five radars scans over 4,000 square kilometres year-round.
They allow researchers to monitor solar wind changes. These changes are connected to the northern lights and detrimental effects to infrastructure like satellites, power grids and radio communications.
U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad said they are playing a leadership role in the global collaboration that through the development of technology and data distribution will one day enable true space weather forecasting.
Innovation Saskatchewan’s investment matches funding from the federal government and the Canadian Space Agency’s geospace observatories Canada program.
U of S Space Design Team go for lift off
Global Saskatoon - A University of Saskatchewan-led team has been chosen by the Canadian Space Agency to prepare a research satellite for launch by rocket in 2021.
Once tested, the U of S Space Design Team will launch the satellite to the International Space Station, where it will be deployed.
The satellite, roughly the size of two Rubik’s cubes, will be used to study how potentially useful construction materials — ranging from ceramics to fabrics — degrade in space.
A multi-disciplinary team is anticipated to involve over 40 U of S students from engineering, computer science, physics and business, as well as several students from Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
The team was awarded $200,000 in the CubeSat competition. The Canadian Space Agency will also cover costs associated with the space launch. However, the team needs to raise an additional $200,000 to match the funds. To make a donation to the project, visit the U of S online. U of S officials said it will be Saskatchewan’s first student-designed satellite mission.
Founded in 2005, the team has won several international awards for innovations that include developing rovers and rocket payloads.
U of S researcher building MRI for space
Global News - A new lightweight MRI device being built and designed at the University of Saskatchewan will help monitor the health of astronauts during space missions.
The ankle device will monitor bone and muscle health during prolonged trips in space where weightless conditions lead to the loss of bone and muscle mass. Gordon Sarty, P.Eng., the interim chair of biomedical engineering and head of psychology at the university, said he has always been fascinated with space and had a dream of one day walking on the moon.
Instead, he turned to research and engineering.
“I may not make it to the moon, but my MRI will.”
Along with meeting high safety standards, there are also weight considerations. A regular whole-body MRI that scans patients in hospitals weighs about 15 tonnes. The portable ankle-sized MRI, or “Merlin,” will weigh about 30 kilograms.
It will be tested in the spring of 2019 using a steeply diving and climbing jet to create zero-gravity conditions.
The goal of the team is to have it on astronauts on the International Space Station by the early 2020s.
SNC-Lavalin to decommission research reactor
World Nuclear News – The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) announced that SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy Inc is to provide decommissioning services for SRC’s Slowpoke-2 research reactor. The reactor has operated at the SRC's Environmental Analytical Laboratories in Saskatoon for 37 years. The low-power reactor, which is mainly used as an analytical tool for neutron activation analysis to determine uranium and other elemental concentrations, was commissioned in 1981. In January, it surpassed 20,000 hours of operation for its lifetime.
The reactor is currently licensed to operate until June 2023, but the SRC started the process to initiate decommissioning with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in December last year. Decommissioning is expected to take about two to three years.
SNC-Lavalin previously successfully decommissioned similar reactors at Dalhousie University and the University of Alberta.
Self-driving tractors centre stage at Ag in Motion
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - At the Ag in Motion show in Langham, one of the highlights of the live demonstrations was the fully autonomous and programmable tractor built by DOT Technology Corp, a sister company of SeedMaster.
“It’s an absolute game-changer,” said DOT’s field research manager, Owen Kinch. “The average age of the farmer now is over 50 years old, and even that demographic sees it as an opportunity to stay in the business longer.”
A farm’s mapping information can be uploaded into the DOT system, and the tractor will travel the farm with no supervision required. Attachments like sprayers and seeders can lock on to the machine to perform a variety of tasks.
Because of the size of the field being used, the demonstration of DOT at Ag in Motion was remote-controlled to switch out attachments, but the message was clear: The future of farming from the perspective of a lot of farming companies is digital and autonomous.
New water system well done in Bienfait
Water Canada - Construction has commenced on a new wastewater system for the Town of Bienfait, Saskatchewan, a more than $2.86-million infrastructure project funded in part by the federal and provincial governments that will position the community for growth.
Under the federal-provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF) program, the Government of Canada will contribute $1.43 million toward the project, while the Government of Saskatchewan will contribute $715,250. The Town of Bienfait is responsible for all remaining costs.
The project’s total eligible cost under the program is $2.86 million. The governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced funding for the Bienfait project in 2017. Since that time, design work was completed by KGS Engineering of Regina, while ongoing project management support has been provided by both KGS and Solomon Matthewson Consulting of Carlyle.
In May, Bienfait awarded a construction contract to Glen Peterson Construction to move the existing sewage lagoon to a new location where it will have greater capacity, while other associated works will be completed in co-operation with Nexom. The entire project is targeted to be completed and operational by the end of 2018.
Province pushes for low-carbon dollars
Global Regina - Environment Minister Dustin Duncan says Saskatchewan should be eligible for previously denied infrastructure dollars through Canada’s Low-Carbon Economy Fund. Now, the province has submitted applications for 11 projects aimed at lowering emissions in the hope of receiving that money.
Saskatchewan would have received approximately $62 million through the fund had the province signed onto the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Saskatchewan did not sign on due to page 50 of the document, highlighting the importance of carbon pricing.
Duncan said Saskatchewan’s application for the 11 projects, valued at $200 million, should be eligible for $62 million in federal funding despite differences with the federal government.
“If it’s about reducing emissions, Saskatchewan should be eligible just like any other province even though we specifically disagreed with the approach the federal government took,” Duncan said.
It is estimated the projects, if completed, would remove 188 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its lifespan.
Proposed projects include hooking up some First Nations communities to natural gas lines through SaskEnergy instead of using diesel generators and installing solar panels on 12 SaskWater facilities.
Big boost to water infrastructure
Swift Current Online - During the 2018-19 fiscal year, a record investment is being made to Saskatchewan’s water management infrastructure.
The Water Security Agency (WSA) is investing $43.6 million in the rehabilitation and management of the province’s dams and conveyance channels – 15 times the amount invested 10 years ago.
Ten million of this will go towards 20 dams that have been transferred from federal to provincial control under WSA. These previously federally-operated dams require upkeep including safety upgrades and structural work, with the largest single project being a $4.2 million investment to the Highfield Dam south of Rush Lake.
One project includes the ongoing rehabilitation of the M1 Canal, which supplies six reservoirs, several towns and villages, four potash mines, 13 wetland projects and Blackstrap Provincial Park.
SK oil and gas rights sales rebounding
CKRM - This month’s public offering of crown petroleum and natural gas rights raised more than $15 million in revenue for the province.
This month’s revenue is as much as the last three public offerings combined and the highest single total since last October.
One exploration license in southeast Saskatchewan received a bonus bid of $10.5 million.
The next public offering will be held August 14.
Husky Energy keen to replace leaky pipes
The Canadian Press - The company behind the 2016 oil spill that fouled the North Saskatchewan River and threatened the water supply of Prince Albert and other communities wants to build new pipelines to replace the structure that leaked.
Husky Energy held an open house in Prince Albert to discuss its proposal.
Calgary-based Husky says its plan calls for the construction of two new pipelines to transport blended crude and condensate to Lloydminster from across the river.
Sediment and vegetation are still being removed from the North Saskatchewan River, but there are no longer signs of oil in the water. Husky oil spill cleanup continues on the North Saskatchewan River one year after pipeline leak.
Travis Davies, a Husky Energy spokesman, says the new line would be higher in the hilltops on each side to minimize the risk of ground shifting.
He says Husky has also improved its operating procedures to ensure problems are reported quickly.
The Husky spill caused more than 225,000 litres of diluted heavy oil to leak. About 40 per cent of the oil went into the river near Maidstone.
The company was later charged with violating provincial and federal environmental laws and paid $5 million to the City of Prince Albert for its costs related to the spill. Court proceedings in the case are still ongoing.
More public consultation is planned on the project, but Davies said Husky hopes to start construction of the new pipeline in the fall.
Oil wells not all well in SK
Global Regina - In Saskatchewan, the number of inactive oil well increased by nearly 90 per cent between 2005 and 2017. Saskatchewan’s auditor, Judy Ferguson, is asking the Ministry of Energy and Resources whether they are able to handle approximately 9,000 inactive wells.
Legally, it is the responsibility of oil companies to clean up well sites once they are no longer needed. However, some companies go bankrupt before this can happen. In response, the province developed the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Orphan Fund (SOGOF). Oil companies pay a levy into SOGOF each year and this money goes into remediating the orphan well sites.
This year, $4 million is being added to SOGOF. The current balance is $11.6 million. The levy adjusts annually based on the amount of abandoned wells. With an upward trend of inactive well sites, Ferguson is concerned this may not be enough.
In a statement, the ministry also pointed to the Licensee Liability Rating Program (LLRP). Through this, companies whose future liabilities exceed corporate assets pay a security deposit.
In the event a company goes bankrupt, funds will be available to clean up the now abandoned wells. The current LLRP fund is $134.7 million.BACK TO TOP