NEWS FROM THE FIELD
First Nation boosts wind, solar
CTV Regina - Saskatchewan is now home to a utility-scale solar and wind power site. The Cowessess First Nation unveiled the new solar energy site, alongside the existing wind power site on reserve land two kilometres east of Regina.
The new 340-kilowatt solar-power system is part of the existing 20-year power purchase agreement Cowessess has with SaskPower. An additional 57-kilowatt solar capacity system has also been installed to offset power usage at the site office and project site.
“This project will add up to 400 kilowatts of clean, renewable generation to the grid and provide us with real-life data on how a hybrid renewable generation system works on our system,” said Doug Opseth, P.Eng., Director of Generation Asset Management and Planning in a news release. “We congratulate Cowessess for all of its hard work on this innovative project.”
Funding for the solar panels came from revenue from the existing wind turbines at the site and debt financing from the First Nations Bank of Canada and funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada and Indigenous Services Canada.
SaskPower launches new green energy program
CKOM - As SaskPower tries to find more ways to gather renewable power, it’s looking to its customers. The crown corporation is introducing a program which will allow customers to sell more power back to the company.
It’s called the Power Generation Partner Program (PGPP). It replaces two previous programs SaskPower had been using and essentially increases the cap on how much power the crown corporation will buy.
It’s meant for power production through renewable resources like wind farms and resource producers that flare gas.
The initiative will help SaskPower achieve its goal of having half of its power generation be from renewables by 2030. It will also help industry reduce their emissions and find a better use for the associated gases rather than flaring or venting.
The program is estimated to cost SaskPower about $840 million over the 20-year life of the contracts.
While the new program raises the caps on power generation, there are still caps in place.
According to SaskPower, the cost has already been factored into its business plan, so the program shouldn’t directly affect customers’ power rates.
The program was developed through significant consultation with industry and it’s expected to be seen less as a revenue generator and more as a solution to the problem of emissions.
Between 70 and 105 megawatts of power are expected to be added to the grid through the PGPP. To put it into context, some of the province’s power plants generate about 150 megawatts.
The PGPP is meant for set-ups which would produce larger amounts of power. Individuals producing less power will continue to be able to sell it back to SaskPower for a credit on their bill through the Net Metering program, which is currently undergoing a review and an update is expected to be announced later this year.
Province approves Swift Current wind project
Swift Current Online - As the province tries to reach a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, there’s a plan for wind energy to play a big part.
The Saskatchewan government announced approval for the Blue Hill Wind Energy Project, a large-scale project to be built south of Herbert. Its planned location had to change, causing a delay, due to a migratory bird path.
Work is supposed to start in 2019 and things could be up and running by 2021. The turbines are supposed to add 177 megawatts of energy for SaskPower customers, which the government said would power 70,000 houses.
In a release, the government said the site is outside avoidance zones outlined in the Wildlife Siting Guidelines for wind-energy projects in the province and that the company also did thorough wildlife surveys as part of an environmental-impact assessment.
Wind project set for Assiniboia
Regina Leader-Post - SaskPower has signed a 25-year agreement with Toronto-based Potentia Renewables for a new wind turbine project that will supply 200 megawatts of electricity.
The Golden South Wind Energy facility will be located near Assiniboia. It will have 60 wind turbines that will produce enough electricity for approximately 90,000 homes in the province. The project will bring SaskPower’s total wind power capacity up to more than 600 megawatts.
The facility is expected to be operational as early as 2021.
Potentia was selected by SaskPower in a competitive tender process. Potentia is a developer, owner and operator of renewable energy assets that includes wind and solar power projects. The company is owned by Power Energy Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Power Corporation of Canada.
Potentia owns and operates more than 700 installations, some which are located in the U.S. The company also has assets under construction in Latin America.
SaskPower’s next competitive process for another wind facility is expected to get underway next year.
Expect self-driving cars later in Saskatchewan
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - The transition from traditional to self-driving cars is likely to take years if not decades and Saskatchewan’s least favourite form of precipitation could make that process even longer, according to one expert.
Autonomous vehicles use a variety of sensors to detect objects in the environment and the province’s climate is likely to prove more challenging than that of the southern United States, said Jonathan Cliffen, an engineer with 3M. “I think the value proposition is going to be a challenge at first,” said Cliffen.
“You’re going to be able to use autonomous vehicles year-round in manual mode and hopefully six to eight months of the year you’re going to be able to use it in autonomous mode.”
At the same time, Cliffen said, autonomous cars — a category that includes everything from vehicles with driver assistance tools to fully-autonomous cars without a steering wheel — have significant benefits for safety.
That is why the global conglomerate was in Saskatoon pitching new road signs with embedded infrared markings that autonomous vehicles can read, as well as lane markers that it contends are more visible to the cars’ sensors.
Retrofitting every road in Saskatchewan with materials optimized for self-driving cars would be enormously expensive, but Cliffen said jurisdictions across Western Canada are curious about what they need to do to get ready for self-driving cars.
Geologists map out past Sask. climate
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Swamps, hot weather and flourishing tropical plants. An ocean nearby … Florida, maybe?
No, it’s the story of a long-lost Saskatchewan past that Meagan Gilbert is digging up from multimillion-year-old mud and fossils.
“If we understand how animals and plants of the past responded to major environmental changes, we can better prepare for how climate change may affect us in the future,” said Gilbert, a University of Saskatchewan Ph.D. geology student. Saskatchewan and Alberta were once on the coast of a huge seaway that periodically submerged the land, forcing animals and plants into sudden adaptations.
Gilbert has found that it’s possible to grasp the evolution of climate and life on Earth by tracking sea-level changes.
These are indicated by patterns from the deposition of rocks and distribution of fossils in bedrock — the solid rock layer beneath soft soil or rock fragments. The bedrock patterns indicate the persistence of a hot climate for millions of years in Saskatchewan.
Gilbert’s results are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology.
With funding from the federal agency NSERC, this is the first study that uses fossils to investigate the interaction between land-based organisms and environment in Saskatchewan’s Cretaceous period, between 75 million and 76 million years ago.
The next step is to understand the landscape evolution by studying the rocks and badlands where Gilbert found the fossils. Then, she will compare the results with sites in Alberta and the United States to identify whether and why there are regional differences.
The findings could help shed light on how climate change works on a global scale.
Over two years, she has dug several sites in southwestern Saskatchewan, including near Lake Diefenbaker and gathered and identified almost 3,000 plant and animal fossils that are now housed at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
Sask. funds science internships
Government of Saskatchewan news release - The Saskatchewan government is committing $400,000 in funding to support internships in science, technology, engineering and math through Mitacs.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization in Canada that focuses on growth and innovation for both business and academics.
The $400,000 is expected to rise to about $2 million in federal and industry funding and in-kind support and will provide up to 68 internships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in industries across the province. Through the Mitacs’s internship programs, there will also be up to 33 international student research opportunities.
$12.9 million has been invested in Mitacs programming in Saskatchewan since 2007-08 including $2.96 million provided by the province.
Diamond mine approved in Saskatchewan
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - A proposed diamond mine east of Prince Albert received environmental approval from the Saskatchewan government. Star Diamond Corp. must make accommodations to address potential impacts to First Nations treaty rights and traditional land uses as it moves forward with the project.
The James Smith Cree Nation is required to be involved in environmental monitoring and the company has to provide funding to the First Nation to support community participation in a number of programs.
Star Diamond is also required to enter an agreement to provide training, jobs and business opportunities to the community. Officials said a conservation area will be set aside in the Fort á la Corne Forest, where the mine will be located, so as not to infringe on Indigenous treaties.
Star Diamond is required to obtain further provincial and municipal permits as the project moves forward, including a surface lease, an environmental protection plan, an aquatic habitat protection permit and a water rights licence.
The Star-Orion South Diamond Mine, located roughly 65 kilometres east of Prince Albert, is expected to employ 700 people when operational.
The company said an assessment estimated 66 million carats of diamonds could be recovered from a surface mine over a 38-year period.
Saskatchewan targeted mineral exploration incentive
Global News - Applications for a new incentive to help encourage mineral explorations in areas of Saskatchewan are now open. The government of Saskatchewan’s Targeted Mineral Exploration Incentive is designed to cover part of expenditures associated with ground-based exploration activities.
It offers a rebate of 25 per cent of eligible direct drilling costs, up to an annual maximum of $50,000 per company on a pro-rated basis.
The incentive will focus on base metals, precious metals and diamonds – commodities that have significant unrealized potential in the province. One objective of the incentive is to encourage base metal exploration in the Creighton-Denare Beach region, which has a long history of base metal mining and processing.
Total funding for the incentive in 2018-19 is capped at $750,000 and eligible companies can access it through a two-step application and verification process.
The incentive is administered by the Saskatchewan Geological Survey.
For more information, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/mineral-exploration-incentive
Rising oil prices spurring drilling
Financial Post - Rising oil prices that encouraged more spending by small and intermediate oil and gas companies in Western Canada in the first six months of 2018 are expected to lead drilling budgets to grow even further.
Producers say the steady march by U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil prices to higher than US$70 per barrel, a level last seen in early July, will encourage some to open their wallets.
Small and intermediate oil and gas companies reported spending an average of about 50 per cent of their planned 2018 exploration and development budgets in the first six months of the year, according to a report from analysts at CIBC World Markets.
That’s up from about 47 per cent in the first half of 2017 and just 38 per cent in early 2016, when confidence faltered as WTI prices plunged below US$30 per barrel, the depths of the price crisis that began in late 2014, the bank added. Drilling activity was strong in the three months ended June 30 thanks to warm weather that shortened spring break, the annual slowdown when the thawing landscape in Western Canada prevents companies from moving heavy equipment on provincial roads.
Extra development spending this year will come mainly from companies that produce oil or natural gas liquids, CIBC said, while producers of dry natural gas will remain in survival mode, hoping for positive investment decisions on liquefied natural gas export terminals to create demand that may bolster low gas prices.
Decline forecast for SK drilling
Pipeline News - On November 1, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) released its 2019 Canadian Drilling Activity Forecast. PSAC expects a total of 6,600 wells to be drilled in Canada in 2019. That’s down slightly from this year. For 2018, the association’s final revised forecast predicts a yearly total of 6,980 wells. For Saskatchewan, the forecast is a decline of 4.3 per cent in wells drilled.
Outgoing PSAC president and CEO Tom Whalen said, “While we’ve recovered from the very dark days of 2015 and 2016, there really isn’t any cause for celebration in the near term, as drilling activity is in its third year of a plateau, averaging around 6,900 wells per year.”
“The unprecedented, wide heavy oil price differentials caused by our chronic pipeline constraints is nothing short of a crisis for Canada. At current differentials, it exceeds a $100 million cost to the industry and Canada. Today, the only near-term line of sight to added pipeline capacity is Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement which isn’t projected to be in service until at least the third quarter of 2019.”
On a provincial basis for 2019, PSAC estimates 3,532 wells to be drilled in Alberta, and 2,422 wells for Saskatchewan, representing year-over-year decreases of 221 and 110 wells, respectively.
“The on-again, off-again saga of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is another blow to investor confidence in Canada. It’s not a positive signal to investors that it takes state ownership as a ‘last resort’ means to move national interest projects forward. Unfortunately, the biggest casualties in this debacle are the hundreds of thousands of middle-class Canadians who rely on the resource sector directly or indirectly for jobs, indigenous peoples who would benefit from jobs, skills training, and economic opportunities to raise them out of poverty, as well as all levels of government that collects royalties and taxes used to support health care, education, and other public infrastructure that benefits all Canadians,” Whalen said.