NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Deep Earth enters next phase
Estevan Mercury - With a recent $5-million private placement of funding in place, in addition to previously announced federal and provincial government money, Deep Earth Energy Production Corp. (DEEP) has begun flow testing its first well for a geothermal electrical power production facility south of Torquay.
The first well, drilled in late 2018, was put on production August 25. But it’s not producing oil or gas. It’s producing hot briny water. The intention is that water from a hot aquifer will be used in an Organic Rankine Cycle power plant to produce electricity.
But long before they get to that point, DEEP needs to get a few things sorted out and that’s where August’s test comes into play.
Dave Brown. P.Eng. is the project engineer for drilling and completions. He said the approximately 220 metres of core retrieved from the 3,530-metre vertical hole was analyzed during spring breakup.
He noted this phase confirms the resource is there. Furthermore, data collected will be analyzed to identify other brine constituents that may extracted to be of additional value to the Williston Basin Geothermal Power Facility.
A second well is expected to be drilled adjacent to the first well, but instead of going straight down, they will use directional drilling to go off at an angle such that the toe of the well will be at roughly the same vertical depth, but end up 1 1/2 kilometres to the southwest.
The result will be something of a triangle. The second well will be the producer, pulling hot brine from the ground. When the power plant is in place, the brine will run through the plant. But for testing purposes, it will be reinjected into the first well, which will function as an injector. That test is expected to take 60 days.
That will create something approximating a closed loop in that they will re-inject into the same formation they are drawing from.
Claude Ghazer, P.Eng. is a reservoir engineer working on the project. He said the core had been one piece of the puzzle and now all the pieces need to come together.
By pumping fluid out of the formation, the resulting pressure drop will help map the boundaries of the reservoir.
Ghazer offered an analogy, saying, “You’ve got a pond and you’re dropping a stone into the middle. It creates ripples and when it hits the boundaries, it can come back.”
Understanding that response is important to developing the geothermal field.
First Nation planning hydro-electric facility
Global News - A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed to provide technical consulting services for the development of a hydro-electric power generating facility on James Smith Cree Nation.
The proposed project is for a 200-250-megawatt facility on reserve land located east of the Forks where the North and South Saskatchewan rivers merge.
James Smith Cree Nation chose to partner with AECOM and Tesla Energy to help bring the project to fruition, which aims to create employment and opportunities for Indigenous peoples. James Smith Cree Nation is roughly 175 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
4.1-magnitude earthquake shakes Esterhazy and area
Global News - A small earthquake struck just east of Esterhazy in mid-August. The United States Geological Survey confirms a 4.1-magnitude quake hit the region 17 kilometres east of the town at 8:30 p.m., at a depth of five kilometres.
The epicenter of the quake was located just outside of Mosaic’s K2 Potash mine. A representative from the company said there were about 120 employees underground at the time of the tremor, spread across three sites.
No one had to go into refuge sites at the mine. Employees met at a muster point to be accounted for and there were no injuries. The miners returned to work once power was restored to the area.
According to miners at the scene, the tremors lasted about five seconds.
Mining can contribute to seismic activity, but University of Saskatchewan geological science department head Samuel Butler doesn’t think the mine contributed to this quake. He said five kilometres would be too deep for mining to be a factor.
Earthquakes are uncommon in Saskatchewan, but small ones can happen. In the Esterhazy area, Butler said mining and underground salt deposits are the biggest contributors.
SaskPower reports several communities in the area including Esterhazy, Whitewood, Moosomin, Rockanville Wapella and Tantallon experienced power outages, but power was restored a few hours later.
SaskPower has since confirmed the quake caused the blackout. Safety mechanisms turned off three transformers at the Tantallon, Sask. switching station. The Crown corporation says there is no permanent damage to equipment.
Funding for flood mapping projects
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada - Flooding is Canada’s costliest and most frequent natural disaster.
In Saskatchewan, the five years from 2011- 2015 was the wettest period on record. Communities are looking for solutions to mitigate the costs and damages caused by flooding to businesses and residences.
Some $560,000 in federal funding was invested to support work on two projects in Saskatchewan under the National Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP). Additionally, Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency will invest $500,000 and the City of Prince Albert will provide $60,000 to support this pair of initiatives.
Both projects will provide flood mapping for 21 communities — representing over half the province’s population — at high-risk of suffering recurrent flood damages, including Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. These flood maps will provide the data needed to help mitigate potential damages caused by flood events and help plan for flood risk reductions.
CIF receives $194K to assess forests’ vulnerability
Canadian Forest Industries - The federal government today announced $194,000 for the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF), for the Northern Prairie Forests Integrated Regional Assessment, a regional case study on the forest sector’s ability to adapt to climate change. The project is valued at $470,000 and will bring together public and private sector stakeholders, as well as local communities, to determine Saskatchewan and Manitoba forests’ vulnerability to global warming.
Recommendations will be made for regionally appropriate climate change adaptation actions based on the project’s finding. The assessment will also support more climate change considerations in planning and decision-making.
City receives federal funding for gasification project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Prairie Post - Federal funding will help Swift Current develop a gasification project to generate power from recyclable materials.
Councillors approved a motion to enter into a funding agreement with the federal government. The City made an application in 2018 to the Low Carbon Economy Fund, which is part of the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth for Climate Change. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial support for projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean growth.
The City contracted the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) in 2016 to do a study on the best options for reusing recyclable fibres, which include cardboard, paper and clean wood. The SRC study looked at various alternatives and proposed a small modular gasification unit as the most feasible alternative. The cost of a unit did not make it feasible for the City to continue with the project, but the City decided to apply for funding from the Low Carbon Economy Fund.
The development of this gasification project in Swift Current will probably be a first in Canada.
A typical gasification unit does not require a lot of space and will fit into a 30-square-foot enclosure. The gasifier converts recyclable materials into synthetic gas, which will then be used by an internal combustion engine to power an electrical generator.
No atmospheric emissions will be emmitted and all gas produced during the process will be used by the engine to generate power. The gasification unit will produce about one megawatt of power, which will supply electricity to about 1,000 homes in Swift Current.
The gasification project will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year or 110,000 tonnes over 20 years. It will annually divert approximately 5,800 tonnes of lower quality recyclable fibres and woods from the landfill, which will help to increase the lifespan of the landfill.
Project gives proof to new climate action plan
650 CKOM - Many people in Saskatoon raised concerns when a new municipal climate action master plan was recently introduced.
Of the many action items listed in the multiple phases of the 30-year plan, residents in the Bridge City had a hard time believing a cap on heating and electrical bills each year would work in a province that spends five months of the year in a deep chill.
Closer investigation shows that it’s not only possible, but that it’s happening already. Radiance Cohousing, an energy-efficient townhouse building in Riversdale, is leading the way when it comes to efficient and sustainable living in Saskatoon.
What separates Radiance from other energy-efficient housing projects is its path to eventually be certified as a passive house. Passive housing, also known as net-zero housing, is an international standard that uses roughly a tenth of the energy a typical Canadian home would use.
Instead of a typical boiler system, Radiance uses electric heating pumps that use low amounts of energy while transferring outdoor cold air into hot air with temperatures as low as -20 C. The townhouse complex was built airtight. Walls are 18-inches thick with a more substantial insulation and high-quality triple pane windows — this makes the entire building thermal bridge-free to avoid any spots where air could escape or cause temperature to drop. Using the latest technology also allows for a certain level of resiliency. Mold isn’t an issue with passive housing standards and power outages won’t drastically impact these draft-free homes.
Nemeth said all of those features only added six per cent to construction costs when compared to conventional construction. Residents at Radiance had to plug in electrical heaters when the winter temperatures dipped to -25 C.
Saskatchewan is the founder of this type of initiative in the country. Canada’s first passive house was built in 1977 when the Saskatchewan Conservation House opened as a response to the energy crisis in the 1970s.
Forest fires can contribute to depletion of soil carbon, increase global climate: UofS study
Meadow Lake Now - A new study on how forest fires contribute to depleting soil carbon in the boreal forest was published in the prestigious Nature scientific journal.
The research team included University of Saskatchewan adjunct researcher Jill Johnstone and recent USask PhD graduate Xanthe Walker. The study revealed why more frequent burning in the boreal forest due to wildfires is bad from a climate change perspective.
The research was launched in the aftermath of the severe 2014 fires in the Northwest Territories, the largest fire season in the region’s recorded history. The N.W.T. government, along with other agencies such as NSERC and NASA, funded the project with aims at better understanding of what happened to the boreal forest soils during these fires.
This knowledge could help improve forest fire management and help northerners plan and adapt. Carbon is critical to soil function and productivity. The boreal forest’s soils accumulate carbon and are a globally significant carbon sink. Boreal forests store about one-third of the world’s terrestrial carbon primarily in the soils.
These pools of carbon have historically been safe from combustion but with warming of the forest climate and larger and more frequent wildfires, more of this sequestered carbon is being combusted and released.
The research team hiked into the N.W.T. burn areas and sampled the soil at more than 200 burned areas that were identified by Laval University researchers.
In nearly half (45 per cent) of the young stands the researchers sampled, legacy carbon burned. And while the amount of legacy carbon did not alter total carbon emitted from these fires, the pattern the researchers identified has global implications for future climate scenarios. Johnstone said that the carbon emitted from the forest fires contributes towards Canada’s overall total carbon produced in accordance with the Paris agreement. As more carbon is released by the fires it contributes to warmer global temperatures, which in turn results in more fires. There is the potential for this to snowball into a fairly severe carbon source. It will be important for Canada to design policy around keeping these boreal forests acting as a carbon sink instead of it transitioning to a carbon source.
Saskatchewan also had a significant wildfire problem in 2015, the year after the N.W.T fires. Johnstone said that they have started to develop the same type of research, with a similar research team, studying the effects on the boreal forest in northern Saskatchewan and will be releasing their findings in the future.
Green roof advocates have high hopes
Global News - A couple of times per month Julie Barnes climbs on top of her detached garage to check on her green roof.
Barnes and her husband installed it after they finished building their Saskatoon home in 2014. After an online search, Barnes hired Higher Groundwork Horticulture owner and green roof consultant Michael Molaro and started planning.
It took five people three hours to manually plant more than 700 plants — all drought-resistant. Besides that, she said the maintenance on the roughly 550 square-foot garden is minimal. On top of aesthetic appeal, Molaro said there are a number of environmental and economic benefits.
He says green roof projects like Barnes’ can extend the life-cycle of the roof itself — from 15 or 20 years to almost 50.
Like a green roof, the rooftop garden at the University of Saskatchewan serves a similar function. Rain is intercepted using above-ground containers, but there’s the added value of food production.
He said the idea of growing things on a rooftop is a non-traditional practice and Saskatchewan is “catching up to the rest of the world in using this.”
The garden on campus is going on year five. Wood said using the space reduces “food miles” — the distance food travels from production to consumption.
For Barnes, the initial investment was pricey despite doing a lot of the work themselves and the project needs an engineer’s approval in order to get a permit.
Four types of sedum are among what’s planted on Barnes’ green roof.
Saskatchewan is home to approximately 12 green roof projects.
Repairs to Wakamow culvert bridge in the works
Discover Moose Jaw - The final link of the Wakamow Valley trail system will be under repair this fall.
The all seasons concrete culvert bridge that was installed through the waterway last November linking Paashkwow Park West and Kingsway Eco Zone has shifted due to winter runoff washing out the ground below and will require an update once water levels drop.
Todd Johnson, General Manager for the Wakamow Valley Authority says, the issue has been on Wakamow’s radar for several months, but it’s been a bit of a process to deal with it correctly. The 20,000-pound concrete blocks were installed on frozen ground last November. It was a project that initially cost the Authority $100,000. Johnson said the repairs will likely require another $100,000 to complete that will be paid for using three different methods. Johnson said engineers have already submitted their plans, so the next steps are securing a contractor, waiting for water levels to drop and obtaining the go-ahead from the Moose Jaw Water Security Agency.
Initial plans for the bridge included the installation of a handrail system, which Johnson said is built and ready to go and will be installed once the repairs have been completed.
Washed away Northern Sask. highway causes cancellations
CBC - A resort in Northern Saskatchewan is dealing with visitors cancelling their stays due to a washed-out highway.
A large part of Highway 903 was washed out by heavy rainfall in late July.
Marianne Breault, the owner of Canoe Lake West Resort, said the washout has cost her business. The highway is North of Meadow Lake and is the main route to Canoe Lake and the surrounding areas, including many Indigenous communities.
Breault said people were able to travel right from Meadow Lake to her resort, but now people have to travel to Green Lake first, then to Beauval and then to Canoe Lake. Doing this adds about an hour and a half of travel time.
Doug Wakabayashi, the executive director of communications for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, said there are plans to fix the road, but it doesn’t involve a bridge. Construction was expected to start in mid-September.
Breault said something very similar happened to Highway 965 last spring, but she says the province’s response time was much quicker.