Wildfires in Alberta and Our Region
Nearly half a million hectares in the province have been impacted by 1,705 fires so far this year. This makes 2015 one of Alberta’s worst wildfire seasons in the last five years.
Regionally since 2010, hundreds of wildfires with varying levels of severity have been responded to in Lamont, Strathcona and Sturgeon Counties. Mutual aid and the ability to call on resources and assistance from local municipalities and industry enable responders to minimize wildfire impact to people and property.
Fire is a hazard identified in all local industry response plans. To prevent and reduce risk of damage to assets from wildfire, industries take the following actions:
- utilize vegetation management programs
- identify potential fuel sources and mitigation plans
- routinely test fire water systems and emergency response plans
This fall, an emergency exercise will take place using a scenario that will call for activation of the response plans of industry, the municipality and Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER) mutual aid. Exercises are an effective way for responders to work together and confirm response plans prior to an incident.
Residents and property owners can help prevent or reduce risk of damage from wildfires. This fall, take a look around your property and consider the following “Firesmart” tips:
- Surround your home with a 10-metre defensible space. Clear away trees, brush, and firewood that could add fuel to a fire. Use driveways, lawns, gravel and landscaping options such as more fire-resilient trees to create a fuel break wherever possible.
- Do not store gas/propane tanks under decks or porches.
- Assess your roof. Clear away overhanging trees and combustible debris such as pine needles and other vegetation that could act as fuel for airborne sparks and embers. Keep all eaves troughs clear of dry material. If a roof is scheduled for replacement, consider installing more fire resilient roofing material, such as asphalt or ceramic.
- Be visible in an emergency. Ensure emergency crews can see the address clearly from the road. Be a community advocate for visible, fireproof street signs.
- Be “Firesmart” inside the home. Keep one or more fire extinguishers charged and easily accessible. Install smoke detectors inside each bedroom and outside every sleeping area, as well as on every floor of your home.
- Develop a fire safety plan which includes a home fire drill, and be ready at all times to put the plan into action. For more fire prevention and preparedness information, visit www.firesmartcanada.ca.
Connecting with the Community
Life in the Heartland, Fort Air Partnership and Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response visited with residents and community groups at the 2015 Fort Saskatchewan Neighbour Day on September 12th.
Fort Air Partnership (FAP) is moving forward with plans to add a new continuous air monitoring station in Gibbons. It is scheduled to be operational by January, 2016.
The Gibbons station, funded by North West Redwater Partnership, will be located in the heart of the community, will monitor seven regulated substances including particulate matter (PM2.5) and contribute to the Air Quality Health Index. In addition to daily and forecast health index ratings for Gibbons, the station will provide information on the influence of trans-boundary emissions from the Edmonton area. It will provide better north-south air flow coverage on the western side of FAP’s airshed and monitor ambient air quality where people live, a key monitoring objective.
The addition is part of FAP’s five year network monitoring plan, which was launched last year. New and relocated stations, plus other changes, is moving FAP from fence line monitoring to operating a network that provides a better understanding of the impact of all sources on regional air quality. The Gibbons addition raises FAP’s total number of continuous air monitoring stations to nine.
Over 1,500 construction workers have swapped their personal vehicle for a WiFi equipped highway coach on their daily commute to the Sturgeon Refinery. The workforce busing program began just over a year ago, and already 61 routes transport staff and contractors to site for free from around the Capital Region.
With a peak workforce of 3,000-5,000 people expected at the site of the Sturgeon Refinery in Sturgeon County near Redwater, North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) had plans for mass transportation since the company broke ground years ago. NWR recognized the Heartland region was already busy, with thousands of employees, residents, commercial vehicles, and visitors travelling to, and through, the area every day.
Success in Year One
It took until September, 2014 for the on-site workforce to reach a critical mass to warrant busing. The program started with five routes, picking up workers near their residences so there would be no need for commuting to park and ride lots. As more employees opted for the bus, additional routes were added, increasing the convenience for those riding. And thus, ridership increased.
By late September, 2015, 61 routes were transporting over 1,500 riders to site, representing 70% of craft and staff employees with common shift hours. As various stages of construction begin and end, the goal remains at 70% ridership.
Benefits for the Workforce
Maintaining ridership levels shows that a majority of employees see the benefits of bus transportation versus private vehicles. Those who opt to ride the bus have the advantage of:
- Preferential departure time from site at the end of the day
- Saving money on fuel and personal vehicle wear-and-tear
- Safe and convenient mode of transportation to work
Benefits for the Community
Each bus on the highway replaces a significant number of private passenger vehicles. For families who live and work in the area, this means:
- Reduced traffic congestion on area highways caused by construction, operations or maintenance at various industrial sites throughout the Heartland
- Increased safety on area highways due to a reduction in traffic
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from fewer vehicles being on the road
As the Sturgeon Refinery approaches peak construction in 2015 and into 2016, area roadways will see increased industrial, commercial, and employee traffic. The continued success of NWR’s busing program will help ease the challenges and increase the safety on local highways.
For more information about the busing program or Sturgeon Refinery project, visit www.nwrsturgeonrefinery.com.
Break it Down – Fractionation in Action
Consider milk. While whole milk is useful, it provides maximum value when separated into its components. Further processing then produces fluid milk, butter, ice cream, cheese and more.
The process of breaking down or separating to increase value is used every day in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. Fractionation – or separating a mixture into different portions – is a common way to add value to natural gas resources.
Natural Gas Aplenty
With new discoveries of shale gas in Alberta and north eastern British Columbia, there is an abundant supply of natural gas. Not only is the natural gas readily available, it’s also at historically low prices.
This has created a surge of new investments in natural gas fractionation. Companies add value to natural gas by separating or fractionating it into its components which can then be used in a number of different and more valuable ways.
Understanding how fractionation works starts at the natural gas well head. Natural gas is extracted from the ground as a combination of gases including methane (C1), ethane (C2), propane (C3), and butane (C4), where the number indicates how many carbon molecules in each compound.
First, the methane and other materials such as sulphur are extracted. This leaves a mixture of ethane, propane, and butane known as natural gas liquids or NGLs. These liquids are then shipped via pipeline to companies with fractionators in the Heartland and elsewhere.
Fractionation in Action
In the fractionation process, the NGL mixture is separated into streams or fractions. Once separated, the gases are used for further processing in Alberta or prepared for export.
Within the Heartland, major fractionation expansions are underway at Pembina, Plains Midstream, and Keyera Energy. This will prepare for increased volumes of NGLs expected from shale gas. The resulting additional output of products such as ethane and propane may provide new opportunities for existing and new petrochemical operations in the region.
All of these fractionation operations are an important part of the overall energy value chain and a major contributor to the local economy.
ATCO Expands Water Infrastructure in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland
ATCO Energy Solutions is celebrating the completion of more than $50 million in projects to expand and improve its multiuser industrial water system to meet the growing demand for water solutions in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland region.
To commemorate this milestone, the company hosted more than 40 customers, community leaders, association representatives and media at its new pump station facility in the region. This event celebrated not only the inauguration of ATCO Energy Solutions’ upgraded industrial water capabilities, but also recognized its business growth and continuing development in the region.
Since 2011, the company has undertaken major, progressive water infrastructure projects, including an upgrade to its river water intake system on the North Saskatchewan River and the construction of a modern pump station facility. These projects provide a foundation for the development of ATCO’s integrated industrial water and wastewater infrastructure in the region.
“ATCO has been delivering energy infrastructure solutions in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland for more than 65 years,” said Patrick Creaghan, President, ATCO Energy Solutions. “We’ve worked closely with our customers and regulatory partners to build an innovative water system that strikes a balance between delivering the water our customers require for their operations, and minimizing disturbance along the North Saskatchewan River.“
The new pump station facility incorporates the latest technology to manage water flow to customers, ensuring that water is reliably and efficiently delivered directly to customers’ facilities in a manner meeting current environmental standards.
The expanded river water intake was constructed with a thorough remediation program that prevents erosion along the river bank and reduces the need for multiple, individual intakes by industrial operations along the river. The intake also features a fish-handling system that utilizes a screening mechanism to prevent fish from the river from being harmed.