Newsletter: Summer 2015

Event Updates Local Communities

The Life in the Heartland booth was a popular stop for the 200+ people who attended the May 6 community information evening.

Transportation initiatives and industrial construction projects were popular topics at a May 6th event in Fort Saskatchewan. Hosted by Life in the Heartland, the bi-annual information evening drew a crowd of more than 200 people. Residents, businesses, and local government had the opportunity to connect with industry and learn about upcoming projects and plans.

“These events are successful, as they bring the community and industry representatives together to discuss activities at local facilities face to face,” comments Vanessa Goodman, Chair of Life in the Heartland. “People are also interested in the work that’s being done to improve our region’s transportation system.”

Information about industrial turnarounds, facility expansions, community grants and more was available at nearly 20 booths set up by companies, government, and local industry-related organizations. Six organizations delivered Powerpoint presentations and shared the following details:

  • Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association provided an update on the ongoing work with the Government of Alberta to improve the region’s roads, including intersection upgrades and key route improvements.
  • Dow Chemical highlighted their 2015 plans including safe operations, commitment to adding value to resources, community events like Kids Can Catch, and Community Grants Program.
  • Keyera presented details about their salt cavern storage expansion to bring the total to 15 caverns, as well as their $100M Josephburg Rail Terminal which should be operational mid-2015.
  • North West Redwater Partnership reported their Sturgeon Refinery project has 2,200 workers on site, busing program is active, and many above-ground parts of the refinery are being assembled.
  • Shell highlighted its Quest Carbon Capture and Storage project scheduled to be operational later this year, turnaround activities, their Community Crew, and upcoming tree planting events.
  • Williams Energy provided details about their planned PDH project which will create 700 construction jobs, and community involvement through scholarships, local fire departments and more.

National Energy Board Seeks Out NRCAER

National Energy Board CEO Peter Watson (seated second from right) met recently with Strathcona County Mayor Roxanne Carr and other NRCAER representatives.

In May, Peter Watson, Chair of the National Energy Board (NEB) met with NRCAER representatives to learn more about mutual aid emergency response in the region. The NEB regulates and monitors pipelines that cross provincial and international borders, some of which are in the NRCAER region. “Good models for coordinated emergency response exist, and NRCAER is one of them,” says Watson.

“I know that we can benefit from your knowledge and experience, and in my opinion we need to look at your model and consider whether it can be applied in other parts of the country.”  NRCAER’s model was also shared at the NEB’s Pipeline Safety Forum in June. Approximately 270 representatives across Canada convened in Calgary to discuss challenges, opportunities and solutions with respect to pipeline safety.

“It was interesting to hear experiences from other parts of the country, particularly where pipeline development is in its early stages and new for communities,” says Brenda Gheran with NRCAER.  “In Alberta, we have more than 400,000 km of pipeline which have been operating for decades.  Effective response to any type of emergency, and ultimately the safety of people and the environment, depends on the willingness of all responders, whether industrial or municipal, to work together. Through NRCAER, our members know each other, train together and share best practices on an ongoing basis.”

Weather and Forest Fires Impact Local Air

The Air Quality Health Index current and forecast readings are updated twice a day and are available on Fort Air Partnership’s website.

Emissions from industry, automobiles, homes, forest fires and other sources all have an impact on air quality. Weather conditions are also an important factor in air quality – wind and rain can break up and disperse regional substances such as ozone and particulate matter. In the spring and summer when the air is hot and the wind is calm, these two substances can accumulate at ground level and affect air quality.

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a general measure of air quality that people are exposed to, and is rated by four categories – low risk, moderate risk, high risk and very high risk. Fort Air Partnership’s (FAP’s) AQHI statistics for 2014 show that air quality in and around Alberta’s Industrial Heartland was in the low risk category between 94% and 99% of the time, depending on the location of the monitoring station. Data used to calculate the AQHI is collected at four of FAP’s eight continuous air monitoring stations. These stations are located in Fort Saskatchewan, Lamont County, Bruderheim and Elk Island National Park.

In 2014, there were a total of 22 hours (0.07% of total hours monitored) when the AQHI ratings were in the high risk category. These were caused either by forest fire smoke or winter temperature inversions. Recent smoke coming into this region from northern forest fires has contributed to local AQHI ratings fluctuating between low and high. Higher levels of particulate matter in the summer are usually due to smoke from grass or forest fires.

Moderate to high AQHI readings may cause health problems for children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems. Fort Air Partnership immediately alerts the Government of Alberta whenever an air quality standard is exceeded. The government then determines what the environmental and health impacts may be. However, there are general government established guidelines for the public regarding how to react to various levels of risk.

Current and forecast local AQHI levels are available at The public can also view near real time hourly readings from all eight of FAP’s continuous monitoring stations.

NRCAER Continues Quest for Community Preparedness

Mayor Gale Katchur (Fort Saskatchewan) and Brenda Gheran (NRCAER) at the Emergency Preparedness Week event in Fort Saskatchewan.

If an emergency happened right now, would you and your family be safe, informed and prepared? Local mutual aid emergency response organization Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER) took that message and emergency preparedness resources to several communities at events as part of their Emergency Preparedness Week activities.

“I think it was a record for us this year as far as getting out to our member communities,” says Brenda Gheran, Executive Director of NRCAER. “We were in Bruderheim, Fort Saskatchewan, Redwater and Strathcona County handing out emergency preparedness starter kits, raising awareness of Shelter in Place and the UPDATEline, as well as encouraging residents to register for emergency alerts.”

New Study Looks at Economics of Propane Conversion

Sketch of Williams Energy’s proposed propane processing facility.

A new Stantec report shows Alberta would gain full time, stable jobs and an added $65 million annually in government tax revenue from each new industrial facility that adds value to propane. Adding Value to Alberta’s Propane Resources, commissioned by Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, examined the economic contributions of converting propane into polypropylene. Report highlights were revealed at the recent Canadian Energy Research Institute’s Annual Petrochemical Conference.

“Alberta is currently awash in cost advantaged propane as a result of new shale gas development in Western Canada. In addition, with the recent closure of the Cochin propane export line to the United States, prices have collapsed,” explained Ed Gibbons, Chair of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association. “We have heard from numerous midstream companies that new markets for our energy products are needed. The current pricing and availability presents a huge opportunity to expand the market for propane here in Alberta by converting it to much higher value polypropylene before exporting it.”

The report analyzed the impacts of one new world class facility that would process propane into propylene, and then into polypropylene. Throughout a 20 year facility lifecycle, the additional tax revenue for the Government of Alberta amounts to more than $1.2 billion.

Author of the report, Ian Morrison, a Stantec Senior Principal, noted that the analysis was conducted on a typical world class propane to polypropylene facility that could be built in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland to take advantage of abundant low cost propane feedstock.  “The direct tax payable amount of $65 million annually once the facility is operational was based on the average tax that a petrochemical facility of this size would pay. This is representative of what could be expected and compares well to tax amounts reported by chemical companies in their annual reports,” highlighted Morrison.

In addition to a new source of tax revenue, projects like this create around 1,500 new construction jobs at peak, 150 full time operational jobs, as well as spinoff benefits in the supply and service sector. “We’ve seen from the most recent dip in oil prices that Alberta needs to diversify our energy sector. A boost in petrochemical processing helps soften the economic cycles and provides long term, stable jobs for Albertans,” added Gibbons.

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association has a long history of encouraging diversification through further petrochemical processing, which aligns with the newly elected NDP government’s vision to boost value adding in the province. The current market dynamics of propane present an ideal opportunity. However, given the competition from other jurisdictions around the globe for investment, it’s critical for government, industry, and municipalities to work cooperatively to ensure Alberta’s investment climate is competitive.

Employment Links

Looking for employment in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland? Life in the Heartland has direct links to career listings of 20+ companies, organizations, and municipalities in the region.

Prize Winners

Door prize winners at the Life in the Heartland booth at the Fort Saskatchewan Trade Show were Dwayne Schaub (a Kindle) and Margaret Elliot (digital photo frame).