Newsletter: Fall 2016

Update on Particulate Matter Response Plan

One of the main objectives of a Capital Region Particulate Matter Response Plan finalized last year was to increase outreach and
education to the public and stakeholders, provide information on the state of air quality in the Capital Region, and show how anyone
can help improve air quality.

An engagement strategy is currently being implemented. It is being led by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), in collaboration with
all stakeholders supporting the implementation of the Response Plan. A provincially focused project in support of this work is being led by the Alberta Airsheds Council (AAC), who is partnering with AEP to develop air quality communication tools that will be easily accessible by everyone. The goal of this project is to help empower the public and other stakeholders to reduce ambient fine particulate matter through literacy-building outreach and education.

AAC is well positioned to lead this work because it is composed of all nine airsheds in the province, including Fort Air Partnership.
AAC and member airsheds work closely with all stakeholder groups involved in air quality issues.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) consists of particles floating in the air we breathe that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (about one-eighth the diameter of a human hair). These fine particles are linked to more health implications than larger particles because smaller particles can move deeper into the respiratory tract, including the lungs.

Particulate matter sources range from transportation, industrial, and energy generation to agriculture, residential, and commercial
activities. There are also natural sources of particulate matter, including forest fires.

Change of Leadership at AIHA

AIHA Chair Ed Gibbons (right) thanks Neil Shelly for his years of service as Executive Director of AIHA with a basket of commonly used petrochemical-derived products.

AIHA Chair Ed Gibbons (right) thanks Neil Shelly for his years of service as Executive Director of AIHA with a basket of commonly used petrochemical-derived products.

After nearly a decade, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) bids farewell to Neil Shelly.

“Over the past eight years under Neil’s leadership, AIHA gained tremendous exposure among international investors, has been hailed as a model of cooperation in this region, and earned awards for being a top economic development agency,” explained Ed Gibbons, AIHA Chair. “We are very appreciative of Neil’s dedication and expertise, and wish him well as he moves on to a new job.”

Long-time Fort Saskatchewan resident Gordon Harris began as Interim Executive Director September 12. Harris’s knowledge of the region, background in municipal management, and experience as a management consultant for the past 10 years are a valuable asset to the organization.

Stepping into the role of Interim Executive Director, Harris will focus on pursuing AIHA’s key goals while conducting a review of policies, procedures, and operational aspects. Harris will remain in the role while a search occurs for a permanent Executive Director. Details on the competition will be posted on when available.

Heartland Community Information Evening

  • Thursday, October 20
  • Gibbons Cultural Centre
  • Doors open at 5 pm, presentations begin at 6 pm. Free food and refreshments.

Join us to learn about industrial projects, activities, and plans in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. Representatives from companies and local industry-related organizations will be available to answer your questions and share information.

RSVP for refreshment and seating purposes: or 780.231.9802 (call or text).

Gibbons Air Monitoring Station Shows Low Health Risk to Residents

The grand opening of the new Gibbons Air Monitoring Station included school tours on June 15. Here, Network Manager Harry Benders shows the station’s analyzers to Grade 4 students from Landing Trail school.

The grand opening of the new Gibbons Air Monitoring Station included school tours on June 15. Here, Network Manager Harry Benders shows the station’s analyzers to Grade 4 students from Landing Trail school.

Fort Air Partnership’s new air monitoring station located in the heart of Gibbons has been working well since becoming operational in February and shows that the health risk to residents is low most of the time.

Of the 2,856 hours of monitoring done since the end of May, AQHI readings at Gibbons were in the low risk category 99.16% (2,832 hours) of the time and only 0.84% (24 hours) of the time in the moderate risk category. Moderate risk means those with respiratory concerns should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if they are experiencing symptoms.

It’s recommended that the general population continue with normal outdoor activities unless a person is experiencing symptoms such as a cough or throat irritation.

In addition to weather information, the station monitors and collects data on seven substances: sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter. This data enables a current and forecast Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to be calculated for the local area.

Daily, forecast and weekly AQHI data reports are published on FAP’s website for Gibbons, Lamont County, Fort Saskatchewan, Bruderheim and Elk Island. More information regarding the performance of the Gibbons station will be presented at the Heartland Community Information Evening October 20 at the Gibbons Cultural Centre.

The addition of the Gibbons station is part of Fort Air Partnership’s transition to a regional air monitoring network that better monitors the impact of all sources on outdoor air quality, particularly where people live. As part of this plan, the organization plans in 2017 to add a portable continuous air monitoring station to the network and move an existing permanent station into or near Redwater.

Quest Project Reaches Significant Milestone

In its first year operating, the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project has captured and safely stored one million tonnes of CO2 ahead of schedule.

Quest is the first CCS project applied to oil sands operations, and was made possible through strong collaboration between Shell, joint venture owners Chevron Canada Limited and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation, and the governments of Alberta and Canada.

“The success we are seeing in Quest demonstrates that Canadians are at the forefront of carbon capture and storage technology, showing the world that we can develop real solutions to address climate change,” said Zoe Yujnovich, Executive Vice President, Oil Sands for Shell. “Not only is Quest capturing and storing CO2 emissions from our oil sands operations, but its technology can be applied to other industries around the world to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.”

Quest has been working better than planned, both in preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere and in safely storing that CO2 deep underground, since its start-up celebration last November. Both its capture technology and storage capability have helped Quest exceed its target of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 per year, and through careful study and monitoring, the subsurface geology is proving ideal for long-term, safe storage of CO2.

From the outset, any intellectual property or data generated by Quest has been publicly available, in collaboration with the governments of Alberta and Canada, to help bring down future costs of CCS and encourage wider use of the technology around the world. This means that others can take the detailed engineering plans, valued at C$100 million, to help build future CCS facilities.

“Supportive government policy was essential in getting Quest up and running and will continue to play a vital role in developing large-scale CCS projects globally,” added Yujnovich. “Together with government, we are sharing lessons learned through Quest to help bring down future costs of CCS globally. If Quest was built again today, we estimate that it would cost 20-30 per cent less to construct and operate thanks to a variety of factors including capital efficiency improvements and a lower cost environment.”

One of the lessons learned has pointed to how significant cost savings could be achieved through joint transportation and storage facilities. For example, another capture facility could be tied into the existing Quest pipeline for CO2 storage. Operating costs for Quest are also 30 per cent less than anticipated, mainly due to lower fixed costs and energy efficiency savings.

Environmental Emergency Response Plans

A number of mutual aid partners participated in Sherritt’s test of its E2 plan October 6. Photo courtesy of Sherritt.

A number of mutual aid partners participated in Sherritt’s test of its E2 plan October 6. Photo courtesy of Sherritt.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a number of industrial facilities in the region are required to have Environmental Emergency or E2 Response plans. These plans aim to reduce the frequency and severity of uncontrolled, unplanned or accidental releases of hazardous substances into the environment. Plans ensure companies are able to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from an environmental emergency.

Regulations require E2 plans to be updated and tested at least once each calendar year. Tests and exercises simulate a possible emergency that can reasonably be expected to occur at the facility, and include informing those affected that a test is being planned. This enables responders and participants to be involved in the planning.

Exercises can be administrative, discussion-based, or operational, which entails actual deployment of response equipment and personnel. Facilities are able to participate in mutual aid exercises or in exercises run by industry associations, as long as the exercises include their sites and test their specific E2 plan.

On October 6th, an operational exercise took place at Sherritt to test their E2 plan. A number of members of the region’s mutual aid emergency response organization, Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER) participated.

“In our 25 years, our members have held exercises involving several scenarios,” says Brenda Gheran with NRCAER. “Severe weather, transportation incidents, human intentional and non-intentional actions can potentially lead to environmental emergencies. There’s tremendous value in exercising plans and ensuring all responding agencies have a shared understanding of effective response.”

Sturgeon Refinery Stakeholder Input Available Online

At two recent local public events, North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) solicited feedback from stakeholders regarding its Sturgeon Refinery. Public comments and questions were received during a Community Information Evening hosted by Life in the Heartland in Lamont on May 2 and a public open house event held by NWR in Redwater on June 1.

The comments and questions from those who attended focused on: environmental management and mitigation, safety and emergency response, equipment and infrastructure planning and management, public communication and outreach, transportation and traffic, employment and contracting, feedstock and by-product management, refinery products and marketing, and community investment. To request a copy of the full report, email

Fire Prevention Week: ‘Don’t Wait, Check the Date’

photo_newsletter_201610_fire_preventionOn average, 20,000 house fires occur in Canada each year, resulting in 300 deaths and more than $500 million of property damage. Smoke detectors save lives, when installed properly and kept in good working order. Smoke detectors should be tested monthly to ensure they are working, and must be replaced every 10 years.

“We’re all emergency managers for our families and homes,” says Brenda Gheran with Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response. “What’s done to prevent emergencies from occurring at your house is not dramatically different, aside from scale, from what is done at an industrial facility. By ensuring the right systems are in place and tested or inspected regularly, people as well as property are protected.”
The 20th annual Fire Prevention Week in Canada takes place October 9th –15th.

An illustration of the natural gas fractionation process. Graphic courtesy of Keyera Midstream 101 series.

An illustration of the natural gas fractionation process. Graphic courtesy of Keyera Midstream 101 series.

Fractionation Adds Value to Natural Gas

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. This is much different than ‘fracking’, which is the process of injecting special fluid into rocks and rock formations.

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.

C What?

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 or recently completed at Pembina, Plains Midstream, and Keyera Energy to manage 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.