Letter to the Editor about Alton

Posted on June 10, 2016

In case you didn’t see it, we shared a Letter to the Editor in The Chronicle Herald on June 9, 2016 about the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project. Here’s the letter as it appeared in the paper:

Natural gas and its storage have an important role to play in Nova Scotia’s energy future. It burns cleaner than coal or fuel oil, emitting 30 per cent less carbon dioxide than fuel oil and 50 per cent less than coal.

AltaGas Ltd. is building a key piece of Nova Scotia’s natural gas infrastructure in the Alton natural gas storage project. Located near Stewiacke, it will enable natural gas to be purchased in lower-price seasons, safely stored in salt caverns and withdrawn to stabilize prices in high-demand periods, providing estimated annual savings of $17 million for customers.

We would like to correct some inaccurate information on the project in a May 29 article. Alton has received all environmental approvals required to proceed. And an independent third-party science review was done in 2015 with involvement of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and the provincial and federal governments.

The review focused on potential impacts on fish and fish habitat of the Shubenacadie estuary. Alton responded by implementing five recommendations that strengthen environmental monitoring.

To create storage caverns, the salt formation will be slowly dissolved over two to three years by pumping in tidal, salty water from the river. The brine mixture of tidal water and dissolved salt will be pumped from the caverns, stored in a holding pond, then gradually released into the river, at a salt concentration within the range of normal salinity for this tidal river. Safeguards are in place to tightly monitor brine salinity. Meters will be located in the river upstream and downstream from the release site. Valves will immediately shut off brine release if salinity levels become high.

Contrary to the inflated amount quoted in the article, the volume of brine entering the river will be 5,000 cubic metres during each tidal cycle, much less (one-tenth of one per cent) of what was cited.

Salt caverns are a proven, safe storage system. Facilities have been operating in Canada and elsewhere since the early 1960s.

Since 2006, we have been meeting with landowners, community members, government and the Mi’kmaq. We will continue to engage with stakeholders to discuss and share information about the project, environmental and safety safeguards and opportunities the project presents.

For more information please visit www.cleanenergyfuture.ca or www.altonnaturalgastorage.ca.

Tim Church, vice-president, stakeholder relations, AltaGas