​Open House, January 26, 2016

Posted on February 09, 2016

On January 26, 2016, an open house was held in the Millbrook First Nation community for the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project.

We would like to thank Chief Gloade for providing the Alton Natural Gas Storage team with the opportunity to host this event. We appreciated the comments and feedback about the Project from those who attended. Answers to questions from the open house can be found below.

For those that were unable to attend, the information boards can be viewed here.

If you have questions about Alton Natural Gas Storage, please contact us at AltonProject@AltaGas.ca or (902) 639-0092.

Below are the answers to the questions that were raised during the Alton Natural Gas Storage Open House held on January 26, 2016 at Millbrook First Nation.

Q. What benefits will the Mi'Kmaq of Nova Scotia see from the project?

A. There are opportunities for the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia to engage in a range of opportunities:

Joint monitoring: AltaGas Ltd. has committed to include Mi'kmaq people and traditional knowledge in the ongoing monitoring of the Project. This follows our work on two Mi'kmaq Ecological Knowledge Studies, project consultation, and commitments we made during the review of the independent science report by Conestoga Rovers & Associates.

Community benefits: AltaGas Ltd. is committed to partnering with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. This could include:

Employment and training: during construction and operations, there are opportunities for short-term employment in construction and site services jobs (12-18 months), as well as longer term operational jobs for qualified workers. AltaGas will provide training opportunities to help qualify workers.

Social and community partnerships: AltaGas would like to partner with the Mi'kmaq community to provide funding for social and community development priorities. We are seeking opportunities to support Elders, children and women's priorities, youth sport, scholarships or other community priorities.

AltaGas is also interested in the potential for partnerships or joint ventures with Mi'kmaq businesses. In other jurisdictions, AltaGas Ltd. has partnered on a range of projects and has provided funding to support micro-financing to Aboriginal entrepreneurs through the Indian Business Corporation in Alberta.

Inquiries or requests for funding or benefits to support Mi'kmaq priorities should be directed to Rob Turner, Manager, Stakeholder Relations & Site Services: rob.turner@altagas.ca

Q. How will the facility and wells be designed to prevent an explosion?

A. The Alton Natural Gas Storage Facility at the cavern site will be designed with safety controls to prevent natural gas leaks. The inlets and outlets to the facility will have Emergency Shutdown controls and fail safe isolation valves (ESD) which will close upon any unsafe condition within the plant. The above-ground buildings and storage facilities will be constructed of metal and non-combustible material and protected by fire detection monitors, gas monitors, isolation systems, emergency shut-down devices, and fire extinguishers.

Q. What is your plan in case there is an incident at the cavern facility?

A. Protecting public safety and the environment are core values of Alton Natural Gas Storage. Currently, no natural gas is present at the Alton Project site. Prior to mechanical completion of the Natural Gas Storage Facilities, an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) will be written in accordance with Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z731 guidelines. These guidelines address the specific response procedures and actions for emergency situations including natural perils, third party emergencies, and brine or hydrocarbon release.

The ERP will be tested and updated annually and will include a program to demonstrate operator familiarity with the emergency response plan.

The Alton Natural Gas Storage Facility will be designed with safety controls to prevent natural gas leaks. The inlets and outlets to the facility will have Emergency Shutdown (ESD) valves which will close upon any unsafe condition within the plant. The above-ground storage facilities will be protected by fire detection, gas monitors, isolation systems, emergency shut-down devices and fire extinguishers.

One of the primary objectives of the ERP will be to communicate emergency procedures to local and provincial government bodies, local emergency responders and fire departments. The ERP takes into account the facility, personnel, and nearby residences.

All Alton personnel will be trained on their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency. The ERP will be tested and updated annually through drills and exercises that may include emergency responders from the community as well as regulators and government officials.

Details of the emergency response plans are not made public for security reasons.

Q. How many core samples did you take?

A. The entire salt zones of the wells were completely cored.

Q. What were the results?

A. The quality of the salt has been laboratory tested and determined to be excellent.

Q. How pure is the salt?

A. The underground salt formations that will be diluted to construct the gas storage cavern are essentially pure sodium chloride (salt). Analysis has shown that the composition of the salt in the caverns contain 0.0004 percent of other compounds.

Q. Are striped bass allergic to salt?

A. No.

All species have a range of salinities they prefer to live in, where they are heathy and grow well. At the river site there is a wide range of salinities depending on the stage of the tide brackish water and the amount of fresh water river flow.

All the fish species that live or migrate through this area are able to tolerate the rapid salinity changes experienced when the tide comes in. Fish from the ocean have been living in salt water up to 35 parts per thousand sea salt. Fish from freshwater moving to ocean water have adjusted to living in salt water before reaching the site.

The brine release composition is all sea salt. Salt levels at five metres from the release site in the narrow channel will be kept within the natural levels of the river.

Q. How are you minimizing the impacts on fish?

A. We have conducted extensive scientific study and research (over 4,000 hours) over the last eight years with Dalhousie University and Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke Rivers and Cobequid Bay.

Two key measures resulting from these studies include:

  1. Refrain from brining when large numbers of striped bass eggs are present, typically from mid-May to mid-June (24-day shutdown period).
  2. Diluted brine will be released slowly during high tide, which minimizes the difference in salinity between the brine and the receiving water body. Modeling results indicate that the salinity will be well within the range of salinities that are normally experienced.

ThThe water intake and brine release process will not impact the fish.

Water intake

The intake at the gabion wall has been designed to minimize both the entrainment and impingement of aquatic life. There is a large tiered, gabion rock-filled intake wall with 5.56 meters of water on the face at mean high tide, and two meters at the lowest water level.

The velocities into the gabion wall through a patchwork of openings are very low, allowing fish attracted or drawn to the rock face to easily swim away, or, if drawn in, to hold behind a rock until velocities are out of the face during the ebb tide. Intake velocities in the openings in the rock face range from a maximum 1.2 mm per second at high tide to a maximum 5.6 mm per second at low tide. This is between seven-fold and one-hundred fold below the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) guidelines for fish screening. The influence of the intake velocities will not extend out into the channel more than a few centimeters beyond the gabion wire frames.

Brine discharge

The brine discharged in the channel is designed to ensure the increase in salinity does not exceeds 7 parts per thousand (ppt) above what is in the river at any given time to a maximum of 28 ppt, and a maximum of 20 ppt if there are fish eggs and larvae in the river. This means, the river salinity levels are well within the levels the fish, eggs and larvae in the river are used to living in. Striped bass eggs and larvae are the only species found in the river at the site. Brining at the Project will stop for 24 days during peak spawning periods.

Q. What are you doing to protect the eggs and fish?

A. The Alton Natural Gas Storage Project is specifically designed and constructed to protect the river and its ecosystem. The Alton team is focused on ensuring all appropriate environmental and safety measures to protect the Shubenacadie River, its fish and fish habitat are in place.

These measures include:

The Alton team worked with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, including Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO), provincial government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to integrate and implement recommendations from the KMKNO-commissioned third party review into our project's safety and monitoring plans.

Working with these parties strengthened the project's monitoring plans and ensures the appropriate environmental and ecosystem measures are in place to protect the Shubenacadie River, its fish and fish habitat. Monitoring data will also be made available to the Mi'kmaq community on an ongoing basis.

Q. Your EA says up to 18 caverns, now you say 3 caverns. Which is correct?

A. The EA submitted on June 14, 2007, describes the Project initially as four caverns and depending on future market demand, the Project may develop as many as 10 to 15 caverns at a later date depending on market demand.

The scope of the Project today involves the development of three caverns.

Q. Will the salt damage the Sweet Grass? How have you looked at these issues?

A. Sweet Grass was considered during the MEK study and later again in 2015. It was determined that Sweet Grass is gathered throughout the study area, however it is harvested primarily from the areas of Brookfield, West St. Andrews, Birch Hill and the pipeline area. We did not find Sweet Grass growing at the river pump site in the 2015 review of the area.

Sweet Grass is found in a wide variety of habitats in Nova Scotia but most often in open meadows where it can form dense turf mats. Other habitats include river banks, wet meadows, open fields or at the edge of woods. Sweet Grass may be found growing at the boundary of the high salt marsh and is salt tolerant. This plant is accustomed to being inundated by the highest tides a few times a year in these locations.

Q. What is the plan for decommissioning the facility?

A. AltaGas will follow the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) guidelines to decommission the facility. The CSA Z341 Series 14 Titled "Storage of hydrocarbons in underground formations" Section 2-14 specifically addresses the requirements for plugging, abandonment and site restoration.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Natural gas is removed from the cavern to the extent possible through displacement with saturated brine
  2. The cavern is then flushed until no significant additional hydrocarbons are found
  3. A sonar survey will be required if the last one is over five years old to map the cavern
  4. Test the integrity of the cavern and well bore
  5. Design a well abandonment that ensures return of the surface to near original condition
  6. Remove downhole equipment and set abandonment plugs
  7. Plug and cut the casing down the well. Once completed, the surface is capped so that nothing can get in or out. Dirt is brought in and the ground is leveled returning it back to its original landscape.
  8. Restore site as close to original condition as possible