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Natural Gas Storage

What is natural gas storage?

Natural gas is commonly stored in underground formations such as salt caverns. Hydrocarbons are safely and securely stored in over 400 underground facilities located throughout North America. While natural gas has been stored underground in Canada since 1915, salt caverns have been used to store natural gas for more than 50 years, since 1963. 

For more information on natural gas storage in Canada, see the recent fact sheet from the Canadian Gas Association.

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Why Alton?

To help meet the growing demand for natural gas in Nova Scotia, Alton Natural Gas Storage is building an underground natural gas storage facility and associated pipelines near Alton, Nova Scotia. The facility is located in the Stewiacke Salt Formation, approximately 60 kilometres from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia’s energy mix is changing, and natural gas plays an increasingly important role. It helps power our businesses and warms our homes – all while lowering emissions by displacing higher carbon fuels like fuel oil and coal. In fact, many of the province’s largest employers use natural gas every day to fuel their work, as do industries and public institutions like hospitals and universities plus thousands of homeowners. With Nova Scotia’s remaining supply of offshore natural gas shut down, access to a reliable source of natural gas during the winter is important to keep energy costs affordable.

The location of Alton Natural Gas Storage is ideal because of the presence of the salt formation, the proximity of a water source for solution mining, and the nearby Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline natural gas pipeline.

Alton Natural Gas Storage will be the only natural gas storage facility in Atlantic Canada and the only storage facility connected to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline. It will help provide Nova Scotians with secure, affordable and reliable natural gas year-round.

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What construction is underway on the Alton site?

Three salt cavern natural gas storage wells have been drilled. Construction is completed on the water transmission pipeline running from the river site to the cavern site. We are finishing construction of the electrical stations at the river site and the pumping facility at the cavern site.

During the summer of 2016, we connected the mixing channel at the river site to the Shubenacadie River and we raised the dike at the site by about half a metre for enhanced flood protection as required by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.

For more information on construction at Alton, read our update from October 21, 2016.

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What is the status of the environmental approvals for the Project?

Alton's environmental approvals are in good standing. We received our environmental assessment (EA) approvals for the underground natural gas storage caverns in 2007 and for a natural gas pipeline to connect to the lateral gas line to Halifax in 2013. We have also received water and industrial approvals that allow us to construct roads, construct and operate the brine storage pond and install the water pipelines.

Alton is working with Nova Scotia Environment and other applicable government departments to ensure all conditions are met. This is an ongoing process that will continue over the lifetime of the project. After Alton Natural Gas Storage submitted its EA in June 2007, the Nova Scotia government asked that a number of details be further studied.

These studies were completed and additional information was provided related to fish and fish habitat, biological impact statement, mixing channel design, water intake, brine discharge, sedimentation, monitoring, First Nations and Aboriginal communications, Mi'kmaq Ecological Knowledge Study, emergency measures, and heat transfer. The supplemental report was submitted November 23, 2007. Environmental approval was given to the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project on December 18, 2007.

Nova Scotia's environmental assessment process is a robust and comprehensive review that places a high value on the environment to ensure proposed development will have minimal impact. All aspects of proposed development projects are reviewed in detail by government departments and agencies. The EA process addresses possible environmental effects in the early stages of project planning. Issues are identified and resolved so that the project can move forward safely.

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

The scope of the Project today involves the development of two caverns to meet the growing demand for natural gas in Nova Scotia.

The Environmental Assessment 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.

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What are the plans for future storage of other product other than Natural Gas?

Only natural gas will be stored in the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project’s storage caverns.

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What is the plan for decommissioning the facility?

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
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Natural Gas

Where is natural gas available in Nova Scotia?

Natural gas service lines are provided to Nova Scotians through Heritage Gas. Heritage Gas currently provides homes and businesses with access to natural gas in three community areas in Nova Scotia: Amherst/Oxford, New Glasgow/Stellarton, and some areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Natural gas service is provided based on customer interest and the cost of providing service to a community. Through a calculation approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB), Heritage Gas must demonstrate that there is sufficient customer interest in natural gas in a community to justify the costs of building the distribution lines to that community. 

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How can I bring natural gas to my property?

If you are interested in installing a natural gas service line in your community, you can contact a Heritage Gas customer care representative. Heritage Gas will provide information on the costs, rebates, and refer you to Authorized Contractors in your area. These representatives will provide you with an Expression of Interest form (EOI) requiring your signature.

To reach a Heritage Gas customer care representative, please call 1-877-836-7427.

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What is an EOI?

An EOI (Expression of Interest) signifies your interest in installing a natural gas service line to your residence or business. The form kicks off the process to see if Heritage Gas can find a location for a natural gas service line on your property, and determine the associated costs. This form is only an assessment, and you are under no obligation to use natural gas by signing the form.

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Salt Brine

What is brine?

To develop the storage caverns, naturally existing salt must be removed from underground salt formations. Typically this involves drilling a well into the underground salt formation and cycling water into the formation through the well to dissolve the salt. The salt and the water are cycled back up the well leaving an empty space for natural gas storage. This combined water and salt mixture is known as brine. The Alton Natural Gas Storage Project will cycle tidal water from the Shubenacadie River through the cavern to dissolve the salt in the deposit to create an empty space for natural gas storage.

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How pure is the salt?

The underground salt formations that will be dissolved 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. The layer of salt is just that – salt. There are no other materials such as siltstone present in the region to be mined. The layer is principally Sodium Chloride similar to table salt. There is a very minute amount of other salts present in the layer. This means the other salts represent less than 0.0004% of the salt present and Sodium Chloride represents 99.9996% of the salt material to be mined.

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Are there toxic materials in the brine?

No. The salt formation is essentially pure sodium chloride (salt). The formation was created by ocean water evaporation approximately 330 million years ago and there are few other naturally occurring elements found in the salt formation. For more detailed information on the element levels in the brine and in the tidal Shubenacadie River water, please see the Environment section of the Alton website.

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How much brine will be released into the Shubenacadie River?

The brine from the caverns will be pumped into a holding pond and released slowly into a constructed channel on the bank of the Shubenacadie River estuary. The brine volume and concentration will vary during cavern construction.  During the peak of brining  the release of brine on each tidal cycle will be approximately 5,000 cubic meters. At the Alton site, this release is into the tidal salt water flow of approximately 4 million cubic meters per tide.  This further mixes with the flow of salt water at the mouth of the Shubenacadie River estuary of approximately 55 million cubic meters on each tide and then into the Minas Basin.

Brine and the Shubenacadie River Estuary

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What impact will brine have on the Shubenacadie River and marine life in the river?

The brine will be released into a constructed channel connected to the Shubenacadie River where it will mix with the tidal river water to maximize dilution. The requirements of our monitoring program with Nova Scotia Environment, Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will ensure that the released brine will not impact the ecosystem of the Shubenacadie River. The tidal Shubenacadie River naturally experiences a range of salt concentrations. The brine will be within the range of salinities normally experienced in the river.

Protection of fish and fish habitat, in this case specifically the Striped bass, Atlantic salmon and Atlantic sturgeon, were key considerations in the Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA looked at all species that could inhabit the estuary throughout the year and considered their salt tolerances and any risks they may face from the project. The EA approval granted in 2007 included requirements for long-term monitoring and a specific plan to ensure that fish, their habitats and migratory conditions would not be adversely affected by the project. Monitoring started in 2008 and the project's long-term river monitoring plan was approved by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2014. In addition to on-going monitoring, the Alton Natural Gas Storage project has committed to specific measures to ensure marine life, including Striped bass populations, are protected. This includes halting brining activities while Striped bass are spawning.

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What are you doing to ensure ecosystem protection and protection of fish habitat during the brining process?

The Alton Project has incorporated various strategies to ensure that the life cycles, activities, and distribution of aquatic life is monitored and protected throughout the construction and operational phases of the Project. Importantly, all measures taken are designed to meet or exceed federal, provincial, and local regulatory requirements.

The Alton channel controls the collection of tidal Shubenacadie River water and the mixing and release of brine. Water intake is done through a thick rock wall called a gabion wall to prevent drawing in fish and small organisms. The brine release is done from a holding pond which allows for the controlled and slow release of brine. Brine will be released during tidal cycles, when salt water from the Bay of Fundy enters the river channel. During the tidal cycle, salinity levels in the river undergo dynamic changes. Monitoring systems that measure these changes have been installed in both the river and mixing channel. They will interface with a computerized control system for brine discharge. This control system allows for constant, real-time monitoring and adjustment during brine discharge to ensure that released brine salinity does not exceed 7ppt of estuary background salinity levels, or a maximum of 28ppt.

The salinity monitoring program is continuous so any deviations would be identified immediately. The control system shuts down the brining discharge when salinity is high. The salinity levels are monitored by loggers that are provided to the regulators monthly. Reporting requirements related to deviations are established by the permits. Additionally, comprehensive monitoring of aquatic life and water chemistry will be performed by a lead researcher from Dalhousie University using proven scientific and analytical methods. Monitoring will be performed routinely at the Alton site and within the Shubenacadie River. This will provide up-to-date data on river and mixing channel conditions to preserve the health of the estuary.

Alton will shut down brining during peak bass spawning events. Alton has also worked with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia and the federal and provincial governments to integrate and implement recommendations from a Mi'kmaq-commissioned third party review into the project safety and monitoring plans

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What studies have been done on areas down river from the Alton River site?

Starting in 2008, Conductivity/Depth/Temperature (CDT) loggers have been deployed every year at the Alton river site, and at least one upstream location on both the Stewiacke and Shubenacadie Rivers. The CDT loggers accurately measure the salinity every 15 minutes over the tidal cycle. Starting in 2015, to allow analysis of the salinity dynamics within the river, six CDT loggers were deployed along 38 km of the Shubenacadie River from the estuary mouth at Maitland to Shubenacadie Village. As well, during the entire brining process there are CDT loggers deployed both up and down river from the Alton site.

Other down river activities include –

 2010-11: Beach seine survey from June to September at Black Rock (the Estuary mouth) and Princeport—to assess Striped bass distribution and to identify and count other species present.

2013-2016: As described in the Alton Estuary Monitoring Plan, a beach seine survey checking for young Striped bass (less than a year old) was conducted July to September at five sites from Parrsboro to Little Dyke on the north shore of Cobequid Bay.

2011-2013: Plankton net tows conducted in Cobequid Bay and lower estuary (to the Gosse Bridge) to allow comparison of abundance of young Striped bass and their zooplankton prey between the lower and upper estuary. 

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What are the possible effects from the Alton project on the Minas Basin?

A Biological Impact Statement was prepared as a part of Alton's Environmental Assessment. This study compared the brine discharge volumes to the amount of water flowing out of the Minas Basin each tidal cycle. The study concluded that the brine would not be detectable and would be insignificant in terms of the natural fluctuation of salinity the ecosystem is subject to during each tidal cycle. The amount of water flushing from the Minas Basin during each tide is approximately 17.7 billion m3, and from the Bay of Fundy there is approximately 111 billion m3. Our facility will discharge a maximum of 5,000 m3 of brine per tidal cycle which represents a small fraction (0.095%) of the total salt concentration in the river.

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Will the brine flush from the Shubenacadie River?

The brine will be released in conjunction with the naturally occurring tidal cycles which flush the tidal water from the estuary. Alton will monitor the salinity of the estuary to ensure natural occurring salinity variation remains the same as they currently are. To estimate the flow of the Shubenacadie River, we used state of the art Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) technology. ADCP measurements were taken during a monthly low tidal cycle and again during a monthly high tidal cycle at both the Alton River site and at the mouth of the river. A Zodiac boat was driven back and forth across the river every 10 minutes through the full tidal cycle. The ADCP was attached to the side of the boat, measuring the vertical profile of the water's velocity in 10 cm segments through the whole water column. This information helped determine the amount of brine that can be fully mixed with the tidal water and be flushed from the Shubenacadie River during natural tidal cycles.

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Will brine settle on the river floor?

No, the channel which runs parallel to the Shubenacadie River and the brine discharge rates are designed so that the brine fully mixes with the tidal water. The brine is released slowly through six metre perforated pipes that run through the channel. The natural turbidity and large tidal flow of the Shubenacadie River will ensure that the brine is fully mixed with the tidal river water. The monitoring program established with Nova Scotia Environment, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will ensure the brine does not impact the ecosystem of the Shubenacadie River.

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How many salt core samples did you take at the cavern site and what were the results?

The entire salt zones of the wells were completely cored. The quality of the salt has been laboratory tested and determined to be excellent.

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What percentage of added chemical or other product is mixed with the fresh water to aid in dissolving of the salt cavern?

The water to be used for dissolving the salt caverns will be tidal water that comes directly from the Shubenacadie River. The Project will not be adding any chemicals or other products to the Shubenacadie River’s naturally-occurring water. The salt in the caverns, which is similar to table salt, will dissolve in the tidal water. This mixture of salt and tidal water, known as brine, will not contain any toxic materials.

More detailed information is available here on the element levels in the brine to be released in the tidal Shubenacadie River.

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

Sweet Grass was considered during the Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge (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.

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Why not sell the brine or find another use for it?

Several alternatives for the brine were considered, including underground injection of the brine, selling brine to salt producers, supplying brine for winter maintenance of roads and producing salt. Following discussions with several third parties, including salt producers and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, these commercial options were not found to be feasible as a brine disposal option. As part of Alton's hydrocarbon storage-area lease with the Province of Nova Scotia, we are currently not permitted to trade, sell or give away the salt. We are willing to work with the provincial government should a feasible alternative use for the brine be identified.

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Fish and Water

What are you doing to protect the eggs and fish?

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:

  • Continual salinity monitoring of the river and at the river site
  • Monitoring for the eggs seven days a week before the possibility of spawning and the immediate shutdown of activities
  • Shutdown periods during Striped bass spawning events (24-days during peak spawning periods)
  • Conducting water intake through a thick rock wall called a gabion wall to prevent drawing in fish or small organisms
  • Timing the brine release through a holding pond to allow for a controlled, slow release during tidal cycles, when tidal saltwater naturally enters the channel

The Alton team worked extensively with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, including Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO), the provincial government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans throughout 2015 to integrate and implement recommendations from the KMKNO-commissioned third party review into the 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.

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How are you minimizing the impact on aquatic life?

We have ongoing, extensive scientific study and research with Dalhousie University and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke Rivers and Cobequid Bay.

Two key measures resulting from these studies include:

  • Refrain from brining in the springtime for 24 days during Striped bass spawning.
  • Brine will be released slowly to minimize the difference in salinity between the brine and the receiving water body. Modeling results indicate the salinity will be well within the range normally experienced in the Shubenacadie River.

Water intake
The water intake is within a thick rock ‘gabion’ wall to minimize any impact to aquatic life. The design, which exceeds Department of Fisheries & Oceans water intake requirements, will ensure fish will not be drawn in because the water current into the openings in the rock face are very slow and the intake effect extends only a few centimeters into the channel.  In addition, the speed of the current passing across the face of the gabion wall is much faster than the intake current and is turbulent,  keeping the fish, eggs and larvae away from the intake and moving on through the channel.

Brine release
The pumping equipment is programmed to ensure the increase in salinity within 5 meters of release does not exceed 7 parts per thousand (ppt) above the estuary main channel, and never exceeds 28 ppt.  This safeguard results in salinities well within the levels that the fish, eggs and larvae in the river normally experience during the tidal cycle. As an added safeguard, brining at the Project will stop for 24 days in the springtime during Striped bass spawning season.

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Did the river monitoring studies exclude Atlantic salmon and other species that spawn in the Shubenacadie River?

The ongoing Shubenacadie River monitoring program is the most extensive biological study ever conducted on the river. Each year, the fish and other species collected from plankton and seine nets contribute to science-based understanding of the estuary. These include Striped bass, Gaspereau, American shad, Atlantic silverside, Smelt, American eel, Atlantic tomcod, Threespine stickleback, Northern pipefish, Winter flounder, Killifish, Cunner, Mummichog, Grass shrimp, Sand shrimp, mysids, copepods, and amphipods, among others. We even count a little copepod called Scottolana canadensis since it is important food for first-feeding Striped bass. It got its name after being discovered in the Shubenacadie River back in 1923.

Atlantic salmon were not excluded from the study; adults migrate past the Alton site when returning from the sea to spawn further upriver in freshwater, and as smolts moving out to sea. Both of these life stages are salt tolerant to levels above what they may encounter during brine release, and the other life stages of salmon do not live in tidal estuaries. The smolts have been tracked at the Alton site using sonic tags and have been found to move quickly past the site with the tide. This tagging will be repeated to see if they pass through the channel.

The studies examined the published scientific literature on all species that inhabit the estuary throughout the year and considered their salt tolerances and any risks they may face from the Alton Project. Early life stage Striped bass – meaning the egg, larvae, and juvenile stages – were highlighted as the most sensitive. If, during the course of the monitoring/studies, other equally sensitive species are identified, the study can be expanded to include them in greater detail.

All fish and other organisms collected during the study are recorded, as are changes in the estuary’s environmental conditions (salinity level, tidal flows, and water temperature). For more information on the rich data collected to date, see the Fish Fact Sheets.

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Why does the ongoing river monitoring study focus on Striped bass?

The Environmental Assessment assessed all species that could inhabit the estuary throughout the year and considered their salt tolerances and any risks they may face from the Alton channel. Early life stage Striped bass, specifically the egg and larvae stages, were highlighted as the most sensitive because the Shubenacadie River is the only known spawning and nursery habitat for the Bay of Fundy population. No other species relies only on the Shubenacadie estuary.  Through ongoing research and results, valuable new insight has been gained into the nursery habitat for Striped bass. Striped bass thrive in a broad range of salinities, which reassures us that the brine release poses negligible risk. Read about the Striped bass salinity testing that is part of the environmental monitoring for Alton.

Read the published research in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society on the early life history of Striped bass in the Shubenacadie.

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What is Alton doing to improve the ecosystem?

Alton is partnering with local organizations such as the NSLC Adopt-A-Stream program to improve fish habitat in the local area. Alton funded alterations to the existing fishway on Shortts Lake near the Lafarge cement plant to improve access to the lake and upstream habitat for fish. As well, Alton is supporting a two-year study by IKANAWTIKET into water quality in creeks and tributaries flowing into the Shubenacadie. Read more about the IKANAWTIKET study in our January 2017 newsletter.

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Will there be monitoring further away from the site?

Studies have been conducted both downstream and upstream from the Alton river site. Plankton net samples have been conducted over 43 km of the Shubenacadie River, 11 km of the Stewiacke River and 18 km of Cobequid Bay. Weekly beach-seine net sampling was conducted over 32 km of the Shubenacadie River from three sites downstream, the Alton river site and upstream near the Highway 102 bridge and, in conjunction with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, over several other sites along the north shore of Cobequid Bay.

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Some people say that storage caverns like Alton have a failure rate of 65 per cent. Can you explain?

To our knowledge, this statistic comes from a paper produced in 2015 in opposition to a rail-loading and liquid petroleum storage project in New York State.  That project is not relevant to the Alton project.  For example, at Alton, natural gas will be stored in salt caverns deep underground, not liquid petroleum.  

Also, the organization that put forward the New York State project refuted the statistic in regulatory filings, noting that the paper’s author was not qualified, used faulty methodology and had inadequate sources. 

Purpose-built storage facilities like Alton are designed to be safe and are continually scrutinized and sanctioned by various regulatory bodies and requirements such as CSA Standard Z341, Storage of Hydrocarbons in Underground Formations. As well, Alton has incorporated high-quality engineering safety in design, industry best practices, additional safety controls and back up features to ensure industry leading levels of safety performance. 

Further information can be found about Alton safety and geology in the recent project submission to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. See sections 2.3 to 2.5 in that submission.

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How safe are underground natural gas salt caverns?

Historically, storing hydrocarbons in salt caverns and underground formations has been the safest and most secure method of storage. One of the most significant factors contributing to the safety of cavern storage in Canada is the mandatory requirement by all Canadian jurisdictions that design and operation of cavern storage facilities conform to the requirements of CSA Standard Z341, Storage of Hydrocarbons in Underground Formations. Alton Natural Gas Storage will meet or exceed the requirements of CSA Z341 and all Nova Scotia regulations. There are salt caverns in Alberta and Saskatchewan that have been operating safely and date back almost 60 years.

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Does Alton have an Emergency Response Plan?

Protecting public safety and the environment are core values of Alton Natural Gas Storage. Yes, an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is presently in place for use in the event of an unplanned event on the Alton Project during construction. A second plan has been developed to address brining operations and the third plan will be in place prior to hydrocarbon storage. Each ERP is intended to provide guidance and direction for responding to unplanned events during a particular stage of the Project. This helps ensure, as the project activities change, that the ERP is appropriate for the current activities. ERP exercises are conducted routinely to evaluate the plan with respect to operator training. All personnel will be properly trained on the ERP.

The Alton Natural Gas Storage facility is being designed with redundant 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.

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Will there be training and communication for the Emergency Response Plan (ERP)?

The purpose of an ERP is to ensure Alton personnel have the proper procedures and training to manage emergency situations should they arise.

The ERP will identify residents who could potentially be impacted by an unplanned event at the Alton facilities. During brining operations and construction activities, there is no situation that could result in a need for a response by residents. The brining operation will be ongoing for 24 to 36 months during which time brine and water are being transported to and from the river location. No hydrocarbons will be present at either site during this time.

Once the caverns have been constructed, an ERP will be put in place that will address the risks and potential impacts for hydrocarbon storage operations. Based on the identified events and the potential impact areas, residents located within these areas will receive relevant communications pertaining to Emergency Response Planning.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

All operations personnel will be trained in proper operations of the facility and tested to ensure they possess the knowledge and skills to safely operate the facility, with detailed operating procedures in place for every aspect of operation. The gas operating equipment located at the cavern site, such as pumps and compressors, are situated so as to minimize the risk of fire. Caverns are logged to verify the size and dimensions by using 3D cameras prior to commissioning. This test is conducted every five years for the life of the cavern. All equipment will be subject to ongoing corrosion control, inspection and testing. Emergency shutdown valves (ESD) will be installed on hydrocarbon and brine lines on each well. The valves are capable of automatic activation during an upset condition as well as allowing for manual local activation or remote activation.

A detailed control logic system will be installed to control the operation. This system will have set points to safely shut down the operation in the event of a process upset. The facility is designed to shut down in the event that gas or a fire is detected by site monitoring equipment. The monitoring equipment is integral to the plant operating and monitoring systems.

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Why should I work with AltaGas?

We take pride in providing a positive, challenging work environment with competitive compensation that motivates people to build careers with Alton and AltaGas. We are looking for skilled individuals seeking a work environment that rewards achievement while maintaining a work life balance. 

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Where do I apply for jobs with Alton Natural Gas Storage?

You should upload your resume to www.altagas.ca/careers, and apply directly at that site for posted jobs at Alton.

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How many permanent jobs will be created by this project (jobs that will exist past the construction phase)? What will these jobs be?

During operations, it's expected the Project will directly employ eight to 10 people in full-time roles and 5 to 10 people in part-time roles. Positions may include: Operations Supervisor; Operators; Site Services; Equipment Maintenance and Repair and Environmental Services.

To view current job openings at Alton, please visit the Careers section of the AltaGas website.

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I’m a contractor – where can I submit information?

If you are interested in becoming an AltaGas supplier, fill out a New Vendor Information Form available at:


Submit the form to [email protected]. Your information will be filed and referenced on future AltaGas projects.

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Community Impact

How will Nova Scotians benefit from the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project?

Natural gas and natural gas storage have an important role to play in Nova Scotia's energy future, and will help Nova Scotia become one of the most environmentally and economically sustainable places in the world.

With the smallest carbon footprint of any fossil fuel, natural gas is one way Nova Scotia is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas is also a highly efficient energy source, delivering more useful energy to customers than other fuel sources like wood, coal or oil.

Benefits include:

  • Investing more than $130 million into the local community and economy
  • Since 2014, more than 70 Nova Scotia companies have provided goods, services or labour to Alton
  • Creating approximately 110 jobs during construction and approximately 8-10 permanent full time jobs once the project is up and running. It will also create roughly 10-12 full time jobs for service industries
  • Providing Nova Scotians with affordable and reliable natural gas year-round from the North American energy network 
  • Decreasing price volatility for Nova Scotia natural gas customers
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing more opportunities for gas fired power generation and reducing our reliance on coal fired generation
  • Contributing to the overall economic growth of the community and to the local tax base through income, property, and sales taxes
  • Allowing for the potential of developing other energy-related projects by increasing storage capacity

The Alton Natural Gas storage project is projected to provide millions in annual savings per year to natural gas consumers in Nova Scotia. These savings are possible because gas is purchased in the summer when prices are low, stored in the caverns and extracted in the winter when gas prices are higher.

The cost of natural gas is a flow through cost to consumers so a more stable lower cost benefits natural gas consumers directly.

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How does Alton give back to the community?

At Alton Natural Gas Storage we support non-profit organizations, projects and initiatives that help build and enhance the community. We want to build strong relationships in the communities where Alton employees live and work. We have provided support to local organizations such as:

  • Winding River Consolidated Home and School Committee
  • Stewiacke playground
  • Women That Hunt (Youth Expo)
  • 1st Gays River Scouting
  • Brookfield Whing Ding, a fundraiser for the Brookfield Athletic Association
  • Canoe to the Sea Society
  • NSLC Adopt-A-Stream program
  • Stewiacke and District Volunteer Fire Department
  • South Colchester Minor Hockey Association
  • Brookfield Fire Department

We look to create shared value through mutually beneficial partnerships concentrating on our three core areas: Healthy and Safe Communities, Bright Futures and Environmental Champions. For more information, please visit Community Investment.

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I’m a community member with a funding project. How can I request funding for a project?

We support registered charities or established not-for-profit organizations based in the Alton community. If you need funding for a community project that provides long-term positive results at the heart of the Alton community, please review our Donation Policy and fill out a funding application.

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What happens if my land value depreciates because of the Alton project?

Alton is tracking land values in the area of the storage facility. There are a number of factors that can influence house prices including potential access to natural gas for home heating, access to three phase power along Brentwood Road, local and regional employment, and the Nova Scotia economy in general.

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What will happen if damage occurs to personal property as a result of Alton’s activities?

Alton is committed to being a good neighbour. Should any damage occur to someone's property directly as a result of our actions, or as a result of our facilities, we will remedy the situation. There is also legislation, Section 19 of the Underground Hydrocarbon Storage Act which states: "Where property is damaged by any activity undertaken pursuant to a hydrocarbon storage-area lease granted under this Act, the owner of the property has a right to receive compensation from the holder of the lease."

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What benefits will the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia see from the project?

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

Joint monitoring: AltaGas 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 is committed to partnering with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. This could include:

Employment and training: There are opportunities for short-term employment in construction and site services jobs (12-18 months) during construction and operations, 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 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.

Read more about Indigenous Relations at Alton.

Inquiries or requests for funding or benefits to support Mi'kmaq priorities should be directed to Rob Turner, Manager, Stakeholder Relations & Site Services: [email protected].

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What is being done to reduce the impact of traffic and noise?

All Alton Natural Gas Storage traffic has been asked to travel 10km/h below the posted speed limit when traveling to and from the project sites.

We take noise seriously. While construction of any kind will produce some noise, we monitor it and take action to ensure noise levels stay within the regulated decibel limits.

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Public Consultation

Have you been meeting with the community?

Alton has been participating at community meetings and events as well as meeting with local stakeholders to address questions about the project. Local meetings and events include:

  • Stewiacke Town Council Meeting, Sept. 25, 2014
  • Brookfield Community Meeting, Sept. 29, 2014
  • Truro Town Council Meeting, Oct. 9, 2014
  • Meeting with representatives from the Striped Bass Anglers Association, Oct. 15, 2014
  • Shubenacadie Commercial Fisheries Association, Oct. 17, 2014
  • DFO Fisheries Officers, Oct. 30, 2014
  • Men's Club in Brookfield, Nov. 17, 2014 and October 17, 2016
  • Rafting companies operating on the Shubenacadie River, Nov. 18, 2014
  • Mi'kmaq Conservation Group, Nov. 20, 2014
  • Technical meetings, site tours and discussions with government and members of the Mi’kmaq community, 2015
  • Open house, Millbrook First Nation, Jan. 26, 2016
  • Meeting with Mi’kmaq leaders, Millbrook First Nation, March 22, 2016
  • Alton Job Fair, Truro, Nova Scotia, April 26, 2016
  • Cobequid Salmon Association, June 14, 2016
  • Youth Expo, Brookfield, April 22, 2017, April 21, 2018 and April 27, 2019

Alton has conducted extensive meetings, calls, emails, consultations, and discussions with community groups, First Nations and government.

We will continue to communicate and answer questions from interested parties as we advance the Alton Natural Gas Storage project.

Alton established a Community Liaison Committee in November 2015 and it is working as an advisory committee.

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Have you consulted with the community and Indigenous peoples regarding this project?

Since 2006, we have been meeting with landowners, community members, and Indigenous peoples and leaders about the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project. We are committed to and have recently taken steps to increase communications and engagement with local communities, Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders. Some of our communications activities to date include:

  • Oct. 12, 2006 – Public presentation held at Don Henderson Sportsplex
  • Nov. 22, 2006 – Open House held at Brookfield Fire Hall
    • Newsletter sent to over 1,200 area residents
    • Advertisements in Truro Daily News and local radio stations
  • Issuing news releases and conducting media interviews
  • Launch of project website
  • Distribution of project updates via mail-outs and emails
  • Nov. 30, 2011 – Open House in Stewiacke with information about AltaGas, underground storage project, pipeline project, natural gas, safety
    • Advertised in the Truro Daily News and project newsletter
  • Ongoing meetings and site-tours with landowners and community members (2011-2016)
  • Launched new project website in late 2014: AltonNaturalGasStorage.ca
  • March 12, 2015 – Open House at Brookfield Fire Hall
  • Working with Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans to integrate and implement recommendations from a KMKNO-commissioned third party review into the project safety and monitoring plans (2015-2016)
  • Jan. 26, 2016 – Millbrook First Nation Open House
  • Ongoing Indigenous engagement including presentations, in-person meetings, site tours, and providing updated project information
  • Council presentations and presentation at Chamber of Commerce
  • Community newsletters in July 2016, January 2017 and September 2017.

Alton has conducted extensive meetings, calls, emails, consultations, and discussions with community groups, First Nations and government.

Learn more about Indigenous Relations at Alton. Read more in Community.

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Ask a question

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