Alton natural gas storage facility construction to restart this summer

Work on the facility near Stewiacke, N.S., has been on hold since 2014 as the province delayed issuing permits and then dealt with appeals.

AltaGas Ltd. hopes it could start storing gas by 2018 or 2019

Work on the Alton natural gas storage facility is set to start this summer. (CBC)

AltaGas Ltd. will restart construction of its Alton natural gas storage facility this summer after the project was put on hold in 2014 as the province delayed issuing permits and then dealt with several appeals of the industrial approval.  

The Calgary-headquartered company wants to store natural gas in underground salt caverns near Stewiacke, N.S. 

"There's more work that needs to be done on the dyke, we will pause that until the summer," said Jess Nieukerk, the director of finance and communications with AltaGas. 

"Then you would start brining activities, those activities could take between two to three years for the cavern formation." 

That involves using water to dissolve underground salt to create a cavern to store the natural gas. 

"Then you would have the cavern formed in and around the 2018, 2019 time period for actual first injection of gas storage," Nieukerk told CBC Radio's Information Morning

Environmental objections

There are environmental concerns about the release of salty water from the creation of the caverns into the Shubenacadie River system.

The Sipekne'katik First Nation and a number of other groups appealed the province's decision to let the work continue, but those appeals were dismissed last week and Monday.

Protestors express their concerns with proposed natural gas storage project in front of the Nova Scotia Legislature on April 14. (Robert Short/CBC)

"We are putting the project on pause until the summer in order to continue to engage with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia and the surrounding community," said Nieukerk. 

In previous interviews with CBC News, Rufus Copage, chief of the Sipekne'katik First Nation, said he was concerned that AltaGas would ruin the river by dumping brine into it.

'The concentration is basically background'

The company will use water from the river to create its salt caverns. The salty water will then be released back into the Shubenacadie estuary.  

"The Shubenacadie flows up and down with the tide twice a day, salinity there varies from close to fresh, to 30 ppt, parts per thousand," said Chuck Lyons, a vice-president at AltaGas.

"The way our system is designed we'll discharge into a side channel before the water actually gets out to the Shubenacadie, the concentration is basically background, the same as what's in the river."

Lyons said all the water being used in the project is coming from the Shubenacadie and no other water sources will be tapped. 

AltaGas wants to store the gas to furnish Nova Scotia with a steady and sustainable supply of natural gas. 

"There's no export plan for Alton, it's all supply for here," said Lyons.

Creating jobs

Anywhere from 60 to 80 different contractors will be employed as construction ramps up on the site.     

"Those can be anywhere from welders to mechanical engineers, numerous different opportunities," said Nieukerk.  

After the construction is completed, he said AltaGas will employ eight to 10 full-time workers and another five to 10 part-time workers. 

The company is having a job fair today in Truro to round up workers. 

With files from Information Morning