$100M Alton gas storage project underway near Stewiacke
Project to store fuel in summer when prices low and withdraw it when demand peaks in winter
Construction on a megaproject has begun at a site 10 kilometres north of Stewiacke where natural gas will be stored underground for later use.
The Alton Gas Storage project is owned by AltaGas, an Alberta-based energy company, the same Canadian company that owns the Heritage Gas distribution business.
A crew of 70 people is currently working on a huge site where a rig is drilling holes for pipes that will carry water from the Shubenacadie river 12 kilometres away to dissolve salt caverns. Another set of pipes will carry the salty wastewater back to the same river to be flushed away with the powerful current.
The whopping 101 million to 170 million cubic-metre underground space will store compressed natural gas delivered by the Maritimes Northeast pipeline. David Birkett is in charge of the $100-million gas storage project.
"Then we have to move the water to create the caverns to the size required for storage. That would equate to about 50 per cent of Heritage Gas's winter supply," he said.
By storing fuel in the summer and withdrawing it when demand peaks in the winter, Heritage Gas expects to reduce sticker shock for its customers.
The project will take about three years to complete.
About 270 people signed a petition opposing the process. However, the company has received approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to pipe and dispose of millions of litres of salty water into the river.
"Because of the amount of water that comes up the river with the tidal influences, that salinity in the brine gets back to background levels. The whole system is designed not to have an negative impact on the fish," said Birkett.
That model will get its first real life test when the caverns go into operation in 2017.
The project has been criticized in the past by the Native Council of Nova Scotia, which fears the salty discharge into the river could hurt endangered fish like the Atlantic salmon or even the Minas Basin mudflats downstream.