Alton natural gas storage project's in-service date is pushed back

On Wednesday, Heritage Gas, a subsidiary of AltaGas, notified provincial regulators that it's pushing the in-service date back by a year to 2021.

Provincial regulators notified in-service date pushed back by a year to 2021

The Alton natural gas storage site in 2014. (CBC)

There's another delay in the controversial Alton natural gas storage project near Stewiacke, N.S.

On Wednesday, Heritage Gas, a subsidiary of AltaGas, notified provincial regulators that it's pushing the in-service date back by a year to 2021.

AltaGas — through another subsidiary, Alton Gas — wants to hollow out deep underground salt caverns at Alton to store natural gas.

The business model is to buy gas in the summer when prices are cheaper, but resell it in winter when the gas is most needed and prices are much higher.

Alton Gas spokesperson Lori Maclean said the new in-service date is because of construction and operation timelines.

"When you start the brining process, you have to count two to three years out to complete the brining process, so the 2021 date reflects that," MacLean told CBC News.

It's the latest delay for a project that has seen numerous stops and starts since receiving its environmental approvals a decade ago.

There has been significant local opposition to the Alton natural gas storage project. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Local opposition has grown over concerns the release of brine into the Shubenacadie River system during construction poses a threat to the environment.

Cheryl Maloney of the nearby Sipekne'katik First Nation has been a vocal opponent.

"How many years can they keep pushing it back without getting new environmental assessment with new science?" Maloney said.

Decision coming soon from Environment Department

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin is expected to decide by June on an appeal by the band of his department's industrial approval of the project.

The company and the Nova Scotia government say the project is in the strategic interest of the province since it could alleviate winter-price spikes that have hit natural gas consumers.

Heritage Gas promises multi-million dollar savings for consumers when the project goes ahead.

On Wednesday, company president John Hawkins said the company will make use of the delay.

"Because we have time to prepare for the new in-service date for Alton Natural Gas Storage, Heritage Gas is confident that we will be able to identify other natural gas opportunities in the North American marketplace," Hawkins said in a statement to CBC News.

In its notification to the Nova Scotia and Utility and Review Board on Alton, Heritage also revealed there's a two year in-service delay for the new Atlantic Bridge pipeline project, which will bring natural gas from the Marcellus Basin to Massachusetts.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.