October 2013

Message from the Executive Director


It has been a productive fall season for NCIA.

We reached a big milestone the last couple of months with receiving approval from both the ERCB and Alberta Utilities Commission on our Regional Noise Management Plan. What this means is that we now have a regulatory approved tool to manage noise impacts from industrial operations within Alberta's Industrial Heartland on a regional basis, as opposed to the previous site specific basis.  This approach is consistent with our regional effects management approach on air, water and land as well.  This tool will allow new and existing industrial players to fully understand their noise impacts and what an acceptable level of noise is, based on the NCIA Regional Noise Model.  Further, as the first of its kind in North America, we will continue to look for opportunities to maximize the value of this tool in years to come

On another important front, the cumulative environmental impacts work at the provincial government level is becoming active again. NCIA continues to be very active with both the Air and Water files serving on the various committees and technical working groups.



Follow us on Twitter!!

We’re excited to announce that NCIA is now on Twitter. To learn about industry in the region, please follow us at @NCIA_Alberta!




Upcoming Event! Industry and Community Info Evening on Nov 4

Hosted by Life in the Heartland, industry, businesses and residents in the Heartland region are invited to an Industry and Community Information Evening on November 4 in Redwater. For more information, please click here.

Air Products to Build New World-Scale Canada Hydrogen Plant to Support Shell Scotford Facility

On October 16, Air Products and its subsidiary Air Products Canada Ltd. announced plans to build, own and operate a new world-scale hydrogen production plant adjacent to Shell Canada’s Scotford facility. The Air Products facility is expected to produce over 150 million standard cubic feet per day of hydrogen and will be connected to Air Products Canada’s existing Heartland Hydrogen Pipeline system which supplies refiners, upgraders, chemical processors and other industries in the Alberta Industrial Heartland region. The new Air Products Canada hydrogen plant is to be commissioned in the second half of 2015 pending regulatory approval. 

To learn more, please click here.

Access Pipelines actively manages the environment it surrounds

Access Pipeline’s commitment to responsible management practices, including setting measured targets for environmental management, is an integral part of the company’s health, safety and environment policy - as well as its overall philosophy and core values.  And this is something that employees, Steve Fladager (Manager of Operations, Engineering) and Rob Leeson (Senior Pipeline Integrity Engineer), have come to admire and respect during their time with the company. 

This was most clearly demonstrated in Access Pipeline’s North Saskatchewan River Remediation project. Following a routine inspection, undertaken by the company through its Integrity Management Program to review the river crossing for one of its pipelines, a wash-out issue was discovered. The river bottom over the pipeline was uneven where there was insufficient cover on one side of the pipeline, and some of the cover had become washed away because of higher water levels in the river.

Once Access Pipeline discovered the issue, they set out to find the most optimal solution. This process took a period of eight months in which the company carefully considered a range of options and engaged regulatory bodies—Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD), Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Transport Canada. Working with these regulatory bodies, Access Pipeline identified the issue and how to remediate it, as well as outlined what the company’s timeline would be for completing the remediation. In addition, the company worked with CN Rail for obtaining access to the worksite because of a rail line that needed to be crossed. As well, approval from Alberta Transportation was required for the approach and for gaining access to the site. “We had to be mindful of not only the environment but also the navigability of the river while we were doing our work,” said Rob.

In order to resolve the issue, Access Pipeline wanted to find a mechanism for moving the necessary material from the riverbank to the specific point in the river to cover the pipeline in the least disruptive way possible. The more traditional options available included working with a barge and building a pier in the riverbank, using backhoe equipment requiring special hydraulic fluid, implementing a conveyer system for transporting material from the riverbank to the river or creating aqua dams for diverting water away from the work area. “All of these options would have involved using a lot of equipment that would have disturbed the river beds, banks and vegetation,” said Steve. “This was compounded by the fact that there was lots of risk and uncontrollable variables, such as river levels and water velocity.”  All of these factors could impact the crew’s ability to do the work and do it safely.

Then came the idea to use a helicopter as a means for transporting and placing the material at the exact location in the river where it was required. “The idea stemmed from the use of helicopters with water baskets for fighting fires,” said Rob. “Those water baskets have a capacity to carry and deliver a significant amount of weight. And in this case, we would need to move Rip Rap (limestone rock), instead of water, and thought that this might hold promise as the best alternative.”

Access Pipeline enlisted the help of Mustang Helicopters out of Red Deer to provide the helicopter for the job. The helicopter (a Bell Huey II) was outfitted with a GPS device sourced from Clean Harbors, with a ground antenna set-up by the side of the river. This ground station increased the ability to precisely identify the location in the river where the helicopter needed to drop the Rip Rap—and was able to do so to within a few centimetres. Argyle Innovations designed the release mechanism for the timed release baskets that would place a finishing layer of river rock over the Rip Rap. Each basket payload carried 2,700 lbs of rock.

This solution provided big wins on a number of fronts. The project ended up being well under budget, ahead of schedule and had almost no environmental impact. Following their work to cover the pipeline in the river, the company was able to restore the river bottom profile to its original state, and was able to demobilize from the site within a matter of hours with no impact on the river banks. “In comparison, if we had used the pier option, we would have had to spend another six weeks restoring the banks to a pre-construction state and then monitor that for a number of years,” noted Steve. In addition, only 40 per cent of the budget was spent—with the initial budget having been based on the other, more traditional solution options. And it took less time than expected. For example, only 18 days of helicopter work was needed in comparison to the 56 days that were originally budgeted.

When it comes to environmental stewardship, Steve and Rob have noticed that industry, overall, seems to be making huge progress with regards to mitigating its overall impact on the environment and trying to reduce its footprint as much as possible while still reaching its corporate objectives. And Access Pipeline’s North Saskatchewan River project is a standout example of this. “It was a unique process, and to our knowledge no one had attempted it before in the way that we did,” said Steve. “The project was well received by regulators as we were able to reduce environmental impacts as much as possible while still achieving our objectives.”  


People Profile: Meet Stephen Velthuizen, Shell Canada

For the past four years, Stephen Velthuizen has been the Communications Advisor of Scotford Manufacturing with Shell Canada. He was drawn to his career after taking further education in public relations after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree. Stephen finds his work incredibly rewarding as public relations enables him to share his company’s messages and also bring the messages of the community back to his company. It’s about serving as a conduit for dialogue and building bridges with communities. After considering his options, Stephen chose to work for Shell primarily because of the fact that it is a global company with a forward-thinking approach and a distinct community-mindedness that truly sets them apart. “I really believed that Shell was a different oil and gas company when I first started with them, and they have continued to be that to this day,” said Stephen. “It’s a company that walks the talk and truly wants to do the right thing when it comes to being a good corporate citizen.”

Stephen enjoys working in the oil and gas industry, particularly in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland—an epicentre for progress, growth and environmental stewardship. He also appreciates the opportunity to work in a sector that produces materials that everyone uses. “The oil and gas industry touches everyone—from enabling them to fuel their cars to heating their homes,” commented Stephen. “At Shell, we upgrade bitumen from the oil sands, make diesel and gasoline as well as have a chemical facility that creates products that go into many products people use in their daily lives.” Stephen also identified the many examples of innovation at work happening at Shell and in the Heartland region, such as the world-scale carbon capture initiative, and the partnerships being developed with industry. “I think the whole world looks at what we do here, and there are a lot of exciting things happening,” remarked Stephen. “When I look at people in this community, I see a can-do attitude where everyone is sincerely looking to find workable solutions.”  Also at the community level, Stephen admires the fact that it’s tight knit, there is a strong sense of identity and people are proud to call the Heartland home.

Although Stephen didn’t grow up in the Industrial Heartland, he has family members who lived in the region. And that has given him the opportunity to watch how the area has changed over the past number of decades. “Fort Saskatchewan has definitely grown in leaps and bounds from when I was a kid,” observed Stephen. “However, despite it becoming more urban and increasing in population size, it has always managed to retain the same sense of community interconnectedness.”

Today, Stephen has noticed that the big change now is the focus on integration amongst industry. He cites, for example, the work that Shell has recently done with Aux Sable in negotiating a mutually beneficial partnership. Aux Sable collects off gas from Shell to produce more valuable products. This allowed Shell to use a much cleaner burning fuel for their furnaces – significantly reducing their carbon emissions. Stephen concludes that industrial partnerships have enabled industry to become more efficient, create more jobs and add more value to the region through such things as revenues generated from taxes. In the example of Shell’s partnership with Aux Sable, it also benefits the environment.

Stephen’s hopes for the Heartland include industry continuing to be forward thinking and progressive and for resource development to continue being done in a responsible manner. “We can show the world that we can meet future energy and chemical needs while still respecting the environment—we can be an example globally,” Stephen contended.  He also wishes for dialogue and consultation to persist into the future where all of the right people (e.g., all affected parties) are a part of the conversation, with rich discussion where everyone is listening to each other. In Stephen's view, this is the path to finding solutions that make sense for everybody—through government, regulators, the public and all other key stakeholders being able to interface and share their perspectives.

In addition to working at Shell, Stephen has also been the Co-Chair of the Public Affairs Committee for the Northeast Capital Industrial Association (NCIA) during the past year.  What makes NCIA stand out, for Stephen, is that it allows for him, and those who work with the organization, to see the bigger picture and all of the issues affecting the region.

He also extends his passion for his work and the environment into his personal pastime of photography. Stephen takes photos of the landscape that characterizes the industrial Heartland, and uses these photos in the company newsletter he creates for Shell. He has found that including these photos resonates with community members, and that it’s another interesting way to connect with the local environment. “I try to use a completely different landscape photo with each issue,” said Stephen. “There’s a lot of beauty in this region, and you gain an appreciation for the community in which we operate.” Stephen is proud that Shell is committed to operating responsibly in the region for years to come.