Wednesday, 24 February 2016 14:44

Benefits of new natural gas power plant near Swift Current now look even better than last year

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Last year’s decision by SaskPower to locate a new natural gas power plant in the Swift Current area was generally welcomed as good news for the region.

That decision was the result of a detailed evaluation process that started in 2012 to determine the location of the new power plant site.
The Swift Current area was one of four locations considered for the construction of a 350-megawatt combined cycle natural gas plant.
The final announcement about the location of the power plant on a 158-acre site near Swift Current took place in June 2015. A key step thereafter was to decide if the construction of the facility will be done by SaskPower or by an independent power producer.
More details about the project have become available with the Feb. 15 announcement by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that it is inviting public comments on the project description.
These comments, which must be submitted by March 7, will assist the Agency to decide if a federal environmental assessment is necessary for the project.
The proposed development is referred to as the Great Plains Generating Station Project. The proposal was submitted to the Agency by ATCO Power Canada.
The document indicates that SaskPower is planning to award the project in July 2016 and that the power plant is expected to start operating by October 2019.
ATCO Power Canada is a Calgary-based company with a share in the ownership of 13 power generation stations in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.
The proposed Great Plains Generating Station will be located approximately 11 kilometres northwest of Swift Current within the R.M. of Swift Current No. 137. SaskPower owns the 158-acre land parcel, but ATCO Power will lease 16 hectares from the Crown Corporation for the development of the power plant.
The project details indicate the water supply for the development will be obtained directly from the City of Swift Current water reservoir. ATCO Power plans to install an underground pipeline from the city to the site over a distance of about 13 kilometres, which will require negotiations with landowners for easements.
Another underground pipeline will transport the wastewater from the power plant to the City of Swift Current’s wastewater treatment facility.
The operation of the power plant will require the burning of approximately 50 tonnes per hour of natural gas, which will be purchased from TransGas.
The facility is designed to have a lifespan of about 35 years. According to the project schedule the site preparation will start towards the end of 2016, foundation excavation will start around the second quarter of 2017 and the erection of buildings will begin in early 2018.
SaskPower has identified a need for this natural gas power plant to supply more energy to the electrical grid in a cost effective way and with lower greenhouse gas emissions. While natural gas is still a carbon-based fossil fuel, it produces significantly less greenhouse gas and solid waste than a coal-fired power plant.
This facility will therefore assist SaskPower to achieve its goal to transition to an electrical grid that uses less carbon intensive power generation facilities to produce electricity. This will become increasingly important as Saskatchewan attempts to achieve provincial greenhouse gas emission targets within a political environment that has changed significantly in Canada since last year.
Economically this project also makes even more sense now than when its location near Swift Current was announced last year.
The negative impact of the low oil price on job opportunities in the energy sector gives renewed importance to the project. It is expected that more than 400 people will be employed during the construction period and there will be 20 to 25 permanent jobs during the power plant’s operational phase.
This project will therefore not only boost the regional economy, but it can help to create a positive investment environment that might attract other businesses to the southwest.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Matthew Liebenberg