ELK POINT - It’s called the oil patch, and the area south of Elk Point is home to many oil well leases, but there is another treasure hidden deep beneath those fields – natural gas.
That natural gas has the potential to replace coal as the source of electrical power, and Calgary-based Versorium Energy Ltd. is currently applying for permits to make that happen in the Northern Valley area, at least on a small scale.
Versorium’s Jeff Trynchy calls it “Smart energy” and says their privately held, investor owned power generation company is “focused on supporting the grid transition by developing small power plants that can distribute energy in peak usage times. Our plants can ramp up and turn on so there is backup to prevent brownouts.” At such times, “the plant would run 24/365, with cooling fans going nonstop.”
Their projects, which will have two natural gas-fired reciprocating engines, can produce up to 4.9 megawatts of electricity, which he indicates is “enough to power approximately 1,500 Alberta homes each year,” and will be fueled by locally sourced natural gas. Housed along with the accompanying electrical systems in insulated modular buildings on sites of less than a half acre in size, the plants will have a low impact on the environment, which Trynchy says is “smaller than a wind farm,” and is not dependent on the weather, as either wind or solar power would be.
In choosing the sites for the plants, Versorium looked at the surrounding environment and the distance from residences that will allow for “a significant setback” of 300 to 400 meters to mitigate noise, Trynchy said. “We have to monitor the existing noise within 1.5 kilometers of the area and gauge what amount we would have to have to ensure the decibels were within allowed levels.”
The site, just south of the border between the County of St. Paul and the County of Two Hills 14 km southeast of Elk Point, is one of eight that are scheduled to be put in operation by the company. All eight projects have received approval through the Alberta Utilities Commission, with approval for this one received March 3,and four have also received approval from Alberta Environment and Parks, with the Northern Valley project and three others waiting for the AEP approval.
“We expect to receive AEP approval in April or May of this year, and will seek the appropriate permits from the County of Two Hills later this year closer to construction start,” Trynchy said, adding, “Initial discussions with the County’s planning and development group regarding the project were well received. It’s good business practice to reach out early.”
Once permits are in place, construction of this and the other plants would take place in the fall of 2022, “which could get pushed back to the spring of 2023 for those where the permits aren’t in place.
During the construction phase, the project is expected to create between 50 and 60 jobs, and although though once operational, the sites will be operated by remote technology, they estimate three or four jobs will be required for maintenance and monitoring of the project.
“Versorium is proud to support Alberta- based businesses and is committed to sourcing goods and services through local businesses when feasible, keeping energy investment in Alberta and putting money into the pockets of local businesses.”