Coronach Alliance Church -
By Kelly Elder
Communities in the South Country have been buzzing since the set up of a drilling camp at the Cookson Reservoir in the middle of October.
In the October 26 issue of the Triangle News it was reported that the camp housed a drilling crew that was in the area to confirm reports from the 70s and 80s that showed huge coal deposits that currently are not included in any mining plans.
NuCoal - who has permits covering over 2 million acres in Southern Saskatchewan - believes there are coal deposits located south of Parallel 50 (from Shaunavon to Estevan) to supply 300 years of energy.
In the October issue, it was reported that NuCoal announced their plan to build a $6.5 billion polygeneration plant producing 150,000 barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels, plus up to 700 megawatts of electricity.
As the test drilling nears completion, NuCoal representatives accepted an invitation from the Coronach economic development committee to speak to the community.
Alan Cruickshank, President/CEO of NuCoal Energy Corp. said, "the more opportunity we have to talk to people and hear their questions (the better it is). NuCoal's goal is to domestically produce transportation fuels without a water supply and export to the Americans."
Assiniboia, Bengough, Willow Bunch, Wood Mountain, Rockglen had representatives on hand to hear what Cruickshank had to say about gasification.
The evening began with supper for NuCoal representatives and a number of local area business, council and committee representatives.
Cruickshank gave a short presentation to the supper crowd and at 6:30 local residents were invited for a public address. The fellowship hall of the Coronach Alliance Church was bursting at the seams with interested people.
Cruickshank explained where they are drilling test holes to confirm the coal deposits, talked about the process of gasification and the importance of the involvement of the Chinese.
With hope hanging in the air, Cruikshank was asked a number of times if the multi billion dollar plant would be built in Coronach. His answer - always the same - "the plant will be built where the coal is".
Rod Ogilvie, project manager, addressed the crowd and talked a bit about site selection.
He said that the first step is to reconfirm the old data then to identify where the coal is. Once these two steps are completed, he reported that the actual plant will be built where there is no coal under the ground at plant site and that site would be close to where the majority of the mineable coal is.
Another question that arose at both sessions was the what the timeline would be for such a project. Cruikshank told the crowd that 10 years would be too long and 3 years would be too short. He thought that 5 years would be a reasonable timeframe to see production begin at the plant.
Question period continued for approximately one half hour with crowd members asking a variety of questions.
Cruikshank talked about "Why now?" Cruikshank believes that polygeneration has not been explored before because the oil prices were not high enough for the project to be feasible. He believes that the current "carbon mania" and the high oil prices make poly-generation the power of the future.
Although poly-generation produces a number of products, including hydrogen, CO2 and power, the main by-product will be full spec unleaded transportation fuel that would be exported to the United States by pipeline.
Cruikshank believes that the project could employ 1000-1500 people in the construction phase and 500 people for operation. Some of these people would already be employed in the current coal mining operations at Poplar River.
Some crowd members seemed happy with the answers they received, others left feeling that they did not get enough information.
What was clear from the presentation was that the project is early in the process and that there is much work to be done.
In the October interview, Cruickshank talked about the expected involvement of Sherritt mine. "Sherritt has an outstanding reputation of being able to do very good work and we are very proud of our relationship with Sherritt. Sherritt is currently mining the coal so I would think it would be a natural for us to move forward with Sherritt to expand mining operations. We have very good relationships with them and it is our opinion that Sherritt is well respected in the mining (business), in Coronach and in Saskatchewan."
Cruikshank also talked about his hopes for the future involvement of SaskPower in the plant operation.
Cruikshank reported that a delegation from Sinopec, one of the largest integrated energy and chemical companies in China, will be in the province in the near future. According to Cruikshank, the project depends on the financial and technological support of Sinopec.
According to their website, Sinopec Corp. is one of the largest integrated energy and chemical company in China. The scope of its business mainly covers oil and gas exploration and production, extraction, pipeline transmission and marketing; oil refining; production, marketing, storage and transportation of petrochemicals, chemical fibers, chemical fertilizers and other chemical products; import, export and import/export agency business of crude oil, natural gas, refined oil products, petrochemicals, chemicals, and other commodities and technologies; research, development and application of technology and information.
According to Cruikshank, the gasification process is proven technology that is being used widely in China.
Besides Sinopec and Sherritt, Cruikshank reported North Rim Explorations, SRC (Smart Science Solutions), Hatch and SRK Consulting as confirmed stakeholders. He also talked about NuCoal's connections with Shenhua, GE, ExxonMobil, Siemens, Haldor Topsoe A/S, Shell and Uhde.
Cruikshank is committed to NuCoal's objective to create jobs, taxes and royalties by turning South 50 Coal into clean energy. He said that in a year's time NuCoal should be in a position to announce site selection. Coronach and area residents will wait anxiously with visions of the rebirth of their once booming town.