Canadian Manufacturing

Alton Gas cavern project in Nova Scotia scrapped by Calgary based AltaGas

Mi'kmaq elders said the brine would pollute the 72-kilometre waterway, which has been central to the Indigenous population for 13,000 years.

October 25, 2021  The Canadian Press

Alberta-based AltaGas has abandoned its plan to create huge salt caverns north of Halifax to store natural gas, saying the Alton Gas storage project is no longer part of its business focus.

The decision came on Oct. 22, more than 13 years after construction started on the ill-fated project in central Nova Scotia.

AltaGas confirmed it will decommission the site near Stewiacke, N.S., because the company had shifted its priorities since 2018, when it sold its interest in the Halifax-based natural gas utility Heritage Gas Ltd. The utility would have been the main customer for the caverns.

“The project has received mixed support, challenges and experienced delay,” AltaGas said in a statement.

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The company had argued the storage caverns were needed to to assure a steady supply of natural gas in the colder months when peak demand can lead to supply shortages and price spikes. And it went to great lengths to try to prove the project was environmentally sound.

AltaGas had planned to build up to 15 caverns about a kilometre underground near Alton, N.S., and then link them with the nearby Maritimes and Northeast natural gas pipeline, about 60 kilometres north of Halifax.

The project, however, faced strong opposition from Indigenous protesters and their allies, not to mention a string of court actions.

The $130-million development had been largely on hold since 2014, when Mi’kmaq activists started a series of protests that culminated two years later in the creation of a year-round protest camp at one of the work sites.

Those opposed to the project had long complained about the company’s plan to remove large, underground salt deposits by flushing them out with water from the Shubenacadie River, about 12 kilometres from the cavern site. The plan also called for dumping the leftover brine into the tidal river, where it would flow into the Bay of Fundy.

Mi’kmaq elders said the brine would pollute the 72-kilometre waterway, which has been central to the Indigenous population for 13,000 years.

On the “Stop Alton Gas” Facebook page, supporters were ecstatic to hear the project was dead. “Yes!!!” said one post. “Leave our river alone. Thanks to all water protectors for your hard work.” The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs issued a statement thanking those who had taken a stand against the project. “Today is a good day for the Shubenacadie River and for the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia,” it said.

The project had received environmental and industrial approvals, including two environmental assessments and an independent third-party science review.

Before the project was shelved, AltaGas said the brine solution would have been pumped into the river twice a day at high tide, over a two- to three-year period. The company said the brine would be hard to detect in the river. The peak release on each tidal cycle would have been approximately 5,000 cubic metres, which would have mixed in with four million cubic metres of brackish tidal flow.


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