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Encana charts a new path in electrifying B.C. facility

Nina Winham
For bchydro.com

When natural gas companies develop a new extraction facility, they typically plan to power their operations with the energy source that's right at hand: gas.

So it was unusual when Encana Corporation departed from this trend and chose to electrify its recently developed Saturn site in northeastern B.C.

"When we do a gas site, we're in control of the timelines," says Kevin Stolz, Electricity Analyst for Encana. "So to give over a portion of the project and give some control to BC Hydro on the timelines, that takes you out of your comfort zone a bit. It was different from what we may have done in the past."

When planning the electrification project, Encana worked with BC Hydro Power Smart through its New Plant Design Initiative to identify design improvements that would make both the compressor site and the gas gathering system much more energy-efficient than would a standard design. The new plant includes a larger diameter pipeline, which reduces the compression load required as a result of lower frictional losses; compressor cylinder upgrades, which decrease flow pressure drops within the cylinders; high-efficiency motors that reduce energy consumption; and variable speed drives on compressors, which significantly reduce energy consumption compared with using a recycle valve.

The project has resulted in efficiencies that save a total of 15 GWh of energy annually. Plus, BC Hydro delivered electrical power to the site well ahead of schedule.

"BC Hydro was very efficient at getting us the answers we needed and they beat our in-service dates," says Stolz. "We built up some great business relationships that are going to continue. It worked out exceptionally well."

Managing carbon

"With the province's Clean Energy Act, the government has certainly encouraged natural gas producers to electrify their remote sites," says Chris Roberts, BC Hydro's Key Account Manager for natural gas producers. "That has encouraged producers such as Encana to choose power from BC Hydro. That way they're taking power which is over 90 percent clean."

"There was a lot of discussion that it was the right thing to do," says Stolz. "It ties in with our corporate responsibility, of being innovative and doing things differently." In addition, it helps Encana hedge against a rising cost of carbon.

"Companies are now paying a carbon tax of the equivalent of $20 a tonne on the natural gas they burn," says Roberts. "It's going to rise $5 a year for the next two years up to $30, and who knows what could happen then – it could plateau at $30, it could go to $40 or $50. Since these sites are typically used for 20-25 years, they have to look at the fact that they'll be paying a carbon tax for many years to come, versus taking service from BC Hydro where they don't pay a carbon tax."

Excellence Award winner

Roberts nominated Encana for the Power Smart Excellence Award because he recognized the leadership the company showed as it implemented carbon considerations in its new plant design.

"This was a new idea," he says. "Encana is used to putting in natural gas driven engines. Their production group knows gas compressors inside and out – they had to think carefully about taking service from the utility, and taking on the unknowns of an electrified plant when they know they can build a natural gas plant in their sleep.

"Encana definitely stepped out of their comfort zone, and they're definitely reducing their GHG emissions. That's why they deserved recognition as one of the leaders in this area."

Stolz says winning the award was exciting, and helps add momentum to his company's efficiency efforts. "It's interesting because I've only been involved with BC Hydro Power Smart for a short amount of time. But when I see the involvement and the empowerment that people within our organization feel now in being involved, it's amazing. I get all sorts of questions and ideas put forward that keep stretching the boundaries of what we can do. To me this award helps prove that we're actively out there doing the right things, which is very much a part of Encana's corporate culture."

At BC Hydro, Chris Roberts hopes Encana's forward thinking, and the recognition from the award, will encourage other natural gas companies to electrify. He's already noticing a trend – in the past few years the number of natural gas producers working with BC Hydro has increased by more than half.

"This was a win in three directions," agrees Roberts. "Encana has done great work and gained recognition for it, the sector overall is gaining experience with mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and BC Hydro is achieving its goal of helping B.C. shift towards energy conservation.

"Industrial leadership like this makes a huge difference for us all, so it's great that Encana won the award."

Source: BC Hydro News