BY NORDAHL FLAKSTAD
There could be an Alberta
presence in the proposed Alaska natural gas pipeline. TransCanada
Corp. says it’s
ready to carry the baton on the North Slope-to-Yukon portion
of the long-discussed Alaska pipeline to bring natural
gas south to the Lower 48.
The move came after MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., controlled
by prominent American investor Warren Buffett, in late March
set aside plans for involvement in the $6.3-billlion US Alaska
leg of the project. Inability to gain exclusive control over
construction was cited among reasons for the Buffett withdrawal.
A news release says: “TransCanada looks forward to
collaborating with the state and the key stakeholders to
create a commercial structure that allows the project to
Another Calgary-based company, Enbridge Inc., is positioning
itself as a project participant by seeking its standing under
the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act.
Oilsands Rail Plans
Stoked by encouragement from Premier Ralph Klein, support
for a proposed $1.8-billion oilsands railroad is gathering
steam. The initiatives would involve upgrading, straightening
and extending the existing rail line connecting Edmonton
and the Fort McMurray area. The modernized line would help
move equipment to oilsands projects and alleviate pressure
on Highway 63.
The Alberta Government is reportedly ready to commit $300
million to the project, as well as to related highway upgrades.
A $2.5-million study is being undertaken by Athabasca Oilsands
Transportation Corp. The latter’s directors include
Canadian Hunter Exploration founder Jim
Gray, an honorary
member of APEGGA.
Project director is Paul Giannelia, who, as president of
the Straits Crossing Group, was a driving force behind the
construction of the Confederation Bridge, linking P.E.I.
and New Brunswick.
Diamond Bid Fails
To Win Over
BHP Billington has made it clear to DGI Group, an Israeli-based
diamond wholesaler, that it is in no mood to sell its stake
in the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. Not
only did the Australian mining multinational, an 80-per-cent
owner of Ekati, turn down the Israeli suitor, but it also
has announced it’s spending $22 million this year on
diamond exploration in Canada.
Plans Plant to Run
On Landfill Gases
EPCOR Utilities Inc. reported a 138 per cent profit increase
to $438.3 million in 2003. EPCOR attributed the increase
to the sale of Union Energy, an Ontario-based provider of
home water heaters. The $793.3-million selling price for
Union amounts to an almost fivefold increase over EPCOR’s
2001 purchase price.
Meanwhile, EPCOR is planning construction of a 4.8-megawatt
plant to run on gas from City of Edmonton landfills. The
proposed $7-million facility currently is subject to public
The city-owned utility has captured and sent methane to fuel
generators at its Clover Bar Generating Station since 1992.
However, that facility only operates intermittently, requiring
gas to be flared when the plant is not running. The new,
dedicated plant will have an ongoing demand for the landfill
New Chance for
Cheviot Coal Mine
An improving coal export market is breathing new life into
the on-again-off-again plans for the Cheviot Coal mine south
of Hinton, near Jasper National Park. The latest Cheviot
chapter has Elk Valley Coal Co. mining coal and trucking
it 22 km to the exhausted Cardinal River Mine for processing.
The proposal has been presented to Alberta Environment and
the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. Elk Valley, owned
by Fording Canadian Coal Trust, plans to spend $50 million
to bring Cheviot into operation to produce 1.4 million tonnes
a year with a workforce of 120.
Higher cost estimates that “surprised and disappointed” Cumberland
Resources Ltd. have the company reconsidering plans for its
Meadowbank gold project, 70 km north of Baker Lake in Nunavut.
Assessments by AMEC E&C Services Canada Limited show
that developing a 5,500- tonne-per-day facility on what has
been described as Canada’s third-largest undeveloped
gold resource would cost more than $350 million. According
to Kerry Curtis, Cumberland president and CEO: “These
challenging factors will result in a full examination of
capital cost alternatives and production throughput variations.”
Canadian Hydro Catches Wind
Of New Ontario Opportunity
Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. will work with a private company,
Chinodin Enterprises, to develop a 240-megawatt wind power
project near Shelburne, Ont.
Based in Calgary and specializing in low-impact renewable
energy, Canadian Hydro Developers has three wind-operated
and 10 hydro-powered generating sites. It is developing its
first biomass energy plant.
Wi-LAN Expects Return
To Winning Ways
Following tough financial slogging in recent years, Wi-LAN
Inc. is transmitting better news.
Speaking to the Calgary-based wireless communications firm’s
annual meeting, CEO and President Dr. Sayed-Amr (Sisso) El-Hamamsy
said: “Wi-LAN is definitely at its healthiest and with
the most likelihood of succeeding in the long run.”
Wi-LAN, which specializes in products and services related
to high-speed Internet access, data network extension, and
wireless data and telephony backhaul, raised more than $12
million in equity last fall. The company anticipates revenues
of $37 million and a $500,000 profit in 2004, versus $26.8
million in revenues and a $4.6-million net loss last year.
Petro-Canada continued on the road toward becoming “just
another oil company” with Finance Minster Ralph Goodale’s
budget announcement that Ottawa will sell its remaining 19
per cent interest in the corporation.
The federal government is expected to reap up to $3 billion
from the sale, which concludes the process of privatization
the Mulroney government initiated by selling off some shares
in the former Crown corporation to the public in 1991.
Recent Oilpatch Deals
Are Matters of Trust
Several energy trusts have remained in acquisition mode
recently, among them APT Energy Trust, which purchased the
assets of Great Northern Exploration Ltd. for $291 million.
Also joining the purchase parade was Provident Energy
Trust by buying Olympia
Energy Inc. and Viracocha Energy Inc. for
$217.6 million and $205.9 million respectively.
Petrofund Energy Trust took a slightly different expansion
path by combining with Ultima Energy Trust under an agreement
whereby each Ultima unit will be exchanged for 0.442 of a
Meanwhile, Vermilion Energy Trust has agreed to sell its
stake in Aventura Energy Inc. for $228 million to the BG
Group, a unit of British Gas.
Better Times Ahead
For Churchill Corp.
After seeing its construction divisions suffer their first
loss in a dozen years, Churchill Corporation is looking to
its soon-to-be-completed, $7.4-million modular construction
facility at Fort Saskatchewan to help it turn the corner.
The Edmonton-based parent company of Stuart Olson
Laird Electric, Fuller Austin and Triton Projects had a $3.7-million
loss on revenues of $319.2 million last year. Churchill CEO
Gary Bardell, P.Eng., places part of the blame for last year’s
setback on delay of some projects.
Despite buffeting from U.S. trade restrictions and commodity
price swings, the value of Alberta forest production rose
by 16 per cent last year to $3.7 billion.
The 60-member Alberta Forest Products Association attributes
improvement particularly to a 30 per cent rise (to $1 billion)
in the value of various types of panel board produced in
Alberta. Pressures on the sector’s profitability caused
by U.S. softwood lumber tariffs were partly offset by raising
In another forestry related development, it has been announced
that C&C Wood Products Ltd. of Quesnel, B.C., will acquire
the Grande Cache sawmill, which Weyerhaeuser Canada
Ltd. had closed in February. In a separate initiative, Weyerhaeuser
said it would invest $23.8 million upgrading its Edson-oriented
strand board mill.
Edmonton Ready to Hop
On High-Speed Bus
Edmonton is being urged to move quickly on planning and
property acquisition so it doesn’t miss the high-speed
bus. The Alberta capital could pull a page from Ottawa’s
transit map by developing a dedicated high-speed bus route
and station network.
A report readied for Edmonton’s Transportation and
Public Works Committee and city council would see spending
of $500 million to finish the current southern extension
of the city’s light rail transit system and similar
initial spending on the first spoke of a rapid-bus transit
system. A link from the existing central Churchill LRT station
to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology might become
the first such high-speed-bus route.
Snags Alyeska Contract
SNC-Lavalin’s Edmonton office has received a $28-million
US contract from the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company for
detailed engineering, procurement and construction management
The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, operator of the Trans
Alaska Pipeline System, will spend over $250 million US in
a project to upgrade the pipeline's pump stations. The system
transports crude oil 1,300 km from the Alaska's North Slope
to Valdez on Prince William Sound.
EnCana to Buy
Tom Brown Inc.,
Boost U.S. Presence
EnCana Corp. has solidified its position as North America’s
largest independent petroleum company with plans to buy Tom
Brown Inc. for $3.64 billion.
Acquisition of the Denver-based firm, particularly active
in the U.S. Rocky Mountain region, will increase EnCana’s
natural gas reserves by 1.2 trillion cubic feet, to 9.5 trillion