RM ratepayers concerned about oilfield traffic

The possible routing of trucks to and from a proposed SAGD project has some RM of Meota ratepayers concerned.

Serafina Energy Ltd., based out of Calgary, is planning to build a SAGD project approximately two miles east of the 13 Mile Corner. The 13 Mile Corner is a local term, according to RM of Meota Reeve Sherry Jimmy, for the intersection between Highway 4 and Highway 26, approximately 13 miles north of North Battleford.

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SAGD stands for “steam-assisted gravity drainage,” an oil extraction method involving two horizontal, parallel wells, which are underground. Steam is injected in the top well, which heats bitumen. Bitumen liquefies and flows to the lower well, where it is pumped to the surface.

Serafina’s Vice President of Land and Business Development Chris Bartole said the plant is to produce approximately 8,000 barrels of oil per day to be trucked out to various locations, resulting in an estimated 40 loads of sales quality oil expected to be trucked out on a daily basis. Bartole said the project life is anticipated to exceed 15-20 years, and would require “20 full-time operators and support staff.”

Bartole said the most likely destinations for the crude would be Unity, Lashburn, Lloydminster and “perhaps more local pipeline terminals.”

Tanja Straub lives three quarters of a mile east of the 13 Mile Corner. She said she doesn’t want all the trucks going by her property, and has safety concerns about traffic at the 13 Mile Corner, particularly during summer months.

“My concern is this will be a super, super deadly intersection if all those [trucks] haul in and out of there every day,” Straub said.

The shortest route for Serafina from the site to the highway passes near Straub’s property, and Straub prefers the trucks take a different route.

Routing decisions for the project belong to the RM of Meota.

Reeve of the RM of Meota, Sherry Jimmy, said the development agreements are between Serafina and the agricultural producers who own the land on which the project will be. The RM is involved because of road use. 

“The objective would be to get [the trucks] to a main highway over a course of least resistance, meaning the most direct accessible route, and a route that is most economical for the municipality to build and maintain,” Jimmy said.

The shortest distance from the proposed Meota East site to Highway 4 would use Scentgrass Road, which Jimmy described as a “small grid road.” Another option is the Iffley Road, “a larger grid road” north of Scentgrass Road, and Glenrose Road, which is south. A route using Glenrose Road involves travelling over a bridge, Jimmy said, which would require more work from the RM.

“We certainly know from the ratepayers who live along the road that they have legitimate concerns about increased volume, dust, safety of the road, all of those types of things,” Jimmy said.

The consultation process, Jimmy said, involved meeting with those involved and, later, possibly engaging in mitigation measures, although “it’s a little bit premature to do that until we have fully determined what that access route will be.”

Jimmy said the chosen route would require roads to be built up to a higher standard “to accommodate the weight and the volume of traffic that the project would generate.”

Costs to the RM of building up roads for Meota East are uncertain at this point, Jimmy said. Building up roads to the appropriate standard for the Meota West project cost the RM $1.2 million, she said. That road still has gravel and isn’t paved.

Meota West is southwest of Meota and located approximately two townships from Meota East.

Meota East is expected to bring in tax money to the RM, Jimmy said, as is Meota West, although Jimmy didn’t say how much specifically.

“We haven’t seen a full year of taxes for the developments,” Jimmy said. “We feel the economic spin off and the taxation we gain from this type of development is certainly a larger pro than a con to development in the area.”

Bartole described Meota West as “effectively identical in what we’ve proposed to Meota East,” adding the former project was “built as a 7,500 barrel per day facility.”

Meota West has been operational since April, Bartole said. 

Jimmy said the RM is to discuss with Serafina if the oil company would contribute to capital infrastructure of roads.

“We haven’t entered into that discussion on this project yet, although we have meetings coming up,” Jimmy said.

Bartole said Serafina hasn’t “traditionally paid for road upgrades directly,” but pays fees “based on distance of the routing that we use on a, call it, per vehicle basis.”

Payments compensate “additional maintenance that might be required as a result of the increased traffic, and usually increased heavier traffic, that utilizes those roads.”

Once routes are chosen, the RM and Serafina would enter agreements, including a road maintenance agreement. A template of such agreements is provided by the Government of Saskatchewan.

According to the road maintenance agreement template, “the primary intent of a road maintenance agreement is to provide the signing parties with an efficient method by which haulers compensate the municipality for additional road maintenance and loss of life resulting from their concentrated haul. Road maintenance agreements are to cover only the incremental cost that occurs above regular maintenance costs due to the increased pressures of heavy or frequent hauls.”

Additionally, Serafina undertook, with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, a feasibility study regarding traffic assessment.

Studies of such projects involving the public are often available at municipal meetings, but Jimmy said the RM has no ownership of it and “can’t make a commitment on behalf of other parties or how widespread the distribution of that will be.”

Straub has been in contact with representatives from the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure about the study.

A complaint among oil industry critics is that pro-oil governments have lax rules about production.

Bartole said Serafina goes through “a very rigorous application process for these projects, particularly with a number of government bodies.”

“We’ll deal with the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Environment, the Environmental Assessment Branch, and it’s the duty of those bodies to determine whether or not what we’re proposing is safe, is in the best interest of the province.”

Serafina hosted an open house about the Meota East project in Meota in June, attended by Serafina staff. Rural correspondent Lorna Pearson wrote in a previous issue of the News-Optimist the open house is drawing local interest, and a water line will run cross-country to the North Saskatchewan River.

Bartole said Serafina wants a decision by fall, and hopes to begin production by early 2020. Jimmy said the plan is to choose a route in the fall then begin construction on the chosen route in the spring.

Straub said she hopes the RM makes a decision that’s in the best interest of ratepayers.

Jimmy said such matters will be discussed at the RM of Meota’s next council meeting, to take place on Wednesday, Sept. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the RM office at 300-1st Street in Meota. Further questions about the meeting should be directed to the RM of Meota.

 

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