Emerging domestic natural gas and helium producer Renergen is pleased to update investors on the progress of its current drilling operations at its Virginia Gas Project. Since the announcement on 17 December 2019 of strong gas flows with high (up to 12%) helium, drilling and other technical issues have necessitated significant changes from the original horizontal well design. The sections penetrated by several side-tracks have provided valuable encouraging data for future development drilling.
The key learnings from the drilling are as follows…
The building of a helium plant planned for the Consul area is expected to create between 50 and 100 jobs. North American Helium Inc., the company behind the project, said it will look to hire locally – and that includes Maple Creek. “We would prefer local people, absolutely,” said Vance Blydo, vice-president of operations, last Friday. “We are looking forward to a partnership with the local community.” NAH plans to build a helium purification plant on farmland near Consul. Blydo, a professional engineer with 25 years of operational experience in the oil & gas industry in Western Canada, said NAH had not yet made a “final investment decision” on the project. Details such as the design of the plant had still to be finalized. He believed this decision would be made in the next two to six months. Construction would probably take one to two years to complete, he said. Last October, Blydo was one of two NAH representatives to meet about 24 people at Consul Hall for a public information session. The other representative was Donna Bowles, vice-president of land & government relations. The public heard that NAH was the most active driller of helium wells worldwide. Four wells in the area would tie into the proposed Battle Creek helium recovery plant south of Consul. The plan was for civil and pipeline building to be undertaken in the latter half of 2020, with plant delivery and construction slated for the second quarter of 2021. If everything went according to plan, the plant would be on-stream by the third quarter, the meeting heard. The idea was to transport the gas to market, one load per day, using a fleet of six to eight trucks. Helium cannot be stored, so it has to be hauled to where it can be processed. It is likely the gas will be shipped to the nearest liquefaction plants in Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. In liquid form, helium can be placed in a container and marketed globally. A big hope of NAH is to build a liquefaction plant in southwest Saskatchewan. The helium in this area is detectable 2,500-2,800 metres below the surface. NAH is interested in reservoirs of helium-bearing inert nitrogen carrier gas that does not hold hydrogen sulphide, water or hydrocarbon gas liquids, which makes it easier to purify to nearly 100 per cent for market sales. Other gases discovered with the helium are safely vented into the air. Blydo said the information session had been a success. “The plan was well-received,” he said. “The local community is very excited about it. We are looking forward to being partners and having a good relationship.” He added the plant was expected to have a 10-year to 20-year life. The Consul project follows a period of exploratory drilling by NAH in the region. It has long been known that Saskatchewan is a source for helium. Oil and gas companies found helium during exploration in the 1950s and Battle Creek was one of the areas identified; the others were Wilhelm and Mankota. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was helium production in the province, but the market crashed after prices dropped in the late 1970s. Recently, prices and demand for helium have been rising again.
A helium forum in Swift Current will bring together various stakeholders to discuss the state of the industry and its potential in southwest Saskatchewan. The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the City of Swift Current will be hosting the helium forum at the Living Sky Casino event centre, March 4. Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Wiens said the forum is aimed at people and organizations that are involved with the industry in some way. “There is interest from Australia, from all across North America and other parts of Canada as well,” she said. “So we expect it to be well-attended and have a lot of good discussion.” The potential of the industry in southwest Saskatchewan and its ongoing development will have benefits for the region and also for Swift Current. “The potential for our area outside of the drilling is because Swift Current is located on the No. 1 Highway,” she said. “Any kind of construction and plant to keep people employed is a boon to our service industry. That would be the long-term goal. So this is a good starting point.” She hopes the forum will help to create connections and information sharing between various stakeholders that will benefit the industry. “I hope the forum will achieve several things,” she said. “One would be introducing and connecting current industry players with potential investors, potential employees, potential markets to sell into. Anything that facilitates the networks that these folks are going to need to run a successful business, that would be our number one end goal. I think the sharing of information about this little-known industry is hugely important as well.” The forum participants will include representatives from helium exploration and production companies as well as the provincial government, and she felt it can be a useful opportunity to have these stakeholders together at the same venue. “There’s a whole lot of aspects to this business,” she said. “Whether it is regulatory, which the government can address, there are geologists coming who can speak to the formations and where it’s most likely, but there’s also industry players who are operating on the business side. I think they know each other quite well now. However, I’m sure there’s always best practices, and perhaps they can share best practices. Sometimes there’s collaboration between competitors for the better good. So I would think having all of the players together in one room is always a good thing.” The idea for this forum was first proposed last fall by Ron Rosvold, who spoke to the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce and the City of Swift Current about the possibility of such an event. He felt there was a need to have a forum, because different companies are currently carrying out exploration work in the area. “I suggested maybe have a forum and invite people so we get an idea of what is really going on in southwest Saskatchewan with helium,” he recalled. “Different companies said they would attend and would be glad to be part of it. I phoned something like 40 different contacts, not all companies.” His interest in the helium industry started when he worked as an operator at the helium plant north of Swift Current. He is not employed in the industry anymore, but he still has many connections and there is interest from the industry to explore for helium in southwest Saskatchewan. “There’s potential, I don’t know how much,” he said. “I think that’s what people are going to talk about, because it’s pretty expensive to explore for and there’s only two companies that are public that you can find on the stock exchange. … There are companies like North American Helium that have drilled a lot of wells and there’s a lot of permits being given out for exploration of helium in the southwest.” According to Rosvold the industry in this region is still in its infancy stage and there are currently only two production facilities. The Weil Group opened a processing facility in 2016 near Mankota to extract and purify helium and Canadian Helium Inc. is operating a facility northwest of Swift Current. Helium was discovered in the Swift Current area in the early 1960s and a production plant was established north of the city along Highway No. 4 in 1963. It continued to operate until 1977. Canadian Helium Inc. in cooperation with Quantum Technology Corporation started to operate a helium plant northwest of Swift Current along the Skyline Road in 2014, which was operated by Rosvold. It remained in production until 2016, when it was shut down. Canadian Helium Inc. reopened it again about a year ago and it is still in operation. “There’s quite a demand for helium now at this point,” he said. “I don’t think Canada or Saskatchewan can fill that demand itself. So there’s bigger projects on the move in other places, but this is a pretty safe place to do business.” There are favourable conditions for finding primary helium in Saskatchewan, because the province has some of the world’s largest concentrations of uranium, and helium is created through the natural decay of radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium. In southern Saskatchewan the geological conditions created four-way structural closures that might trap helium. Helium is well-known as a lifting gas in balloons and airships, but the market for helium is evolving and high technology applications are becoming a growing market segment. This is due to the unique physical properties of helium, which makes it suitable for use in science, medicine and manufacturing. It is an inert gas with a low boiling temperature, and it can therefore be used as a coolant for the superconducting magnets of MRI machines. Other uses include the pressurization and purging of liquid fuels in rockets for space exploration and satellites, as well as the manufacturing of semiconductor chips and fibre optic cables. There will be several speakers at the helium forum. Melinda Yurkowski from the Ministry of Energy and Resources will do a presentation about geological assessments in Saskatchewan to date, marketing grades and potential, and prices going forward. A government representative will also speak about regulations, permitting and incentives. Vance Blydo of North American Helium will talk about exploration under way, future plans and investment opportunities. Dr. Ovi Marin of Quantum Technology Corporation will do a presentation about processing plants and the recovery process, the liquefaction process and the potential in southwest Saskatchewan for a facility. The forum will conclude with a question and answer session and a discussion about the future of the industry.
- Oil and gas explorer and producer Big Star Energy (BNL) has secured 30 new leases in North America — providing an almost 20 per cent increase in its holdings
- The company now has multiple high-value helium projects in North America — with a total lease position of over 110,000 gross acre
- A total of 15 soil gas sample locations have returned helium readings significantly above atmospheric concentrations, with further testing to come on the new leases
- There’s no way of producing helium artificially, and the gas is needed in a range of high-tech applications such as the manufacture of MRIs and semiconductors
- Big Star’s shares are down 7.14 per cent to 0.7 cents apiece
Oil and gas exploration and production company Big Star Energy (BNL) has announced the acquisition of an additional 17,612 gross (12,912 net) acres in Colorado, USA. Big Star now holds multiple high-value helium projects in North America — with a total lease position of 110,055 gross acres. The additional acreage was secured by 22 new leases won at the February State land auction and 8 new leases from private mineral owners.
Big Star Managing Director, Joanne Kendrick, commented “I’m delighted by our success at the recent state auction where we saw an increase in competition for leases, supporting our opinion of the prospectivity in the area and specifically at the Enterprise location. “Our leasing program will continue this quarter with a focus on increasing net acreage over key prospects. At the same time, we are working on well location selection, drilling planning and prospective resource estimation.” The Company has leased acreage covering a total of 15 soil gas sample locations which returned helium readings significantly above atmospheric concentrations. Helium is a unique industrial gas that exhibits characteristics both of a bulk, commodity gas and a high-value specialty gas. It’s considered a “high tech” strategic element. Due to its unique chemical and physical qualities, helium is a vital element in the manufacture of MRIs and semiconductors among other high-tech applications. There is no way of manufacturing helium artificially and most of the world’s reserves have been derived as a byproduct of the extraction of natural hydrocarbon gas.
A working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and Sergey Chemezov, Director General of the state-owned Rostec Corporation, took place last week in Moscow. The meeting participants reviewed the potential areas of cooperation between Gazprom and Rostec enterprises, including the transportation of liquid helium from the Amur Gas Processing Plant for the purpose of exporting it via the Logistics Center in the Primorye Territory. Gazprom Gazenergoset Geliy, the company authorized to implement the Helium Tank Logistics Center investment project, plans to purchase gas-powered vehicles to transport liquid helium. To that end, freight trucks powered by liquefied natural gas will be used. Batch production of these trucks will be carried out at the facilities of KAMAZ. The infrastructure for producing LNG and refueling these trucks will be set up by Gazprom Gazomotornoye Toplivo. As a follow-up to the Agreement, Gazprom Gazenergoset Geliy and KAMAZ signed an Action Plan. The first 18 LNG-powered trucks that will transport helium in special thermally-insulated containers are expected to be delivered in 2021. The parties intend to join forces in order to, inter alia, create a standardized 25 MW gas compressor unit and new modifications of gas turbine engines, launch the manufacture of LNG storage, transportation and loading equipment, and design modular power plants with diesel and gas-fueled reciprocating engines. The parties will also cooperate to expand the uses of composite materials and other state-of-the-art structural materials, to promote the application of digital technologies, and to deal with the challenges of technological development and import substitution.
Gazprom Rostec KAMAZ