REGINA – For a decade now, Saskatchewan Geological Survey research geologist Gavin Jensen has been doing presentations on the possibility of lithium development from the salt water that comes up with oil production. Especially when the event was held in Bismarck, the room would often empty out, and he’d be speaking to ten or so people, some of whom he worked with.

It was a lot different at this year’s Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, held in Regina on May 17-18. It was standing room only, with around 80 people crammed into the room. Jensen was followed by Mark Caplan of Prairie Lithium and Randy Fraser of the Saskatchewan Research Council. And when they talked about lithium prices ranging from $21,000 to $65,000 per tonne, people were taking notice.

Similarly, Kirsten Marcia, CEO of Deep Earth Energy Production (DEEP) has been talking about geothermal power development for over a decade, sometimes to rooms without a lot of interest. Her presentation on May 17 was at the very end of the day, usually the time slot of death at any conference. It, too, was standing room only, as the world is looking for non-emitting power generation and DEEP’s project is nearing its final investment decision phase after years of drilling and testing.

 

Those were two examples of increased interest not only in oil and gas development in Saskatchewan, but the broader energy issues that are still accomplished with a drilling rig and drill bit. The conference touched on helium, hydrogen, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), as well as the usual oil and gas focus. There was also a panel on the “energy transition.”

One thing you heard over and over again at this year’s conference: “It sure is nice to be in person again.”

Premier Scott Moe, Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre and Regina Mayor Sandra Masters were among the dignitaries who spoke. Mitra Roustapisheh from IHS Markit spoke about greenhouse gas intensity of the Bakken. Other presentations included Whitecap Resources, Steel Reef Infrastructure, Federated Co-operatives Ltd, Enbrdige, Des Nedhe Groupe, SaskPower, First Nations Power Authority, Saskatchewan Water Security Agency, Saskatchewan Research Council, to name a few.

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The conference alternates between Bismarck, North Dakota, and Regina. In 2020, the Bismarck version was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has struck just weeks before the event was supposed to take place. The Americans took another run at it in 2021, holding it in person as well as online, at a time when there were essentially no live events being held in Canada. That led to the Saskatchewan event being shifted to 2022, several months after restrictions were lifted here. But the planning for a live event had to take place many months beforehand, in something of a leap of faith that it could actually go ahead.

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) hosted the event in co-operation with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey, part of the Ministry of Energy and Resources. Ranjith (“Ran”) Narayanasamy was appointed the new president and CEO of the PTRC in February. He said, “We have a little over 400 delegates here. And it’s an international conference, because a lot of people came from the United States, Alberta, Ontario, and all over the globe, actually.”

The booths were sold out, and a few had to be accommodated in the hallway at the Regina Delta convention centre.

Asked about being in-person again, Narayanasamy said, “The resiliency of the industry is phenomenal, especially as our energy industry is the best in the world. People work hard. And not only that, they are improving every year in terms of technology, efficiency, and the Canadian energy industry is one of the best. What we are seeing here is we are not looking just looking at only oil and gas. We are looking at hydrogen, lithium. We are looking at CCUS and also in oil and gas in general. If you look at it, we are really leading in the world, because every year when you come back to this conference, you are seeing some new technology improvements.”

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Regarding the DEEP and lithium presentations, and the interest in them, Narayanasamy said, “Saskatchewan is a world leader.

“Maybe we are way ahead of the game. Now people are catching up.”

As for the dramatic increase in interest, he said, “Why? Because we have been doing the work for many, many, many years. Now, it’s come to the fruition, because everybody’s looking at, ‘Oh, Saskatchewan is doing it. Look at it.’

“How come all of a sudden people are looking at it? That means we have been doing it for many years. We are not coming and presenting just on Day One, saying, ‘Hey, we know something.’ The works by Gavin and DEEP and everyone is done for many, many years.”

With the oil industry having come out of a seven-year downturn, he said, “I think the one main thing I’m seeing is people are very, very positive. Because I’m seeing a positive vibe in the room smiles and opportunities, and everybody’s ready. And also, after COVID, it’s a perfect setting, to kickstart that economic development with the face to face, and also having a human interactions and talking about what you do best.

“Saskatchewan is a world leader in the energy industry, and people are looking at us. So we are stepping up. And I think we will have a very bright economic in coming years for sure. I think our resilience in the oil and gas industry is very evident.”

Editor’s note: There is a lot to unpack from this conference, as many as 30 stories, maybe more. There will be a lot of depth, and a lot of opportunity, in those coming stories. And it’s going to take some time to do all that. Watch for it on PipelineOnline.ca.

 

  • 0037 TED_DEEP_30_
  • 0036 Prairie Lithium - Chad Glemser 30 Sec
  • 0035 TED - Whitecap
  • 0034 TED_NA Helium 2021
  • 0033 Buffalo Potash Jared Small Footprint
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0027 TED_NA Helium 2021_30
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
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