Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online
SASKATOON – In an affirmation of Murphy’s Law, where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst time, the Saskatchewan Industrial & Mining Suppliers Association (SIMSA) Energy Forum had a tough go. Yet despite all the challenges, they were able to pull off a successful conference on Oct. 6.
Up until two weeks before the event, the intention was for it to be held in person, in Regina, according to executive director Eric Anderson on Oct. 7. The October 2020 event had previously been moved to online in February 2021, due to COVID-19. This event was supposed to be the big one. Formerly called the SIMSA Oil and Gas Supply Chain Forum, in recent years the October event has become one of the go-to conferences in the Saskatchewan energy industry.
The renaming has also allowed SIMSA to broaden its horizons, including other subjects that use oil and gas services, but aren’t producing hydrocarbons. That included helium, lithium and geothermal power. At the last minute, they were able to include Paper Excellence, which will be rejuvenating the Prince Albert pulp mill, and providing power to the grid while they do it.
But getting those presentations before the eyes of the 161 attendees proved to be a challenge. “I used every backup I had put in place,” Anderson said. “It was funny, the only backup I didn’t use was power outages. We had to use backup email, backup network, backup phones, we had to switch presenters. I had to run presentations because people couldn’t get their systems to work. Everything possible than could go wrong, kind of did.”
And yet the presenters were successful in getting their messages across. And that overall message was there’s a lot of diverse activity happening in the energy sector. Presenters included TC Energy, Crescent Point Energy Crop, Deep Earth Energy Production, Royal Helium, Prairie Lithium, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources and Ministry of Trade and Export Development, the Saskatchewan Research Council and the aforementioned Paper Excellence.
That last-minute addition one might not think is energy related, but it turns out, very much so.
Paper Excellence is going to be producing 50 to 60 megawatts of power, and using 30 to 35, by incinerating biomass. Anderson said Paper Excellence opened up a whole other sector to the suppliers, which is great.
“It’s also a lot of the same suppliers, which is why they were there.”
In the weeks before the event, Anderson noted the vaccine passports had started to become a reality, and COVID-19 case numbers were growing. “And then what happened was that the major resource companies, they started pulling back on the ability of their members of their staff to travel. And when they don’t allow their staff to travel, we can’t have an event.”
That necessitated the move to a virtual format.
“So with when those guys start pulling back on their accessibility other staff, well then, it quickly becomes evident that, you know what, doing this in person will not be a good idea because if they’re not there, it’s kind of a glaring hole.”
“It’s not possible without the graciousness of those resource companies,” Anderson said of the energy forum.
“Think about the amount of time and people I’ve put together, and their schedules, for them to do that event, to support the local supply chain, and help the local supply chain; that’s a huge piece, on their behalf.”
Things are looking up
Oil prices are on the rise, as are potash prices. Anderson said, “The supply chain is getting busy, and it’s going to get busier. It’s the way it’s going. Some are already busy, some aren’t, but they’re all heading in that direction.”
The rising price of oil is a net plus for Saskatchewan, as an exporter of oil. It may hurt at the pump, “but it sure does help the province.”
For historical context, the era of US$100 oil saw oil royalties make up roughly 20 per cent of provincial revenues.
As for the energy forum next October, he said, “If we’re not in-person by next year, there will be bigger problems.
“Our mining event, in December, is still planned to be in person. Now the rule for that is you have to be vaccinated, period, there’s no option to have a negative test. That’ll have a trade show and everything.
“That’s coming because that’s what the mining companies want for them to attend,” he said, noting they have to follow the mining companies’ lead.
Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, Pipeline Online will be carrying stories covering most of the presentations that took place at the SIMSA Energy Forum.