Monday July 28, 2014

Something in the Air

Liquid nitrogen company opens new facility in Dawson Creek
William Stodalka Photo

Air Liquide Canada western basin manager Abraham Mathew tours the new liquid nitrogen plant in Dawson Creek along with BC Hydro employees.

A Montreal-based company unveiled a new facility to create liquid nitrogen for the oil and gas industry on Tuesday, Oct. 30 in Dawson Creek.

Air Liquide Canada, which provides nitrogen, hydrogen and rare gases to industrial businesses around the country, unveiled the unit at a news conference attended by company president Adam Peters, MLA Blair Lekstrom, and Mayor Mike Bernier.

While the plant, located along the dangerous good route in town, has been selling liquid nitrogen since last weekend, the occasion marked the grand opening of the facility.

The plant uses regular atmospheric air to produce liquid nitrogen. While the atmosphere has oxygen, a high percentage of the atmosphere is nitrogen, with some other rare gases mixed in.

“We basically take air in through compression, we purify the air, and then we run it through cryogenic distillation which takes the nitrogen out of the air,” said Air Liquide CEO Adam Peters. “Then we take the nitrogen and liquefy it.”

The unit, which cost approximately $60 million and took two years from start until now, will employ three full-time operators and 10 permanent employees.

The facility is currently in its first phase. In its first phase, the plant is expected to produce approximately 200 tons per day of liquid nitrogen. In its second phase scheduled to be completed by next September, that amount will increase to another 250 tons per day.

Peters said that it was too early to say how many of those tons they would sell over a year.  

In hydraulic fracturing, water is injected into fractured portions of the ground underneath, then recovered with natural gas inside.

Liquid nitrogen is commonly used in natural gas wells to enhance the recovery of natural gas, and Air Liquide Canada delivers this liquid nitrogen with their own specially fitted trucks.

Peters said that using liquid nitrogen in these wells can reduce water consumption by as much as 50 per cent.

“It reduces the need to process that water,” he said.

Air Liquide Canada Vice-President Pierre Drolet said that it is a “clean and sustainable” substance to help with recovery.

“We’re a responsible and very safety conscious company,” said Peters.

As well, using liquid nitrogen means less water and liquids can be used.

Drolet said that Air Liquide Canada choose to put this unit in Dawson Creek because his company considered it to be the “hub” of oil and gas activity in the area.

“What we really see in this area is put a production facility to support the oil and gas industry,” Peters added. “Having a production facility here closer to the customers and their immediate needs will greatly benefit the communities here.”

While not the first liquid nitrogen plant in the Dawson Creek area, it is the first such plant created by Air Liquide in B.C.

It is one of approximately eight major facilities that the company has across Canada.

Some oil well servicing companies have already expressed interest in the facility, added Peters.

Peters said that in addition to its current employees, many other contractors in the area would be employed to maintain it over the years.

Local government officials who attended the opening event were pleased by the project.

“Thank you on behalf of the entire province,” said MLA Blair Lekstrom.

“We look forward to working with you for decades to come,” said Mayor Mike Bernier.

“This is one of the single largest investments in the community in decades that we have,” he added.

Bernier said that another reason that he and council support the project is the effect it would have on the area’s water supply.

“[Another reason] why we’re really excited about this plant is to continually promote the idea of liquid nitrogen for fracking and lessen the amount of water used,” he said. “That’s important from a council perspective.”

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