UNITY — Twenty-five years ago, Canadian Crude Separators purchased two spent salt caverns east of Unity from Sifto Canada Inc. (now Compass Minerals Canada Inc.). Current owner of the caverns, Secure Energy held an open house Sept. 22 to celebrate the caverns’ 25 years of operation. The first load of oil field waste was accepted at the facility exactly 25 years prior, Sept. 22, 1997.
An invitation to an open house and lunch was extended to the community at large and approximately 75 people, including two representatives from the Calgary head office, came out to help celebrate the anniversary. Original CCS manager Dale Fittes also attended.
CCS became Tervita through an official name change in 2012, and Tervita was purchased by Secure Energy July 2, 2021.
Guided tours to the main above ground components were provided through the day. Locally purchased coffee and doughnuts were served in the morning, and a full lunch was available over the noon hour.
The underground caverns, the top of which are 3,600 feet below the surface, are considered a safe and secure way to store oilfield and industrial waste as salt makes an effective barrier against leaching. By 2015, 18 years from start-up, the first cavern was completely filled. Manager Tyler Fittes said it is still periodically monitored for leakage but, because there are a lot of solids, it is stable.
The second cavern has been in use for 22 years, with a start date in 2000 but it is a much larger space – comprised of not one but three former salt brine wells. It continues to receive waste today.
In 1997, CCS was handling 15 to 20 trucks a day. Today that number has doubled to roughly 35 to 40 trucks a day.
The company works to be environmentally responsible. In 2016, under the leadership of Tervita, a vapour recovery system and incinerator were added. All pipelines on site are physically checked every six hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Use of the exhausted brine wells is a win-win scenario, according to John Gottschalk, former salt plant manager. Gottschalk was part of the original team that negotiated the sale of the caverns to CCS. At the anniversary event, he pointed out not only does Secure Energy’s use of the caverns for oilfield waste solve an environmental problem but Unity and area gained a number of good paying jobs and the RM of Round Valley increased its tax base.
Secure Energy employs 11 people locally: manager Fittes, an operations supervisor, an administrative person and eight operators. They had been down to four operators but are in the process of hiring and training to increase that number.
Cliff Fiest and Allan LaCoursiere started working for Canadian Crude Separators 20 years ago and remain on the job with Secure Energy. Chris Moscrip has been employed on site for 19 years.
Among its many facilities throughout Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, Secure Energy operates an oil terminal and pipeline system southeast of Kerrobert.