Certarus delivering compressed natural gas
Permanent compression hub near Timmins to serve northeastern Ontario mines
Certarus, a Calgary-based supplier of compressed natural gas, has started trucking fuel to its first Northern Ontario customer, Kirkland Lake Gold’s Taylor Mine, 64 kilometres east of the CNG supplier’s current temporary compression hub in Timmins.
The company has also signed contracts for the delivery of CNG to two other customers: Imerys Talc’s operation on the way to Folyet, west of Timmins, and a northeastern Ontario gold mine currently in development.
The Taylor Mine is burning approximately 500 gigajoules or 17,000 to 18,000 propane equivalent litres of gas per day in two natural gas generators.
“They’re having capacity issues, so they want to run on the gensets as much as possible,” said Stephane Gallant, Certarus manager of business development for Ontario and Quebec. “It makes sense because you can save a lot of money if you can avoid buying electricity during peak periods.”
Certarus has four trailers with CNG at the mine, each of which has a capacity of 365 gigajoules or approximately 14,000 litres of propane equivalent.
“We don’t offload because our gas is compressed and we would need to recompress it on site, so we leave the trailers there,” said Gallant. “We haul at 3,800 psi and nobody can take that, so we connect to our pressure reduction unit, which decompresses and heats the gas. All of our trailers on site are connected to the pressure reduction unit, allowing us to easily disconnect and pull them out.”
Imerys Talc’s operation, 70 kilometres west of Timmins, will use a little more than a truckload of CNG per day to dry their powder, replacing propane for considerable savings.
Certarus is banking on interest from mines currently using propane to heat underground air in winter.
“Generally, a mine heating underground air using propane burns three million litres per year. Most mines don’t tell us what they’re paying for propane, but we have a pretty good indication that the best price is around 42 cents per litre,”
said Gallant. “Depending on the distance we have to travel, we can usually sell CNG for 34 cents per propane equivalent litre.
“That’s significant, but most mines are not lucky enough to be paying 42 cents. We’ve talked to mines that are paying 60 cents and more, so when you go from 60 cents to 34 cents, that makes a significant impact on their bottom line.”
CNG, added Gallant, can also save money for anyone using diesel.
“We’re working with portable asphalt plants, for example. Their cost for diesel is around $1.05 per litre. When we do the conversion, we can sell CNG for between 65 and 70 cents per diesel equivalent litre, so it makes a big difference. On top of the saving, natural gas is also 30 per cent cleaner than diesel, so it reduces maintenance costs on your bag houses and burners.”
A permanent compression hub, currently under construction 30 kilometres east of Timmins, will be able to serve clients within a three to four-hour driving range, and there are plans for a second Northern Ontario hub in Red Rock, 110 kilometres east of Thunder Bay.
The best prospects for Certarus are mines not served by natural gas pipelines and burning propane to heat underground air. That includes operations on the north shore of Lake Superior, North American Palladium’s Lac des Iles Mine, the Wesdome and Alamos Gold mines near Wawa, Pan American Silver’s Timmins West Mine and the Young Davidson Mine in Matachewan.
Mines served by natural gas pipelines that want to do power generation on site and don’t have enough gas pressure to handle it are also potential customers.
“We’ve spoken with 80 per cent of the potential clients in Northern Ontario, so we’re building those relationships,” said Gallant. “CNG has been around for 20 years, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with it.”
Potential customers have been reluctant to convert to CNG in the middle of heating season, but Gallant is optimistic about more mines coming onboard as the weather warms up.
“The earlier they make a decision, the better because we need to get Technical and Safety Standard Association approval for each setup.
Certarus was founded in 2012 and started with three CNG trailers. Today, it operates approximately 355 trailers from temporary and permanent hubs across North America.
The Timmins hub is its first in Ontario.