The AECO Hub™ natural gas storage operation is located in the province of Alberta, Canada, in the heart of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB).
The WCSB is the major hydrocarbon basin in Canada and one of the most important in North America in terms of gas production. It accounts for more than 95 percent of the gas production in Canada and for about 24 percent of North American gas production annually. WCSB production growth has leveled off in recent years, and the basin enjoys unconstrained access to most major N. American markets including the U.S. Northeast, Chicago and the Midwest, California and the PNW, and all Canadian markets except the Maritimes.
The two gas storage facilities that comprise the AECO Hub™ are in separate southern Alberta locations and both are connected to the TransCanada Pipelines Alberta System, commonly still referred to as the “Nova” system. Click here (PDF, 101KB) for a map of the AECO Hub™ with respect to surrounding pipelines. As further described in the AECO Hub™ overview section, Nova’s transportation toll design enables the two facilities to be operated as one integrated commercial operation, and for customers to access storage and a very liquid marketplace without incurring incremental transportation costs.
Yet each of the locations has unique aspects and contributes strategically to the value of the AECO Hub™.
AECO Suffield is located in southeastern Alberta near Medicine Hat and close to the Nova system’s ‘eastern gate’, where gas is delivered into TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline and the Foothills/Northern Border Pipeline systems. This is by far the biggest delivery point for Alberta gas. Storage withdrawals are hydraulically very valuable at this location, and provide security for downstream markets in the event of an upstream constraint or outage.
The AECO Suffield storage reservoirs are situated entirely underneath an active military range, Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield. Due to firing of live artillery in a large portion of the military range, the wells are buried in underground well-head caissons. The basic design consists of steel grating over an inverted steel culvert with a plywood cover to keep out sand, snow and wildlife. The design required that they could withstand the load of a 60 ton tank and all but a direct artillery hit.
As prior owner Alberta Energy Company (AEC) developed gas production on the Suffield range, treating and metering facilities, including connections to the Nova system, were constructed at various locations around the edge of the Suffield block, so as to minimize facilities in the ‘line of fire’. The mnemonic code that Nova used to identify these meter stations incorporated a short form of the company name and a series of letters for the different meter stations. The reservoirs developed for storage were closest to the AECO ‘C’ meter station, and the storage surface facilities were developed there. When Suffield was the only facility, we called our business the AECO C Hub. Industry still commonly refers to the trading and pricing point for Alberta gas as ‘AECO C’. Recognizing that we now employ multiple facilities, we have since simplified the name to just AECO Hub™.
Suffield has been used for gas storage since 1988, and in commercial storage service since the early 1990’s.
AECO Hub™ – Suffield Area Map (PDF, 409KB)
The AECO Countess gas storage facility is the most recent addition to the AECO Hub™. Located in southcentral Alberta, south of Drumheller, it is a highly versatile facility in a location that can benefit from both injection and withdrawal flexibility.
Gas storage operations commenced at Countess in 2003. The associated TransCanada meter station is called Chancellor. Niska is able to allocate customer nominations received at Suffield to the Countess Facility.
The Countess facility is situated within a sparsely inhabited rural area. This gas storage facility consists of two high performance gas storage reservoirs connected to a central processing and compression facility. The two storage reservoirs, the Bow Island N Pool and the Upper Mannville M5M Pool, have been developed using horizontal wells, drilled from central pad locations. Each of the reservoirs is tied into the plant via its own pipeline gathering system. The adjacent TransCanada mainline supplies injection gas and receives gas from the facility during withdrawal.
The capacity at Countess continues to be enhanced through a phased approach to delta pressuring each reservoir. Delta Pressuring refers to operating a reservoir at pressures higher than the native discovery pressure, in order to store greater quantities and achieve higher withdrawal rates. The rock bounding the reservoir must first be confirmed to be able to withstand the higher pressures.
AECO Hub™ – Countess Area Map (PDF, 350KB)