The NDP is raising concerns about privatization as SaskEnergy prepares to close the sale of its two remaining natural gas processing assets to a private company in Alberta.
As of Oct. 1, the Coleville plant and the fifty per cent share SaskEnergy owns in the Kisbey plant will be sold for a combined total of $31.3 million to Steel Reef – a Calgary-based natural gas and oil company.
NDP SaskEnergy critic Nicole Rancourt spoke outside the Regina SaskEnergy headquarters to raise questions about the sale.
“We know that the residents of Saskatchewan would be concerned about the sale of these gas plants and would want to have some questions answered with regards to why these gas plants were sold to an out-of-province corporation,” she said.
Rancourt added the NDP only found out about the sale through an Order in Council from the Minister and had very few details about the sale itself or the reason behind it.
“It does really concern us and we know that Saskatchewan residents really love their Crown Corporations, they know how important the Crown Corporations are to Saskatchewan in terms of employment and quality of services and they would want to know why these gas plants were sold,” Rancourt said.
Some of the additional questions posed to the Minister in a letter are to answer how much revenue was generated by the gas plants in the last 10 years and how much money was invested to maintain or upgrade them in that time.
Dave Burdeniuk is the director of government and media relations for SaskEnergy and explains the decision was made to focus more on the downstream specialty of delivery and service, rather than the midstream operation of actually processing natural gas.
“We’re a downstream company, that’s our expertise – we know how to ship gas in pipelines, we know how to deliver it to homes and businesses,” Burdeniuk explained. “A decision was made by SaskEnergy to say we want to focus on our core assets.”
He said the private sector already controls more than 30 gas processing plants in the province owned and the Kisbey and Coleville plants were the last two processing plants owned by the public sector.
“When we started the Coleville plant in 1959, there wasn’t a lot of gas processing available in Saskatchewan, now there’s gas processing plants everywhere,” Burdeniuk said. “So it’s not something we have a lot of expertise in so that’s why we made the decision to proceed with the sale.”
In answer to the NDP’s concerns about potential public sector job loss, Burdeniuk said there were no SaskEnergy employees working at the Kisbey plant. The Crown has negotiated with the new buyer and the union to ensure the jobs of eight SaskEnergy employees working at the Colleville plant will be protected.
In the next few years, he said the Crown plans to invest nearly $300 million dollars in capital projects to expand pipeline capacity and bringing more gas into the province. He pointed to two examples of a $50 million project underway in Regina and another $70 million project starting up in Saskatoon to increase capacity and to move major pipelines outside of the populated areas.