Vancouver, FortisBC to co-operate on energy efficiency

Despite the City of Vancouver’s war on natural gas, the city and FortisBC, B.C.’s natural gas utility, have reached an agreement to work together on projects that will reduce Vancouver’s carbon footprint.

The city and FortisBC announced November 24 that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a number projects, including incentives to switch city vehicles from diesel and gasoline to cleaner burning natural gas.

“By working together, we’re finding solutions whereby we can get more efficient appliances in, reduce emissions, create pathways for things like renewable natural gas and natural gas vehicles,” said Jason Wolfe, director of energy solutions for FortisBC.

The city’s Renewable City Strategy aims to phase out natural gas, which has caused FortisBC and other businesses some concern. Only RNG would be acceptable in new developments.

The problem is that, at present, RNG is nearly non-existent. It makes up less than half of 1% of the natural gas supply in B.C.

Currently, some of the methane that is captured at the Vancouver landfill is used to generate electricity. But 40% of it is still flared. FortisBC has agreed to invest in a new system that will use that wasted resource, clean it up and inject it into the gas stream as RNG.

Even then, however, the amount of RNG FortisBC will be able to supply will still be less than 1% of the total available natural gas supply in B.C.

“We’re looking at a number of other opportunities as well,” Wolfe said. “We’ll keep adding to that number.”

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GVBOT enters partnership with BC government to boost exporting

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) has entered into a partnership worth $2.5 million with the provincial government intended to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) increase their export capacity, with a specific focus on Asia.

“Our role is to seize the opportunity afforded to us as Canada’s only Pacific province, to fulfill our exporting potentiahong_kong_container_terminal_credit_pelikh_alexey__shutterstock_inc.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscalel by looking to Asia and the other markets accessible to us through Canada’s Asia Pacific gateway and by counting on our vibrant SME community.”

The plan includes initiatives to partner industry with government and business experts to help build their international trade capacity. As well, it specifically looks at the export potential of First Nations-owned businesses.

“One in five British Columbian jobs is tied to exporting, and there exists a direct linkage between exporting, job creation and increased productivity, said GVBOT CEO Iain Black.

“By investing in these programs, businesses in Greater Vancouver and across the province will benefit.”

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Coast Guard hiring for 150 positions in BC, 500 across Canada

The Canadian Coast Guard has announced it is looking to fill 150 positions in B.C. to staff new lifeboat stations, ships and infrastructure projects.

The federal agency is looking to add 500 positions across Canada. While that will not reverse the cuts made under the previous Harper government, it will allow a quicker response to environmental emergencies and search-and-rescue missions, said David Heap, regional director for the coast guard’s integrated business management services.

Some of the new positions on the West Coast will be tied to four new lifeboat stations and several new vessels, part of the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan announced in November.

The locations of the stations have not been announced, but they will help fill in “some of the blanks that we’ve currently got up and down the coast,” Heap said.

Port Hardy will also get more resources to beef up the coast guard’s environmental-response capacity along northern Vancouver Island and the central coast.

The federal agency is hosting job fairs and looking to hire mariners, navigators, marine engineers and environmental response personnel, as well as technicians and engineers to work on infrastructure such as radar sites.coast

“Everything from electronic engineers who know about microwaves and radar and how they work to labourers that are going out on the work crews to help set up some of the shore-side facilities,” Heap said.

Heap said none of the 500 positions will replace retiring workers. Upward of 20 per cent of the coast guard’s 4,500 employees could soon be retiring, he said.

“We have the same [aging] demographics as other industries, meaning there’s a lot of people looking to retire in the next five to 10 years,” Heap said.

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Telus investment promises to expand horizons for businesses in rural B.C.

Increased investment in wireless phone and high-speed Internet infrastructure in northern British Columbia is a welcomed change for local businesses.

“I wouldn’t say it affects my business so much as it enables my business,” said Steve Tory, founder and CEO of Dino High Tech Solutions, an IT and marketing company based out of Tumbler Ridge.

Telus has committed to investing $4.5 billion through 2019 across the province. Some of the investment will be used to extend fibre optic infrastructure directly to homes and businesses. The new infrastructure will help increase Internet access and connectivity in the more rural areas of British Columbia’s north.

As part of a strategic partnership with the province, Telus has also invested $1 million to develop wireless access along Highway 29 between Hudson’s Hope and the Highway 97 junction. The investment brought wireless service to the Moberly Lake community located near Chetwynd, which is 100 kilometres north of Tumbler Ridge.1426-telecomsnorth-226031854.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

Naomi Larsen, executive director of the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, said the area’s First Nations communities and businesses have greatly benefited from the wireless connection along Highway 29, which has given them access to wireless services for the first time. That access can create opportunities that small and local business never had before, as it did for Tory.

Tumbler Ridge is a small town of just over 2,500 people located near the northern Alberta border. It was recently the beneficiary of a similar infrastructure investment that helped connect the region to the 21st century. Before the upgrade, Tumbler Ridge citizens and businesses relied on outdated technology to connect them to the rest of the world. For Tory, access to a high-speed Internet connection meant that he could leave his job in the oil and gas sector and explore entrepreneurial opportunities. He said that without high-speed Internet he wouldn’t have dreamed of opening a tech business in northern B.C.

Broader Internet access not only helps Tory find customers locally but also allows him to compete internationally. While he would like to see more money invested in tech infrastructure in the north, Tory said the region is ahead of the curve, particularly when compared with rural areas in the U.S.

“It really did make a dramatic difference to the community,” said Donna Merry, former secretary for the Tumbler Ridge Chamber of Commerce. “Small businesses now have access to the technology that they need to do their business. This was not always the case.”

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Compass 2.0 project aims to expand services for transit users

TransLink wants to raise all-time-high transit ridership even higher in Metro Vancouver with new projects and modifications to its Compass card fare system.

Long-sought major projects, such as the Millennium Line extension underneath Broadway to Arbutus Street and light-rail transit in Surrey, are high on the agenda for Metro Vancouver’s transit authority.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, however, told Business in Vancouver January 26 that other initiatives are afoot to try to get more Compass cards into the hands of Vancouverites and to make the transit system more accessible for tourists. He calls this project Compass 2.0.

“It’s possible, maybe by the end of this year or the following year, that we will have open payment on Compass, where you’re able to just tap a credit card and go though [fare gates],” Desmond said.

Other aspects of Compass 2.0 include possibly linking a Mobi by Shaw Go bike-share membership to the Compass cards or linking pre-paid BC Ferries fares onto the cards, Desmond said.

Desmond hailed the Compass card system as a success in part because TransLink counted 384.83 million separate boardings on SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express and Coast Mountain Bus Co., combined, in 2016.
He said that figure was 4.5% higher than in 2015 – though different counting methods were in place before Compass cards were introduced to the public in December 2015, and TransLink closed SkyTrain station gates starting in April.

Now, more than 95% of all TransLink transactions take place using the blue plastic cards.

More than one million Compass cards are in use, which means that more than 40% of people in the region have one, Desmond added.

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Security sector booms but hiring remains an issue

The security industry is growing so rapidly that the sector faces huge hurdles in hiring and retaining enough employees, industry insiders say.

Dan Popowich, CEO of security firm Commissionaires BC, said multiple industries including airports, local governments, pipelines, universities, construction and non-core policing are all hiring more security – and have been for the past few years.

Popowich said finding good employees remains a challenge for outfits such as Commissionaires BC, which is run as a not-for-profit with 2,100 employees in B.C. and annual revenue of $50 million.

“It’s always a burden because the pay is not that great,” he said.

Popowich said the biggest hurdle is finding employees who have training in technology. He said a large part of the job now involves managing security camera footage, engaging in electronic reporting and using devices like iPads. Popowich said there are still basic security jobs, such as watching over construction sites, that do not require as much training, but those jobs are dwindling.1422-security-list-story-dan-popowich-web.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

Popowich said a lot of companies are not willing to pay more when it comes to security contracts, which pushes the industry into a catch-22.

“If we can obviously pay more, then it would attract a different type of person,” he said. “The other thing is if we could charge more, then we could provide more training to our officers.”

Paul Stanley, who runs the security consultancy TSC Consulting and holds a master’s degree in risk management, was part of BC Hydro’s corporate security team for nine years. He said wages for security guards are on par with the fast-food industry, which doesn’t reflect the amount of responsibility taken on by security personnel, especially with increasing regulation and rising training standards.

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TransLink beginning public consultations for new projects

Public consultations for the extension of the Millennium Line along Broadway and the building of a Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail transit line will begin next week, TransLink announced January 17.

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Consultations begin January 24 for the Surrey project and January 28 for the Broadway extension.

The Surrey project will see 10 km of street-oriented LRT track built along King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue and will connect Surrey City Centre, Newton Centre and Guildford Town Centre with a total of 11 stops. This project will take three to five years, TransLink said. The next phase of the project will include building 16 km of track connecting the Surrey line to Langley Centre.

The Broadway project will be an extension of the existing Millennium Line SkyTrain from VCC-Clark to a new station at Arbutus Street, which will be underground beneath the Broadway Corridor. Five more underground stations will be built.

TransLink also announced it is increasing SkyTrain and SeaBus services.

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2017 shaping up to be a pivotal year for the energy sector

Hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to start flowing into B.C. in 2017 in the form of energy infrastructure investments, from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish to natural gas wells, pipelines and processing plants in northeastern B.C.

While there is still uncertainty around major liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, some are hopeful a recovery in oil and natural gas prices will improve the chances of at least one major project getting a final investment decision in 2017.

In February 2016, oil prices bottomed out below US$30 per barrel, after an 18-month fall from US$100 per barrel. Natural gas prices fell below US$2 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2015, but by the end of 2016 they had climbed to nearly US$3.50 per MMBtu.townsend-gas-plant.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

Both oil and gas prices are moving back up, thanks to a cold winter and agreements by key oil-producing nations to cut oil production by about 1.7 million barrels per day.

“The outlook is definitely that both oil and gas are going to gain in 2017 on year-on-year average terms,” said Scotiabank Economics commodities analyst Rory Johnston.

Oil and gas companies are planning to ratchet up their drilling and investment in gas processing plants and pipelines in northeastern B.C. and northwest Alberta in 2017.

“In some ways, I think it’s going to be an incremental year,” said Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “We will see the rebound. Instead of reducing capital expenditure repeatedly, we will start to see a bit of a rebound.”

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New state-of-the-art grain terminal coming to the North Shore

A new leading edge grain terminal planned for the North Shore will be built on a 65-acre site leased from the Port of Vancouver, immediately west of the Second Narrows Bridge.

It will speed the shipment of Western Canadian grain using a novel approach to the way grain cars are handled and unloaded.

It will use a looped railway yard that will allow trains to move in and out of the terminal without having to uncouple cars. The terminal will also allow for larger bulk vessels, allowing more grain to move with fewer, but larger, ships. The terminal will be two-to-three times faster than other grain terminals.

g3-terminal.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscaleIn 2014, the logistical flaws in Canada’s movement of grain were highlighted when a severe bottleneck occurred, stalling grain ships in English Bay.

The bottleneck was the result of a bumper crop on the prairies in the fall of 2013, a severe winter that held up trains and a trucker’s strike at the Port of Vancouver. Farmers were stuck with operating debts; they couldn’t pay because they couldn’t get their grain to market.

Gerrand said a new terminal is needed because the amount of grain Western Canada is expected to export is growing.

The new terminal is already permitted by the Port of Vancouver. Construction is expected to begin in March 2017, with a completion date of June 2020. Once built, the new terminal will employ 50 people.

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Goldcorp plans to develop first all-electric mine

Vancouver-based mining company Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G; NYSE:GG) is causing a stir in the industry after announcing plans to develop an all-electric mine.

Located near Chapleau, Ontario, 160 kilometres west of the company’s Porcupine mine, the Borden mine site will be the future home of North America’s first fully electric mining operation.bordenmine-goldcorp.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

“Governments around the world are signing on to different agreements to reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions,” said Brent Bergeron, Goldcorp’s executive vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability. “What we are trying to do is say, ‘How can we, as a company, be leaders alongside government?’”

With the removal of diesel-powered equipment from underground mines, the need for ventilation is dramatically reduced and environments are far safer for industry workers.

Goldcorp stands to eliminate roughly 50% of total GHGs, or 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, at the Borden mine by going electric only. The implementation of clean technology will save three million litres of diesel fuel, one million litres of propane and 35,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year.

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