Mining Saskatchewan's Energy


What is the Golden Plain project?

The Golden Plain Project is a solids-to-liquids oil shale project. Raw shale oil is recovered by heating mined and crushed shale. Saleable products are created by hydrotreating the raw oil, removing the Sulphur and metals it contains. The products manufactured will be ultra-low sulfur distillates (diesels), sweet naphtha and sweet VGO.  These ultra-low Sulphur products will earn a premium value to standard sweet crude oil (WTI).

Why has a major oil company not already developed this project?

The Golden Plain Project focuses on a geological formation that was discovered approximately 100 years ago. Most companies who drilled and/tested this resource found it was either too deep or the oil recovery was too low to generate an economic project.  They did not understand how to improve upon the low yields and turned their attention elsewhere.

Canshale was the first organization to look upon the resource as an attractive, surface mineable play.  We chose to look for the best lands in the area that could support the following key conditions: low mining costs, low development costs and large in scale. As there were no other explorers at the time (2010 to 2014), we were able to drill, test and optimize our land position over a period of years without any competition.  Canshale then proceeded to test and select commercial recovery methods and determine the economic viability of development.  We moved from “Is there a project here” to “What is the best project we can make here”.

What are the most important aspects that make the Golden Plain Project viable?

It’s the geology.

The Golden Plain Project has a large resource base sufficient to make it strategically important in a local, national and global context.  Although there are many large-scale oil shale deposits around the world, Canshale’s deposit succeeds in the most important category - Costs.  The low cost per tonne or cost per barrel, of our resource is exceptional. Very low moisture content lowers the energy required to retort the shale; low mining costs accommodate low grades; low utility costs provide for better input expenses; high petroleum gas generation creates low external energy needs; limited water use lowers many costly complications and the project’s large scale encourages the application of high capacity production systems in mining and processing which also lower per barrel expenses.

Oil shale retorting creates pollutants in the waste rock, how does Canshale account for this?

Canshale’s selected process doesn’t use combustion of the shale rock to generate heat and therefore, will not create the temperatures in which those particular pollutants are created. The process also allows for lower cooling requirements (less water), massive reductions in emissions (especially CO2) and higher oil yield. Canshale has tested the waste rock generated under process conditions and found it didn’t leach contaminants, was non-reactive and acted as an adsorbent (filter). We also completed plant growth studies and found no detrimental effects.

Oil shale mines use lots of water, yet Canshale claims to use little water.  How is this possible?

Many shale deposits around the world require water for cooling and dust control with lesser needs in oil production and processing. Canshale’s comparably low process temperature, coupled with our geographic location will allow the use of air cooling and the use of produced water (we produce a little water when the shale is heated) to chill the process and the waste rock. In addition, our shale has demonstrated that it’s competency increases after retorting and is therefore less likely to generate dust.

Oil shale retorting creates massive amounts of CO2, why does Canshale say this is not a problem for the Golden Plain Project?

The Golden Plain Project’s selected process does not combust the carbon on the shale for heat and therefore, does not create the substantial CO2 of other projects. The extraction process (retorting) for the Golden Plain Project will generate sufficient petroleum gas to be energy self-sufficient.  Combusting this gas offers a means to generate clean, capturable CO2 and is viable with today’s technologies. Carbon capture can become part of the process design with the project retaining its economic attractiveness whilst generating oil with a very low ‘carbon’ intensity.

Mine promoters always talk about economic impacts, how would this project affect Saskatchewan?

Canshale’s properties could support hundreds of thousands of barrels per day of production for many decades. Developed over the course of decades this would bring in tens of billions of dollars in capital investment and many times that in revenues.  The Province, as owner of the resource is entitled to royalties and taxes.   For example, a 100,000 barrel per day initial project would add about 10% to the Saskatchewan government’s revenues from royalties, corporate income, payroll and sales taxes.  The local community will see an influx of activities and economic growth, both during and after construction.

Mines create big dirty holes that someone else has to clean up.  What does Canshale intend to do to ensure the land is restored?

The Golden Plain Project will be a very simple mine, with no tailings ponds, which can be returned to agricultural use in less than five years.  In fact, as the shale rock will be returned to the pit immediately after processing, without the need for tailings, the logical progression of the mine is to not create ‘big dirty holes’ in the first place.

Emissions and odours from oil shale operations are high. Why does Canshale use the words ‘low emissions’ in its literature?

Canshale has the benefit of a ‘dry’ shale for processing, so there is no need for energy intensive dryers and their related emissions/odours. The retorting process will be a closed system to prevent outside air from entering or leaving the process.  This allows a controlled environment to process and treat the produced gases to meet or exceed the legislated targets.

Alberta’s oilsands have created many environmental controversies.  What is different about the Golden Plain project?

  • No tailings and associated tailings ponds
  • Limited water use
  • Mine reclamation “as we go”
  • Substantially smaller mining footprints
  • Located on farm land, not  virgin boreal forest
  • Controlled emissions and CO2 is capturable

Canadian oil cannot get to market.  Why is Canshale’s project different?

As Canshale produces light, sweet products, its transportation and market options are numerous. The Company benefits from onsite rail, enabling transport to tidewater for export, or to intra-North American markets.  Major product pipelines are accessible at Regina, requiring an in-province pipeline.  

The marine fuel, refining and chemical feedstock markets together with the immense North American transportation sector offer reliable, long term markets for Canshale.