The State of the Hydroelectricity in Québec

With more than 32,660 megawatts in 2002, Québec is one of the largest hydroelectricity producer in the world. Thanks to the abundance of this hydroelectric resource, large active industries, particularly in the fields of aluminium, magnesium and pulp and paper have established themselves in Québec.

Energy has always played an important role in Québec’s economy. The widespread operation and development of hydraulic resources have helped in building unique know-how within Hydro-Québec and all the enterprises involved in the developments. A major industrial sector has developed around the hydroelectric network, including equipment manufacturers and large energy consumers, as well as engineering firms and a considerable number of specialized enterprises.

In addition, the Government of Québec favours the participation of private producers to operate hydraulic sites of 50 MW or less. It has implemented a new fair licensing system, that specifies private enterprise development conditions of these hydraulic forces within the government’s possession, and the conditions of sale of their electricity production to video xxx Hydro-Québec.

New and Renewable Energy

Québec also has an excellent wind energy potential, evaluated at over 2,000 MW. The operations began in 1998, with the establishment of an important complex for wind energy production in Gaspésie, which has proven to be the most significant in Canada with a nominal wattage of 100 MW.

Furthermore, the increasing concerns related to protecting the environment and the commitments to reduce greenhouse gases have resulted in new energy technologies. Among them, hydrogen as a fuel substitute for oil has sparked growing interest and become more and more likely to experience significant development over the next decade.

Some fifteen enterprises, Québec research centres and agencies are working in the hydrogen field. A research unit of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, the Hydrogen Research Institute (HRI) is the main research centre in Québec and one of the few centres in the world devoted entirely to this field. The Institute has conducted research on electrolysis, the storage of hydrogen and its safe use. The Institute has also worked on several technological development projects for Euro-Québec Hydro-Hydrogène, particularly on the demonstration of a hythane urban bus and the production and testing of a hydrogen-adapted turbine.

Beyond the Boundaries

The Department is active internationally in matters concerning energy. It maintains relations with various countries whose energy needs are increasing and Québec’s expertise is requested in the sectors related to various Energy Sources.

The Ministry has therefore reached cooperation agreements in the field of energy with the governments of several countries, including the United States and international agencies such as the European Union’s Joint Research Centre for the study of hydrogen, the Institut de l’énergie et de l’environnement de la Francophonie (IEPF), the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) and the International ethanol coalition. The know-how that Québec has acquired over the years on has allowed the province to form new alliances with governments in other countries and States, which has increased the Québec’s international presence.

A Renewed Interest in Gas and Oil Exploration

Québec has a promising potential in hydrocarbons that is waiting to be developed. In fact, sedimentary basins favourable to petroleum and natural gas research make up 13% of Québec’s territory, which covers an area of more than 200,000 km². Since 1990, various geological studies, as well as the discovery of petroleum and natural gas, have generated a renewed interest for exploration. Access to exploration zones is made possible by well-developed highway and railroad infrastructures.

Furthermore, Québec is interconnected with the United States through the gas pipelines Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS) and TransCanada PipeLines Ltd, through which significant volumes of natural gas flow to New England. The Québec refining industry also receives a large part of its power supply in crude oil from the Portland-Montreal pipeline. Québec refineries also export refined petroleum products regularly to the markets of New England. Finally, in addition to being an entry point of choice to American and European markets, Québec is proposing an advantageous fiscal framework that favours capital expenditures in gas and oil exploration on Québec territory.

Treating Produced Water by Imitating Natural Ecosystems

The problem and its opportunity

Produced water is salty wastewater that is brought to the surface during production of natural gas. Although the wastewater’s constituents occur naturally, they are considered contaminants and must be treated. Varying widely in concentration, these constituents include salt, organic compounds, and, in some cases, heavy metals and trace elements. A common disposal method is deep well injection; its cost depends on the volume of wastewater injected. What is needed is a simple treatment technique that reduces wastewater volume and removes contaminants.
Argonne scientists are investigating several plant-based approaches for treating the salty wastewater that is brought to that surface along with natural gas from gas wells.

Our approach

Argonne has developed a low-cost, low-tech method for cleaning up wastewater and reducing the volume of produced water. Based on phytoremediation, the method uses green plants in an engineered plant ecosystem modeled on natural wetland ecosystems. The “ideal” phytoremediation plant would be a large, vigorous, salt-tolerant grass or grasslike species having a large area of aboveground leaves and stems and a dense, fibrous root system to act as a biological filter.

Large, green plants can move copious amounts of water through their roots and into the plant body. This water is evaporated from the leaves as pure water vapor – a process called transpiration. When selected, adapted plants are grown in contaminated wastewater by hydroponic techniques, and the root system functions as a biological filter. Contaminants taken up along with the water are degraded, metabolized, and/or stored in the plant body. Transpiration is enhanced by maximizing the leaf/stem area of the plant. Contaminant concentrations in plants can become thousands of times higher than those in the wastewater. The contaminated plant biomass can be digested or burned to reduce its volume. The residue can be processed to recover the contaminant, if valuable, or disposed of in environmentally appropriate ways.

Phytoremediation offers several major advantages over competing physico-chemical technologies (e.g., ion exchange). One advantage is the ability of selected plant species to adsorb contaminant ions from an extremely broad range of concentrations. Another advantage is selectivity. Selected plants have the ability to adsorb the target contaminant while ignoring other ions in solution. Other important advantages of phytoremediation: It is low-cost and low-tech.

Status of the investigation

Promising processes and plant species that were identified during the literature review and database development phases have been evaluated in greenhouse experiments. Over 80 species have been screened for salt tolerance and high evapotranspiration rates. For six species, detailed experimental data have been generated on transpiration rates, salt tolerance, nutrient requirements, and maximum salt concentration at which effective transpiration occurs. Transpiration rates are consistently above open-water evaporation rates at a saline concentration of at least 2% salt in the nutrient solution. For several species, these high evapotranspiration rates have been maintained up to 6% salinity.

Future Plans

An experimental batch-processing bioreactor with two compartments will be assembled in 1995 to simulate planned pilot and field installations. Each downstream compartment will process wastewater of increasing salinity with different plant species. The goal is to reduce the volume of saline production wastewater by 75% in less than eight days.