Group calls for moratorium on fracking
Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 06:00 am
The Alberta Surface Rights Group is calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracking after an incident that took place near Innisfail in mid-January.
“Let’s put a stop to it and do the research,” said Don Bester, the president of the group and the author of a letter that he said was sent to every MLA in the province calling for a moratorium.
The well blowout occurred on Jan. 13 near Glennifer Lake, about 25 kilometres west of Innisfail and half a kilometre southwest of where the Red Deer River flows into the lake.
The blowout was caused after a hydraulic multi-stage frac being operated by Midway Energy Ltd. impacted a well operated by Wildstream Exploration Ltd., said the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). The situation caused a release of fracturing fluids, including crude oil, frac oil, water and sand.
ERCB communications officer Cara Tobin said the site was mostly cleaned up by Jan. 18 when she was contacted and there was minimal environmental impact.
Bester said it was his group the landowner contacted to report the incident and questioned what could have happened if it hadn’t been daylight.
“That thing could have blown oil all night,” he said.
The group is concerned about hydraulic fracturing because of fears it could impact groundwater aquifers or result in the release of high hydrogen sulfide, also known as sour gas.
“There’s going to be a worse scenario. They’ll blow out a sour gas well,” he said.
Bester, who was a reservoir engineer for 25 years, said hydraulic fracking is a concern because of the pressure.
“It’s too much pressure being used in those horizontal wells,” he said. The potential for hydraulic frac wells to interact with other wells, he added, “is high.”
While Bester sent the letter to every MLA in the province, he said he doesn’t expect a response or a positive response to the group’s call for a moratorium.
“We don’t expect an answer back,” he said. “You’ll never see a moratorium in the province of Alberta.”
Bester said the government officials have been “warned it’s going to be on their shoulders” if a major incident happens.
He suggested that Alberta follow in the footsteps of Quebec, where a two-year moratorium was called to allow for study, or other countries where moratoriums have been called.
The letter was addressed to the energy minister, the health minister, the human services minister and the chairman of the ERCB.
Howard May, a spokesperson from the health ministry, said they would let the energy department respond.
Barrie Harrison, a spokesperson for Alberta Human Services, said nothing had been received yet that requested a response.
Tobin of the ERCB said a response would come from the government.
Bob McManus of Alberta Energy said they had no requests for responses from Bester.
McManus said there have been only four other incidents with hydraulic fracs over the years out of more than 160,000 wells. He said there’s been no indication groundwater has been affected by hydraulic fracking.
“No, we’re not looking for a moratorium,” he said. He noted the investigation into the blowout near Glennifer Lake is not complete so it’s not conclusive it was caused because of the hydraulic frac.
The ERCB is also not looking for a moratorium as suggested by Bester.
“A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is not being considered. The ERCB is confident that Alberta's regulatory requirements ensure safe hydraulic fracturing operations. The ERCB continuously monitors the overall effectiveness of current requirements and will update those requirements as necessary to ensure Alberta's resources are developed in a manner that is safe, responsible, and in the public interest,” said Tobin in an email.
Tobin did share an ERCB appendix that details the other four incidents that have been related to hydraulic frac wells interacting with other nearby wells.
On Sept. 24, 2011 a well owned by Bonterra Energy Ltd., located 30 kilometres east of Drayton Valley, impacted on a well owned by Sword Energy, resulting in the release of about eight cubic metres of nitrogen, foam and water.
On March 17, 2011, a well owned by Yangarra Resources impacted on a well owned by the same company on a site 16 kilometres north of Rocky Mountain House. About 2.3 cubic metres of nitrogen, foam and water were released.
Another incident near Rocky Mountain House occurred on Dec. 9, 2010, at a site 38 kilometres northwest of the town. Two wells owned by Bellatrix Exploration interacted but the incident resulted in no liquid spill.
The earliest incident indicated by the ERCB was on Oct. 19, 2009, at a site 75 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie. Both wells were owned by Talisman Energy and less than one cubic metre of emulsified carbon dioxide was released.
The ERCB said the investigation into the Glennifer Lake incident is ongoing.