Alberta: Leak at Remote Gas Well : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Ottawa Citizen

Petro-Canada crews hoping to stop leak at remote gas well in northern Alberta

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. (CP) - Crews planned to begin working Wednesday to contain fluid leaking from a capped natural gas well in remote northwestern Alberta.

The leak in the 33-year-old Petro-Canada well, 450 km north of Grande Prairie, was spotted from the air by Alberta Environment officials late Monday. Petro-Canada believes the leaking fluid, which has pooled in an area 600 metres by 100 metres, is mainly salt water with minimal liquid gas residue.

The company had initially thought the leaked fluid covered an area more than twice as big, but was able to get a more accurate estimate late Tuesday.

Chris Dawson, a Petro-Canada spokesman, said the company visited the site late Tuesday to discover the situation wasn't as serious as first thought.

He said the well is leaking mainly just water containing low levels of salt which should have only a negligible impact on the environment.

"With salt concentrations of that level - one tenth the salinity of seawater, there would be minimal, if any, damage to vegetation," he said. "Right now it looks like the best course of action could be to let it evaporate."

He called the leak "an extremely uncommon occurrence."

Petro-Canada also determined there were very low levels of potentially lethal hydrogen sulphide being released into the atmosphere from the leak, but not enough to pose a risk to crews at the site.

The area where the spill occurred, 60 km west of Zama Lake, Alta., is flat, marshy land with scrub trees, but crews have found a winter road that will allow them to get into the site.

The company initially thought it would have to fly in crews and equipment by helicopter, Dawson said.

Officials at Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board said the exploratory well was drilled in 1968, but production was suspended in 1995 and it was capped.

Brian Olson, who heads the board's Grande Prairie office, said there doesn't appear to be an immediate danger of the spill spreading because no streams or rivers flow near the well site.

The spill is another headache for Petro-Canada, which is currently dealing with a labour dispute at its refineries in Edmonton and Ontario. About 240 workers in Edmonton are on strike with about 400 more at Petro-Canada refineries in Ontario.

-- Rachel Gibson (, April 11, 2001

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