A Calgary oil and gas producer is making strides in cleaning up some of Turner Valley’s residual oilfield activity.
Crescent Point Energy started work on abandoning gas wells last fall. The company completed work at a well near the Woodstock Hotel last month and recently began abandonment work at a sour gas well northeast of the town limits on undeveloped industrial land. The company expects to be complete in three months.
David Gowland, manager of government and stakeholder relations with Crescent Point, said the company owns eight gas wells in Turner Valley since acquiring Legacy Oil and Gas in 2015.
“We looked at some of the wells that are in town and are uneasy having wells with such close proximity to municipal structures,” he said. “We made the decision to be proactive and manage any risks. We decided to retire some of these aging wells.”
Gowland said well abandonment is a clean-slate approach to Crescent Point managing infrastructure in and around its communities.
“In some cases these wells are very economic and have several years or decades of life to them,” he said. “We thought it would be the most prudent approach to retire them safely and responsibly.”
With the exception of the two wells listed above, Gowland said there are other potential wells the company is looking to abandon, but no firm plans have been made.
For the well near the Woodstock Hotel, Gowland said Crescent Point took its time to obtain information about the well – including how it was designed, flow rates and dangers it could pose – and developed an emergency response plan before work began.
“We really did a detailed analysis and worked very closely with the AER (Alberta Energy Regular),” he said. “We put in plugs at several different intervals and tested each of those to very high pressure to make sure nothing would flow. All of these wells are very low pressure so they never pose much of an issue. Regardless, we still want to make sure that we are doing everything with the highest safety in mind.”
Crescent Point has yet to conduct an environmental assessment to determine what kind of reclamation needs to be done to return the ground to its pre-disturbance state at that site, said Gowland.
If there is contamination of hydrocarbons or other harmful substances, the soil will be excavated and hauled to a treatment facility and clean fill will be brought in, he said.
Gowland said abandoning gas wells is becoming a common practice across Alberta.
“As the communities have grown and urban populations have grown we now find some of these legacy infrastructure projects are now in the midst of dwellings and businesses,” he said. “It’s a proactive approach. Let’s get some of these wells in direct proximity to these buildings out of the way.”
Some wells in Turner Valley date back to the 1920s and ’30s, said Gowland, and were built to different standards than what’s considered acceptable today.
Some are still flowing, albeit in small volumes, but at safe levels, he said.
Crescent Point has notified home and business owners within a 100-metre radius of the well, which is much larger than the 40 metres as required by the AER, Gowland said.
“We went with 100 just to be on the safe side so everyone felt informed and it didn’t come as a surprise to any of those local residents,” he said. “We communicate to business and land-owners that there might be a slight disturbance with traffic and noise.”
In addition to abandoning wells, Crescent Point has also focused on underground pipelines in Turner Valley, said Gowland.
River crossing upgrades were done in 2015 where Crescent Point amalgamated some pipelines into a conduit line to serve as a double wall protection, he said. Gowland said the company cleared the pipeline of hydrocarbons and filled it with inert gas to maintain the pressure and prevent cave-ins.
Heather Thomson, Turner Valley interim chief administrative officer, said she is glad to see Crescent Point taking this initiative in the town.
“It’s a really positive step for Crescent Point to be moving forward and taking care of these old abandoned wells and pipelines,” she said. “They are really paying attention to our community and being good environmental stewards.”
Thomson said it eliminates risks that go along with having sour gas wells, like the one northeast of the property line.
“Once they are done and gone it will make it easier for us to develop some of the lands, but mostly it’s eliminating the risks that come with sour gas and protecting the residents of Turner Valley,” she said.