Regulators allow Repsol to resume fracking after Alberta quake by Reuters, April 7, 2016, newsdaily
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Regulators have given Repsol Oil and Gas Canada the green light to resume hydraulic fracking at a remote well in Alberta nearly three months after the region was rocked by an earthquake linked to the fracking, the company said on Thursday.
The company, a unit of Spanish energy firm Repsol S.A., said in a statement that it had received Alberta Energy Regulator’s approval to conduct modified flowback operations with reduced rates of pressure at the well.
Repsol had suspended operations after a 4.8 magnitude quake on Jan. 12 occurred 18 km (11 miles) north of the town of Fox Creek. It was the largest earthquake in the area in more than a year.
The company was conducting hydraulic fracturing at the time at its site 30 km from Fox Creek. An investigation by the Alberta Energy Regulator concluded with “high confidence” that the quake had been caused by fracking, the regulatory agency’s spokesman Riley Bender said by telephone.
… The renewed work will begin after spring breakup, the period between April and July when the ground in Alberta thaws, and will last one to three weeks, Repsol said. Once flowback work is done the well pad will start producing oil and gas and Repsol has no further drilling or hydraulic fracturing planned this year, spokeswoman Berta Gomez said. [Emphasis added]
Alberta regulator allows fracking to resume after quake near Fox Creek by Gordon Kent, April 6, 2016, Edmonton Journal
The Alberta Energy Regulator has allowed Calgary-based Repsol Oil & Gas Canada to resume work on a well near Fox Creek almost three months after the area was shaken by a minor earthquake. [Minor? Felt 280 km away?]
A “seismic event” that registered 4.8 on the Richter scale was recorded Jan. 12 near where Repsol was doing hydraulic fracking, the regulator wrote in an April 4 letter to the company.
Repsol, which reported the incident as required, provided a plan the regulator accepted for modified fracking operations at the well.
The plan, which involves slowly clearing out fracturing fluids at a limited rate of pressure, is aimed at eliminating quakes or reducing them to less than magnitude 4.0. [BUT, refer below to what Repsol is planning]
The earthquake was triggered by fracking operations that changed stresses in faults in the deep Duvernay formation, the regulator explained in an email.
Since the shut-in, Repsol has reported eight additional quakes with magnitudes between 2.0 and 2.7. [Proving the AER’s traffic light system is a “failed experiment” like AEMERA. Repsol shut the frac down, but the frac quakes keep rolling in]
Any shaking greater than 4.0 on the Richter scale require operators to shut down and notify the regulator. Quakes between 2.0 and 4.0 don’t prompt a shutdown, but operators must still inform the regulator.
Repsol must meet with regulatory officials and discuss lessons learned from the event, including what seismic activity happened during and following the well’s long shut-in.
The presentation must also look at the effectiveness of controls used to prevent additional quakes, the significance of the two quakes greater than magnitude 4.0 associated with Repsol wells in the area, and whether geological conditions were a factor. [Preparing to blame nature for all frac-induced quakes in future, like the regulator does for every harm done by the fracing industry?]
No injury or damage was reported from the quake, but some residents in Fox Creek, about 30 kilometres east of the well, reported feeling it or seeing pictures shake on their walls. [And, so did residents 260 km away, in St. Albert. Is the Edmonton Journal covering for Repsol and the “No Duty of Care” legally immune even for gross negligence and acts in bad faith and Charter violations AER? If so, why?]
In an email statement, Repsol said it intends to do one to three weeks of work at the well this year following spring breakup, but isn’t planning any further drilling or fracking at the site this year.
[So, what is this AER “news” then? PR or synergy spin to calm the people at Fox Creek, St. Albert and Edmonton? Or is Repsol too shaken to resume? Or are the people of Fox Creek too shaken?]
The company said it shares information with industry, regulators and academics to better understand the link between fracking and seismic events.
Concerns about seismic activity in the region, 260 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, began in December 2014 when a series of 18 earthquakes between 2.7 and 3.7 in magnitude rumbled through the area.
In January 2015, several quakes were recorded between magnitudes of 2.4 and 4.4. [Emphasis added]
Earthquake & fracking are acceptable?
Below from the Mayor of Fox Creek, a town being shaken and sucked dry by the companies – a bit of a deterrent to local investment it seems:
2016 – “The Town of Fox Creek is again in the media spotlight, claiming the record for the largest seismic event in Alberta. This is definitely not the publicity that Fox Creek is looking for as we try to attract families and businesses to our Town.
We have been working with various government departments such as the AER to ensure that events such as this one do not happen in this area. We have been told by these government bodies that they have safe guards in place such as the traffic light system, but this does not seem to be working for us.
We have had water shortages due to the water levels in our aquifers. In 2015, we had to haul potable from surrounding communities just to supply drinking water to our residents at a cost in excess of $300,000.00 dollars, of which we were not assisted by industry or the provincial government.
Recently we had a huge well blow out, again it made the news, but Fox Creek residents were the last ones to be notified by AER. A year and a half ago, we had a whistle blower inform us that a drilling rig had completed an improper cement job on well and that may affect the drinking water of Fox Creek.
When we questioned those involved again the town was first told that it didnt happen as reported to us; and then that it did indeed happen but all was ok and they were sending inspectors out to investigate in a few days.
We have been working closely with Industry asking for information on their planned work activities in this area so that we are aware of what is happening and are able to respond to inquiries and keep our residents informed.
Fox Creek Town Council is very concerned, as it seems that Industry and the Provincial Government have been turning a blind eye as to what has been going on in our area. As mentioned earlier, we have met with AER and various Ministers to state our concerns.
We have industry pulling water from our rivers, streams and lakes at rates we feel far exceed their capabilities to replenish themselves, and we do not want to be left with swamps that were once prize trophy lakes, or have good flowing rivers become just a trickle.
… Our final project for 2016 will be to upgrade our water system at a cost of $15,000,000.00 dollars. This is to ensure we will have enough safe drinking water for our current residents and businesses and to supply the new ones that we are hoping will call Fox Creek home.
Having said this, as we read the paper we see yet another world record set for Fox Creek for the largest earth quake in Alberta, then only to be told by some of the people we have been working with, calling to say they are unsure if Fox Creek is the place for them.”
“In a statement, Repsol confirmed the seismic event and said the company was conducting hydraulic fracturing operations at the time it happened.
Jeffrey Gu, associate professor of geophysics at the University of Alberta, said the area surrounding Fox Creek has been experiencing a proliferation of quakes lately.
He estimates in the last six months there have been hundreds of quakes in the area ranging in magnitude from 2.0 to 3.0.
But it is not considered a risky area with such a low population, said Gu.”
And Canadian regulators wonder why they’re loathed and not trusted?
Varcoe: The battle to build public confidence in energy [regulators] by Chris Varcoe, April 7, 2016, Calgary Herald
Public confidence and trust are fragile things. Once broken, it’s hard to pick up the pieces.
This week brings two shining examples of authorities trying to bolster public confidence in Canada’s embattled system for energy oversight.
The National Energy Board announced Tuesday that pipeline companies will be required to make their emergency response plans public. On the same day, the province moved to bring the arm’s-length environmental monitoring of the oilsands back inside the Alberta government.
At the Calgary-based NEB, the agency ordered all federally regulated pipelines to post their emergency procedure manuals online by the end of September.
Sensitive data, including security or personal information, will be left out.
Some information is already available for review. Enbridge Inc., for example, has posted several emergency response plans on its website.
For those interested in hundreds of pages of dense reading, you can sift through basic details — such as maps and checklists for first responders — to more technical information, such as how to set up “hot zones” to contain an area, how to manage personnel evacuation and appropriate environmental responses.
The NEB says it’s making these changes to increase transparency and improve public confidence in the system.
Board chairman and CEO Peter Watson says after touring the country last year, he heard people frequently raise concerns around the protection of water and land from potential pipeline spills.
“We got a lot of questions about, ‘How can we have confidence if we don’t understand what the plans are for dealing with some of these incidents?’ ” Watson said in an interview. “So we took that to heart.”
Before building new pipelines became politically radioactive several years ago, both the industry and the regulator were used to discussing emergency response plans internally.
Watson acknowledges the process today must be more open.
“I think a big part of our challenge is to continue to demystify what we do and how we do it,” he said.
The NEB has been facing heat in recent years, with questions about its oversight role and how much trust Canadians put in the agency.
The reality today is the public is also highly engaged in energy issues.
Spills and other pipeline problems are headline-making events, as the apparent leak in South Dakota this week involving the Keystone oil pipeline makes clear.
Despite the best-laid emergency plans, it’s worth remembering there’s no full-proof way to eliminate human error, as several larger leaks in North America have proven.
But let’s give credit where it’s due.
The NEB is taking steps to show the public what protection systems are in place.
“The hope is the public will see that pipelines are prepared to deal with these issues,” says Chris Bloomer, CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
At the legislature, public confidence was also on the front burner as the Notley government moved Tuesday to take over the functions of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency by summer.
It marks the end, hopefully, of a long-running political saga to get the province to establish a comprehensive, credible system to monitor the cumulative environmental impact of oilsands development in northern Alberta.
The file dates back almost a decade, when Alberta’s land-use framework was formed by the former Stelmach government to create integrated planning for the booming oilsands region.
Opponents weren’t convinced it was independent.
Criticism from environmental groups and First Nations escalated. More reports were conducted.
In 2014, the organization was formed as an arm’s-length agency to take over and co-ordinate what was to be a world-class scientific monitoring system of the oilsands.
But a new review by former Environment Canada deputy minister Paul Boothe calls the agency a “failed experiment” in outsourcing government responsibility to a third party.
The group’s board of directors fiercely rejects the criticism, but Boothe, the government and environmentalists aren’t convinced.
Like many energy debates in the country, the issue comes back to public confidence.
The report concludes one reason for the agency’s failure was the “erroneous belief that the lack of public credibility attached to environmental monitoring in Alberta … was related to its close link with government, rather than the weakness of its scientific underpinnings.”
Boothe said Wednesday the upcoming changes will ultimately improve oilsands monitoring and the scientific strength inside government. This, in turn, should bolster public trust in the entire process.
“We need good environmental monitoring in the oilsands if we’re going to have a social licence to develop the resource,” said Boothe, a professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University.
“When there are problems, you need to know what they are, you need to be transparent about them, and you need to fix them.”
Whether this works will only be proven over time by developing the resource properly and winning approval for energy infrastructure needed to get product to market.
Without transparency and trust, however, the road to success will be that much longer.
Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist
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