Town of Edson, Alberta, sells treated wastewater for hydraulic fracking by Ed Moore, November 12, 2013, Edson Leader
It isn’t a new practice but the Town of Edson is selling wastewater from the sewage lagoons to Shell Canada and other companies for the purposes of hydraulic fracking. Town public works officials initiated a pilot project in 2012 for the sale of wastewater from the lagoon. This gives oil companies an alternative to using fresh water or saline water. The selling of the wastewater could turn out to be quite lucrative for the town. “In 2013 we project we’ll have 50,000 cubic metres of wastewater [to sell] for a projected revenue of $100,000,” town assistant chief administrative officer Brigitte Lemieux said. We’ve been selling water to a number of companies.”
Markus Ermisch, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said Dawson Creek, B.C. and Shell struck a deal a few years ago to construction a water treatment plant that would benefit both the city and the company. “Some of that water is used by the city and some of it is used by Shell for hydraulic fracturing.” In a recent council meeting Coun. Brian Boyce expressed his support of the program. “It’s a win, win all around.” The use of wastewater to oil and gas companies is something that Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) endorses according to spokesman Ogho Ikhalo. “Yes, companies are allowed to use wastewater from sewage lagoons as a fracking injection water source. ESRD supports the reuse of municipal wastewater for hydraulic fracturing as a reasonable alternative to potable water or water from streams and shallow aquifers.”
Kevin Henderson, director of infrastructure and sustainable development for the City of Dawson Creek explained that the deal with Shell made sense when it was first proposed. “We came up with the concept of doing this with treated effluent in 2006-2007. It was in the spring of 2010 when we actually went out with a proposal call.” At the time the city was looking for a way to fund its proposed water treatment plant. We needed to build infrastructure for treatment. Shell was the preferred proponent at that time. It was a great proposal and offered really to pay for just about the entire project,” Henderson said. Shell benefitted greatly from the project as it virtually eliminated the need for the company to use potable water for hydraulic fracturing purposes in its massive Groundbirch natural gas field in northeastern B.C.
Henderson explained how the treatment process for hydraulic fracturing water works. “The lagoon system treats sewage effluent. It is essentially taken out of those cells through another large granular filter about the size of a football field. From there it goes into a treatment plant. Shell has a pretty high requirement for water quality.” Henderson said citizens in Dawson Creek and area have had no concerns about the concept of dumping treated sewer water down oil and gas wells. “No, we haven’t heard anything.” He said when you put a glass of regular municipal water beside treated sewer water, the average person would be hard pressed to tell the difference. “If you put it in a glass beside drinking water you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s very close but it’s not drinkable.”
According to an information release given out at the Nov. 4 Edson Town council meeting the setup for the town to dispense wastewater involved the rental of two 400- barrel tanks and one six-inch pump. Water is pumped from the lagoon into the barrel tanks with trucks then filling up from the barrel tanks. Prior to selling the wastewater, Alberta Environment (AE) was consulted to ensure that this practice met provincial regulations. AE endorsed the project in 2012 and also confirmed that other municipalities have been successful with similar projects. Since the pilot project it has been realized that the system would have to be improved in order to meet future projected sales.
In order to bring efficiencies to the system the construction of a wastewater dispensing station would facilitate the loading of four trucks at one time with a loading time of approximately 15 minutes per truck. Estimated costs for the project are reckoned to be between $250,000 and $300,000. The project will be funded by Federal Gas Tax funds. As recommended by the Engineering and Planning Committee council supported the wastewater dispensing station project. Work on the project was set to commence immediately. Currently the B.C. environment ministry only allows treated sewer water to be used for fracking purposes but Henderson said the municipality and Shell is pushing to get the treated water approved for other purposes such as dust control on local gravel roads. [Emphasis added]
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