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Natural gas well still spewing, but no health threat: Alberta energy regulator

The Encana site near Fox Creek, Sept. 22, 2015.
The Encana site near Fox Creek, Sept. 22, 2015. Cam Cook, Global News

FOX CREEK, Alta. – A blowout at a natural gas well in northwestern Alberta is still spewing gas and other chemicals into the air.

Crews first responded on Monday afternoon to the Encana well situated 18 kilometres west of Fox Creek.

READ MORE: Alberta energy regulator responds to natural gas well blowout near Fox Creek 

The well is licensed to produce hydrogen sulphide, a poisonous gas that smells like rotten eggs.

Encana said a well head was damaged on a well pad in a remote area of northern Alberta.

“This resulted in a well control incident and a release of natural gas and condensate,” said the company in an email.

Encana first made sure all staff were safe and accounted for, then set up a perimeter around the site and contacted stakeholders, including the energy regulator.

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A spokesman for Alberta’s energy regulator says none of the gas has been detected off the well site. Peter Murchland said there is no health threat to the community of Fox Creek.

On Wednesday, Encana said the H2S leak had not been contained. The company has conducted an assessment, sent up a drone aircraft and built a second entrance to the well pad.

As of Wednesday, Encana said the H2S levels are “significantly below those that would pose a risk to human health.”

“We will continue to closely monitor air quality until we regain control over the well,” said Jay Averill, an Encana spokesperson.

Averill explained the monitors have recorded a range of 0.00 to 0.07 parts per million over the past two days. According to Worksafe Alberta, he said, workers can be exposed to H2S concentrations of 10 parts per million for up to eight hours with no adverse effects.

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The Encana site near Fox Creek, Sept. 22, 2015. Cam Cook, Global News
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The Encana site near Fox Creek, Sept. 22, 2015. Cam Cook, Global News
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The Encana site near Fox Creek, Sept. 22, 2015. Cam Cook, Global News

READ MORE: Another earthquake in Fox Creek raises concerns over hydraulic fracking 

Staff from the regulator are on site with Encana crews to ensure the well is capped quickly and safely.

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“We quickly put air monitoring equipment in place and so far we have not detected sour gas levels that pose any risk to human health, however, we are being very cautious about the potential presence of H2S and will continue to monitor air quality until we regain control over the well,” Encana said. “Emergency responders began arriving on site yesterday afternoon.”

Murchland says an investigation will begin once that is accomplished.

With files from The Canadian Press

*NOTE: This article was originally published on Sept. 22 it was updated with information from Encana on Sept. 23.

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