Two orphaned sour gas wells are now being abandoned in the southeast part of Calgary, east of the community of Mahogany.
Crews were on site Monday with machinery and a service rig to plug the wells.
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has directed the Orphan Well Association (OWA) to carry out abandonment operations on the wells licensed to Lexin Resources Ltd. An abandoned well is one that has been permanently dismantled or plugged.
The wells previously produced sour gas and are now being abandoned to ensure they pose no threat to public safety or the environment.
“It’s really important because these wells are considered critical sour wells,” said Pat Payne with the OWA.
“So they produce sour gas, which is a gas that has hydrogen sulphide, which is very toxic.
“It’s toxic at 100 ppm and these wells have up to a maximum of 38.5 per cent of sour gas.”
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For the duration of the abandonment operations, the OWA will have a crew monitoring the area around the wells for any signs of sour gas.
The OWA advises that during the abandonment of the two wells, there is a possibility the public may see a flare, which is to burn off any excess gas that comes up from the well.
In March, the AER took the unprecedented step of forcing Lexin Resources into receivership for allegedly failing to look after its assets safely.
The AER says Lexin disregarded requirements to ensure public safety and environmental protection. Both AER and Lexin admit there were health and safety concerns at the company’s sour gas operations.
”They had failed to comply with multiple orders,” AER public affair advisor Tracie Keyon said. “They owed over $1 million in orphan fund levies and they were not cleaning up their non-compliances.
“So we shut them in and decided a court-appointed receiver would be the best way get those resources to more responsible hands.”
There are now 1,700 orphan wells for abandonment in Alberta. The Lexin fallout likely adds another 1,000 to the list.
They are now the responsibility of the OWA, which is an energy industry funded group but has received some public funds.
“We’re going to be very busy,” Payne said. “It’s getting crowded in the orphanage.”
Now comes the question of what will happen to the rest of the former Lexin wells.
A sales process for the rest of the wells closes in October but it’s expected that only around 10 per cent of the wells will be sold.
The two gas wells within the City of Calgary limits are first on the list to be plugged because of their location.
The OWA, the AER and the City of Calgary will be working together to ensure safe operations.