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Environment

Produced water spill prompts AER to order energy company to suspend activity at affected well

A file photo of a truck associated with the Alberta Energy Regulator.
A file photo of a truck associated with the Alberta Energy Regulator. Credit: AER

The Alberta Energy Regulator says it has ordered Calgary-based Obsidian Energy to suspend activity at a well “and associated infrastructure” where 400,000 litres of produced water spilled late last month.

“The company has notified Yellowhead County and one area landowner of the release,” the AER said in a statement emailed to Global News on Monday. “This release occurred at an water injection well, not a hydraulic fracturing site, due to a failed piping component near the well.”

According to Obsidian Energy, the spill was discovered on Wednesday afternoon. The AER said Monday it occurred about 40 kilometres northwest of Drayton Valley.

While a nearby wetland was impacted, the AER said no impacts to wildlife were reported as a result of the produced water spill.

READ MORE: Cleanup underway after 400,000-litre produced water leak at Obsidian Energy well near Drayton Valley

“Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas development,” the energy regulator said. “It refers to water that is extracted with oil from reservoir formations. The impact of produced water is extremely variable depending on the concentration of oil and whether the substance is ‘sweet’ or ‘sour.'”

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It also depends on the regional conditions of the release, detection and containment actions taken.

“Produced water contains chloride, which can adversely impact the safety of wildlife and the environment. In the case of this release, the produced water was sweet — meaning it is salt water that does not contain H2S (hydrogen sulfide).”

The AER said Obsidian Energy has activated its emergency response plan, and cleanup is underway.

“AER staff are on site and are ensuring that all response requirements are being met,” the energy regulator said.

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In a statement issued to Global News on Friday, Obsidian Energy said it “takes responsibility for this event and is committed to minimizing our impact to the environment in all areas in which we operate.

“It was immediately contained and cleanup is underway,” the statement read in par. “Investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the spill.”

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