The Abandoned Gas Well “Discovered” at Site C
In February 1967, well #WA 02082 10-10-083-19-W6M was drilled to a depth of 6157 feet and then abandoned later that same year. No thought was likely given to the notion that BC Hydro would attempt to build a hydroelectric dam at that very spot some 40 years later.
Figure 1 Photo taken February 17, 2018 |Arrow pointing to #WA02082
As is common in the oil and gas industry, ownership of the well changed hands many times since 1967. Currently, ownership rest with CQ Energy Canada Partnership who operates as a subsidiary of Canlin Energy Corporation.
For the 2012 Site C Environmental Impact Statement, this well was identified as being within the proposed reservoir study area for BC Hydro. However, the September 13, 2017 Alaska Highway News reported that according to BC Hydro officials: “The well, abandoned in 1967 on the south bank of where dam construction is underway, was discovered by BC Hydro in 2016”. Hmm. That is interesting.
Meanwhile, the word on the streets of Fort St. John was that in summer of 2017, a contractor working at the dam site with heavy equipment hit the well casing that was not marked or identified as being there. Of course this would be serious business, but it was not the official story that went out.
While the BC Hydro Quarterly Progress Reports to the BC Utility Commission made no reference to this well site issue, the Oil and Gas Commission were notified and involved in dealing with this problem.
However, sharing of information at the regional level was not very transparent. At the September 6, 2017 Regional Community Liaison Committee meeting, a member asked “what type of fluid is in the well and what happened with the well?” The BC Hydro spokesperson explained that BC Hydro did not have that information available but that the information would be provided to the Committee. He confirmed that the OGC was aware of the issue and that BC Hydro would look at inviting the OGC to a future
meeting to further discuss the gas well. It turns out that “feel good” answer was not totally accurate. Test results showing certain fluids in excess of the applicable standards were already reported by the OGC, the answer to “what happened with the well?” has never been given, and the OGC has never showed up at any later meetings to “discuss the gas well”. As of February 23, 2018 no update has been posted to BC Hydro’s website.
Meanwhile, BC Hydro has direct awarded $934,476.00 to CQ Energy Canada to decommission their well site (see chart from Freedom of Information below). The September 13, 2017 Alaska Highway News reported: “Work is currently underway as planned to lower the surface casing of the wellbore by approximately five metres and permanently cap the well bore. This will enable construction to proceed in this area safely," spokesman Dave Conway said. However, the latest BC Hydro Site C Construction Bulletin (February 19 –March 4, 2018) states: “Work may continue to lower an abandoned wellbore on the south bank”.
According to that information, the required work on the well site is not done, and it is not clear if the payment already made will cover work that still needs to be done, or if the area is currently safe.
From the research we have done, we are left with the following unanswered questions on this matter:
Question 1: Why did BCH say the well was “discovered” in 2016, when their EIS identified it in 2012?
Question 2: Is it true that the well was actually struck by a piece of heavy equipment working at the site by an operator who was not aware the well was there?
Question 3: Were workers put at risk at any time by any release from this well?
Question 4: As reported by OGC, there was a release of fluids from the well. Have all remediation measures been completed for that?
Question 5: As ordered by the OGC last fall (https://www.bcogc.ca/node/14409/download ), has the groundwater monitoring well been put in place at this site?
Question 6: When will the surface casing of the wellbore be lowered by approximately five metres and the wellbore permanently capped to “enable construction to proceed in this area safely," as stated by BCH spokesman Dave Conway? This was supposed to happen last fall.
Question 7: In regards to the BC Hydro direct award of $934,476.00 to CQ Energy Canada to decommission their own well site; should this be a cost for BC Hydro ratepayers, and how much money in total will need to be spent by the time all issues with this well are completed?