July 17th, 2024

Gas well sites to be reclaimed to allow development west of city

By Lethbridge Herald on October 31, 2023.

Drilling operations were undertaken at an existing well site within city limits just west of Cottonwood Park by Tamarack Valley Energy in 2019. The Calgary-based energy company says it is soon starting a reclamation project of four sweet natural gas wells west of Copperwood to enable the continued growth of residential development in west Lethbridge. Herald file photo

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A Calgary-based energy company is soon starting a reclamation project of four sweet natural gas wells west of the Copperwood subdivision.

The project will enable the continued growth of residential development in west Lethbridge.

Tamarack Valley Energy Ltd. is publicizing the work so residents don’t misinterpret the project and assume it’s a well drilling operation.

Sweet gas is natural gas that contains little or no hydrogen sulfide.

Mike Anderson, manager of Surface Land for Tamarack, said Tuesday service rigs and drilling rigs look similar. After an uproar over a West Lethbridge Tamarack project several years ago, the company is taking pro-active measures so the public is well informed of its work.

While work was to begin today, company is waiting for the ground to dry up a bit before starting it, Anderson said.

Tamarack has a number of assets in the Lethbridge and also operates on the Blood Reserve. It also has assets in northern Alberta.

The company is abandoning four gas wells and the associated pipelines west of Copperwood “to make way for the further expansion of housing in Lethbridge,” said Anderson.

Tamarack will be putting a service rig on the wells and will be going down to the producing formation about 1,000 metres deep to plug off the formation that produced gas by putting in a cement plug.

The wells are abandoned right to surface and the surface casing is cut off about three metres below ground and a steel cap is welded on. Then the land is reclaimed and put back “to the equivalent land use capability of the surrounding land,” said Anderson.

The wells have all been operational since the mid 1990s, said Anderson.

“One of the parcels of land has been recently purchased by a developer and it’s my understanding they’re working on a housing development plan and there’s a couple others that are kind of similar in nature. They’re not impacted by development but it’s my understanding the City wants to put basically a ring road through the area and high-voltage power. So ultimately at the end of the day we’ll be in the way of those if we don’t remove this stuff and all of our assets there are sort of nearing end of life.

“We’ve got pretty much all the resource we’re going to get out of the ground and it’s time to get them out of the way before we’ve got a whole bunch of other construction equipment and whatnot going out there because that just makes things a little more challenging,” added Anderson.

If the wells were brand new and were producing a significant cash flow “it becomes a more challenging conversation but it’s not the City that’s driving this. We’re looking at wells that are in proximity to houses and stuff like that and for our own corporate interest, we’re aware of the sensitivities of drilling operations in Lethbridge,” said Anderson.

The company drilled a well on farm land within city limits in 2018. The company had been granted a licence by the Alberta Energy Regulator that year to drill a production well within city limits.

After learning of the well city council in February, 2019 passed a resolution to make their opposition and concerns known to the company and province.

“There was quite an uproar,” Anderson recalled.

“A service rig looks very much like a drilling rig and when it’s lit up at night on pretty flat Prairie out there it will be seen by people and if people don’t know in advance it’s a service rig doing abandonment work, and they make the assumption it’s a drilling rig drilling a new well we’ll probably have the same kind of kerfuffle as last time,” said Anderson.

“That’s why we’ve been in touch with the City administration and giving them the heads up of what our plans are,” Anderson added.

The company is monitoring weather and ground conditions before starting the reclamation project. Tamarack has field employees based here who are apprising the company of conditions.

“These are we call minimal disturbance locations, in other words there’s no built-up access road to the well. Because these were sweet shallow gas wells, operators would typically only go to these things once a month. So they could wait until the ground conditions were good to just drive on the top soil of the field and check the well and come out,” said Anderson.

“We’re being very cognizant of ground conditions to make sure that we’re going in under the right conditions.”

The work will take three to four days to complete per well, he said. 

“We need to make sure we’ve got a good three to four day weather window for each well to get in there and get out without causing any damage.”

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