Canadian Manufacturing

Blowout at Encana natural gas well prompts emergency protocols

The well near Fox Creek, Alta., is licensed for hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas; all personnel reported safe



FOX CREEK, Alta.—Emergency protocols kicked into gear after a natural gas well blowout in northern Alberta Sept. 21.

Peter Murchland of the Alberta Energy Regulator said they were notified of the blowout about 2 p.m. by Encana Corp.

The well, located about 18 kilometres west of Fox Creek, is licensed for hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas that smells like rotten eggs.

“We don’t have all the details at this point,” said Murchland. “At this point, we haven’t identified any public security concerns or public safety risk.”

He said portable air monitoring units and roadblocks have been set up at each side of the site as well as the access road.

There were no initial reports of impact to the public, waterways or wildlife but AER staff were dispatched to site to assess the situation “and work with Encana to ensure all safety and environmental requirements are met during the response to the incident.”

He said the situation will continue to be assessed to monitor changes.

“The information we have to date indicates the well is still in an uncontained or blowout state,” he said. “My assumption is … their operations folks are working every hour into the night to ensure they stop the flow of natural gas.”

Encana spokesman Jay Averill said the company immediately enacted its emergency response plan.

He said as a safety precaution the company “engaged directly with stakeholders in the area including the Town of Fox Creek.”

Averill said all personnel at the well site are safe and accounted for.

“We are taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our personnel, first responders and the public,” he said.

“We are currently monitoring air quality with portable equipment and are bringing in additional air monitoring equipment. Our priority is bringing the well under control.”

Murchland said there is no predictable timeline for that to happen.

“Every case is different, depending on the location and the nature of the infrastructure. In this case, it’s difficult to say; it’s too early to say.”

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