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The Calgary-based natural gas producer is proposing to extract saline water from a formation 950 to 1,000 metres below the surface of the earth to be used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in the rural areas of Bessborough and Farmington, an area of significant operations now and in the future.
“In the last couple of years we have been developing about 20 wells per year up in Farmington, and that will continue on for the next couple of years, that level of development,” said Cam Buss, lead for natural gas development for EnCana.
Jason Blanch, surface land coordinator for major infrastructure, said his company has been attempting to find sources of water not useable for human consumption or for agriculture so as to reduce the reliance on surface water sources, which currently includes water purchased from City of Dawson Creek, from farmers with dugouts and from other permitted sources such as rivers and lakes. He said they have located a formation containing saline water aquifers, but because the formation also contains natural gas, they needed to find a suitable location to extract the water that was close to existing infrastructure and within the company’s existing land holdings.
With that in mind, EnCana is proposing to convert two existing natural gas wells that no longer meet the company’s production requirements into source wells for saline water. One of those wells, located on the 212 Road about two kilometres east of the Bessborough Hall, would also act as treatment and storage area for all saline water in the area, what EnCana has dubbed its Farmington Water Resource Hub.
The first stage of the project would involve building the storage infrastructure at that site. Blanch said, simultaneously, his company will be undertaking studies to determine the long-term viability of the saline water aquifers.
If those studies prove the resource is viable, the second stage would involve building pipeline infrastructure from two existing compressor stations in the area to the Water Resource Hub. That would allow water that is currently extracted from natural gas formations and disposed of to be blended with the saline water from the source wells and recycled for future fracking operations.
“The goal is a significant reduction in surface water usage, with a long-range goal of self-sufficiency on saline water for our completions operations in this area,” said Blanch.
However, Buss said they would still require some surface water to blend with saline water for certain kinds of fracking operations that require a lower concentration of dissolved solids in the water.
The third stage would involve the construction of pipelines to deliver water to and from future wellsites. Blanch said this stage accomplishes two goals – it will allow water that is returned from hydraulic fracturing and currently disposed of to be treated, blended and reused, and it will significantly reduce the number of trucks required to haul fluids to and from wellsites. He said they estimate needing roughly 1,900 truck loads of water for their operations in the Farmington/Bessborough area next year, but that could be significantly reduced once the pipeline infrastructure is in place.
Much of that water pipeline infrastructure will be laid in the same ditches that would be required for natural gas lines anyway, so there shouldn’t be a need for additional pipeline right-of-ways in most cases, added Brian Lieverse, community relations advisor for the company.
EnCana has already begun a process of community engagement, and Blanch said they’ve delivered project information packages to residents within a five-kilometre radius of the proposed Water Resource Hub. There was also an open house hosted at Bessborough Hall last night. More information on the project can be obtained by phoning Jason Blanch at 1-403-645-7880 or Brian Lieverse 250-219-6599.
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