Decision to allow sour-oil drilling in Tomahawk area 'a joke': resident
COMMENT: Migosh, what are they thinking? If the permitting agency will allow drilling where H2S levels are as high as 21%, it should just drop the pretence of protecting public interest. Shameful farce.
By Darcy Henton
Alberta's oilpatch regulator has lifted its suspension of sour-oil drilling in the Tomahawk area.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board says higher than expected levels of deadly hydrogen sulphide in new wells don't pose a greater risk to public safety.
The ERCB had suspended drilling of 10 wells May 21 after two Grizzly Resources wells drilled in the area southwest of Edmonton had higher concentrations of deadly hydrogen sulphide than expected.
After reviewing the situation, the board said it believes drilling can proceed because the higher hydrogen sulphide levels are offset by lower gas-release rates.
It has also decided that no changes are required for the emergency plan.
The board had approved the wells based on a conservative estimate that they contained concentrations of hydrogen sulphide below 16 per cent, but was caught by surprise when Grizzly's wells recorded levels as high as 21 per cent. The highly toxic gas is deadly at less than one per cent.
"In the unlikely even of an incident, the new information we have shows the gas would travel over a smaller area and impact either the same number of people or fewer people than we originally expected," ERCB spokesman Davis Sheremata said.
Highpine Energy, which has plans to drill nine of the wells, said it was happy with the decision and is set to start drilling this month on the first of three wells near Tomahawk.
Tomahawk resident Anita Berger was angered by the decision.
"It really makes us wonder if the ERCB is doing anything at all to ensure our safety.
"This is just one more example of how the ERCB appears to be ignoring its mandate to protect the public and instead act in a way that would suggest they are ruling in favour of industry, no matter what the cost to our health and safety."
She was appalled by the decision.
"What sort of catastrophe has to occur for them to start paying attention to facts while doing their job?" she asked.
"The ERCB is a complete joke and has failed miserably in doing its job."