Two closed wells 12 million The press

Two closed wells, 12 million | The press

(Sainte-Françoise) Ten years after launching a program to secure abandoned gas and oil wells, the Quebec government has closed just two of 87 “problematic” wells at a cost of $12 million. Nevertheless, one of these wells, which is still leaking, posed “a threat to human health” in 2020.

Posted at 5:00 am.


What there is to know

There are 775 orphan wells in Quebec. According to the Department of Energy, 87 of them must be permanently shut down.

Currently only two wells are closed, costing 12 million. One of them is still on the run. Quebec signed a no-bid contract with an engineering firm to find a solution.

There is no timeline for closing these wells. The first Orphan Well Action Plan was launched in 2014.

These revelations were made as part of the legal proceedings of the 12 oil and gas companies challenging the end of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in Quebec.

Engineer Jacinthe Légaré-Laganière, engineering and environmental coordinator in the geological reservoir expertise department at the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy (MEIE), said when asked that out of 87 wells classified as “problematic”, only two wells were closed.”

“According to Investissement Québec, the cost of the modernization and definitive closure of the two wells amounted to just over 12.1 million in 2018 and 2019,” confirmed Jean-Pierre D'Auteuil, head of media relations at MEIE. in an email.

These high costs “are explained in particular by the exceptional difficulties in the work, such as: “Equipment failures, discovery of obstructions, voids or slopes in enclosures, and unforeseen gas emissions,” he added.

Ms. Légaré-Laganière explained that during the closure work, employees “encountered tools that had fallen into the well, drilling tools, probably made of steel, very hard.” “This resulted in major delays to work and costly restoration efforts that were not planned,” she said.

Danger of explosion and danger to human health

However, despite these definitive closure works, one of the wells, the A-190, drilled in 1978 by SOQUIP in Sainte-Françoise in the Bécancour region, still posed a risk “to human health” during an MEIE inspection in 2020.

Two closed wells 12 million The press

“If the source is kept under pressure like during the MERN visit [ancien ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles]There is a danger to human health. The pressure is high and suddenly opening the valves releases pressurized natural gas at very high flow rates and possibly brine. There is a risk of explosion if the gas tap is suddenly opened,” says a report consulted by La Presse. We also note that “liquid was leaking from the surface casing.”

The inspectors note: “If the valves remain open permanently, emanation occurs through the two vents into the environment.” However, the well is no longer under pressure and the risk is reduced.” However, their recommendations are blacked out.

The other well, the A-216, drilled in 1992 by SOQUIP in the forest of the Lotbinière estate, shows a “gas migration” but does not pose a “risk within the meaning of the Hydrocarbons Act” due to methane emissions, according to an inspection carried out in 2021 1 m⁠3 per day does not exceed.

On November 16, the MEIE also awarded a direct contract for $800,000 to the company FIG Services-Conseils, specifically “to analyze the work carried out by SOQUIP and to design a program of work necessary to address the remaining problems of these two wells solve.” .

“The ministry is already working to resolve the remaining issues at wells A-190 and A-216, with the contract awarded to FIG Services-Conseils. According to preliminary planning, it is assumed that the necessary work will be completed by 2026,” writes the MEIE.

Many unanswered questions

As for the 85 other orphaned wells classified as “problematic,” “there is no year in which all the definitive closure work has been completed, if necessary,” explained Ms. Légaré-Laganière. “We have done detailed cost calculations for only three wells […]. “It's not advanced enough to say, 'We know how much it's going to cost,'” she said.

This is a file lying around the Department of Energy. In 2014, the Couillard government launched an action plan to inspect inactive wells in Quebec, which included carrying out work to “restore problematic sites” starting in 2015.

In May 2018, Liberal minister Pierre Moreau announced a plan to secure gas and oil wells to “protect the environment and reassure the public,” at a cost of just 2 million per year.

At the time, he was quite critical of his ministry, which lacked accuracy when inspecting wells. An example: “When the Ministry was unable to identify a well, the categorization of that well indicated that it was a compliant situation because no non-compliant situation was underlined, which seems to me to be an inaccurate statement.” At least,” lamented Mr. Moreau.