Inspectors found leaks at shale wells, government report says

Inspectors found leaks at shale wells, government report says by Monique Beaudin, January 18, 2011, Montreal Gazette
Government inspectors found natural gas leaks at nearly a dozen Quebec shale-gas wells in November and December that could potentially have caused water contamination or explosions, says a new document filed with the public consultation into shale-gas development. Inspectors from the Natural Resources Department visited Quebec’s 31 shale-gas wells during that period, and found they were all in an “acceptable” state, and were well secured. But the inspectors found two kinds of naturalgas leaks during their visits: 19 cases of leaks inside the casing of the well, which is designed to control gas from leaking, and 11 others where gas had migrated outside the well. Of those 11, the gas was found close to the well in all except one case, where it was detected 10 metres from the well, the report said. The report said department officials met with the companies that own the wells within days of discovering the leaked gas, which could have come from pockets of gas either close to the surface or from deeper underground. The companies were required to give the ministry a report detailing the number of leaks, a description of the leaks and the risk they posed. It also requested a report from the companies explaining what steps they had taken to remedy the situation. The main consequences of the gas leaks are the release of greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of the naturalgas resource, the department says in the document. The migrated gas posed two risks: contamination of nearby aquifers, or the possibility of explosions. An explosion could only occur if the gas collected in a closed area, if there were methane concentrations of five to 15 per cent, and if there was a source of ignition, such as a spark, the document says. Last month, the ministry told the BAPE that leaks had been discovered at 19 wells. It played down the risk of the leaks, saying it was normal for natural gas to escape during drilling, and that the wells were isolated and far from residences. [Emphasis added]

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