Oil exploration increasing in Springbank

Oil exploration increasing in Springbank by Derek Clouthier, September 19, 2011, Cochrane Eagle
Calgary oil and gas company, Bernum Petroleum Ltd., held an open house Oct. 11 in an effort to introduce itself to the community of Springbank and field any questions or concerns residents may have regarding the business’s proposal to launch a drilling initiative for sweet oil in the region. In the days following the open house, Bernum chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Marshall Abbott highlighted what his company is planning for the area, emphasizing several vital aspects of the fracking operation. “Our initial activity would include drilling two wells,” he explained. “One is north of the river, just north of the highway (Highway 1). That well is planned to be a horizontal well drilled down to about 8,000 feet into a reservoir that is known. The second well would be just east of the airport . . . considerable distance away from any nearby residence. Those two wells are going to test the concept that we believe there’s a significant amount of oil in the reservoir.” The two wells Bernum are proposing to drill will be in close proximity to existing wells that were drilled in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s but were not as productive in past decades. “New technology has unlocked that lack of productivity,” said Abbott, “and has made these wells quite economic.”

The area Bernum is tapping into is known as the Cardium Formation and has been a major source for oil and gas production. “This whole Cardium Play has been one of the marquee plays in Alberta for about the last 18 months. The Cardium Zone has been a prolific oil producer for over 50 years.” When it came to safety concerns for both the Springbank region and environment, Abbott pointed to the fact that no blowouts have ever occurred in the province’s Cardium Zone and that the type of oil being extracted poses little to no danger. “There’s no sour gas component,” he stressed. “Sour crude is pretty nasty stuff. (It’s) a crude oil that has hydrogen sulfide in its gas component. Hydrogen sulfide is a killer . . . so you never want a leak. Sweet crude has no hydrogen sulfide in it and very little sulfur. It’s really safe liquid to deal with.”

Bernum is hoping to drill both wells one after the other at the onset of the winter season; a time of year Abbott underlined would ensure no resulting road damage. The drilling phase is expected to range anywhere from two to three weeks, followed by the transportation of the rigs to the desired location, moving in a “frack crew” along with 20-25 trucks, fracking the well the day after the workers arrive and departing the third day; the quick turnover meaning an extensive amount of traffic the day before and after fracking the well. A successful fracking venture would result in Bernum then inserting a pump jack into the well, producing the oil and then a tanker truck would move in twice a week. “We understand the residents’ concerns,” admitted Abbott, “about the unsightliness of a pump jack and the possible precedent it sets for an industrial pathway. The last thing we want to do is litter the landscape with oil and gas activity . . . that’s not our intent.”

“The fabulous new technology provides far more energy and reserve life to wells that were previously considered uneconomic. So when we frack it is a sealed system where we inject a bunch of pressure down to the reservoir…we crack it and basically turn it into rubble. We then inject some sand to hold the cracks open and we remove everything, that well will leak oil and we’ll pump it out.” Abbott is aware of the ongoing discussion within the community in regards to fracking and its impact on the environment. “I think I can safely say the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board) has been quoted as saying that there’s never been an incident of a well being fracked in Alberta where it impacted water wells or otherwise caused any surface disturbance. “I personally have drilled throughout western Canada, the United States, Indonesia, Argentina, Pakistan and a number of other foreign jurisdictions in my career and nowhere are the regulations as strict as they are in Alberta.”

Abbott commended the work of the ERCB in policing the industry, making certain rules are followed, while at the same time taking the concerns of landowners into consideration. The ERCB will monitor Bernum on a daily basis during the course of its Springbank undertaking. Abbott indicated that there are water wells present in the area Bernum will be drilling and the company will test any water within that proximity. Approximately 150 local residents attended Bernum’s open house, which was held at the Wild Wild West Event Centre from 5-8 p.m., and concerns were vocalized about the oil and gas activity between Cochrane and Calgary. “I think the communication was appreciated,” said Abbott, “and the effort we went to.” Abbott added that both landowners where Bernum is planning to drill have given the company permission to do so. “It’s incumbent upon us to communicate with the community and take their concerns into consideration and I think we’re doing that.”

[Refer also to: 

Source: ERCB: Interwellbore Communication During Fracturing Operation Events

Source: EUB, now ERCB, soon to be AER, Library]

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