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Small Leak Results from Third Attack on EnCana's BC Facilities

A third attack on EnCana Corp. natural gas facilities in the Dawson Creek, BC, area resulted in a gas leak that was discovered Oct. 31 and repaired shortly after, the company said. The leak, which was sealed the evening of Nov. 2 by cement injection into the well, is in an area where EnCana facilities were targeted by vandals in two incidents last month.

"The well site has been turned over to the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)], which is conducting a criminal investigation to determine who is responsible for the explosion that damaged the wellhead and caused the leak," EnCana said. "The RCMP is also investigating two previous explosions on pipelines in the region." The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission has also been notified.

The gas from this well contains a trace of hydrogen sulfide, 0.0005% to .0010%. Gas containing hydrogen sulfide is known as sour gas, and some in the region are opposed to its production.

In October two apparent tacks within a week were made on EnCana pipeline facilities in the area, each of which resulted in an explosion. "A suspicious letter was received by a local media outlet on Oct. 10 advising local oil and gas companies to cease production and leave the area," authorities said at the time. "RCMP contacted local oil and gas businesses to advise them of the letter. It did not contain any specific threats" (see NGI, Oct. 20).

British Columbia provincial Energy Minister Richard Neufeld was outraged by the attacks and last week called their perpetrator(s) "crazy" and "stupid," according to press reports. "Only a crazy person can go out there and think that by blowing up something that they are getting their message across," he said, as reported by the Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie, AB. "Only somebody that's actually deranged does that kind of thing because they put everybody's lives at risk."

The newspaper also quoted a spokesman from environmental group the Pembina Institute. "They would certainly not be supportive of the vandalism approach that was taken with those bombings," Matt Horne said of his fellow environmentalists. "It's very dangerous, and I think the mindset of most people up there is they don't really see it as a productive way of resolving those concerns."

About 30% of Alberta gas reserves and production are sour, including many of the biggest and best remaining untapped deposits along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Production of sour gas, which contains lethal hydrogen sulfide, has been opposed by environmentalists and landowners in the region. Opponents of sour gas production -- organized as CEASE, the Committee to Encourage and Advocate a Safe Environment -- recently converged on Tomahawk, a hamlet about 100 miles southwest of the Alberta capital of Edmonton, for a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful crusade to ax sour gas deposits from the industry's development repertoire (see NGI, Oct. 6).

EnCana said it continues to work with the RCMP on the security measures that were implemented following the previous incidents.

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