Alberta wildfire forces Shell Canada, other firms to shut in natural gas wells

Shell Canada and other companies were shutting in natural gas wells in southwestern Alberta on Tuesday due to the threat of growing wildfires.

The Alberta Energy Regulator said Shell has shut in 24 wells and associated pipelines, but its big Waterton sour gas complex southwest of Pincher Creek remained open.

Regulator spokesman Ryan Bartlett said Questfire Energy and West Lake Energy have also shut in wells and closed facilities as a precaution.

“At this time they (the wells) are in immediate danger of the wildfires,” Bartlett said. “From what I understand the fire is within 2.5 kilometres of Shell’s nearest infrastructure at Yarrow Canyon.”

Shell Canada said it was keeping a close watch on its wells and facilities and was gradually shutting in infrastructure.

Cameron Yost, a Shell spokesman, said staff doing this work were being accompanied by fire suppression teams to ensure their safety.

Yost said Shell has a contingency plan to shut the Waterton Gas Complex, which can process nearly 179 million cubic feet of gas per day, if the flames get too close.

He said the safety of staff, the community and the environment is paramount.

“Our operations are built to be fire resistant with large gravel pads around all surface facilities,” Yost said in an email.

“We have reduced the number of employees in the field and plant to a handful performing critical services and have plans in place for their immediate evacuation once our facilities have safely been shut-in.”

The Shell website said the Waterton facility produces methane, ethane, propane, butane, condensate and sulphur from wells in the region.

Sour gas is a common natural gas containing more than 1 per cent hydrogen sulphide that is toxic to humans and animals at very low concentrations.

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