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Well clean up

BP Canada to reclaim Pointed Mountain site

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (Dec 22/00) - British Petroleum Canada is embarking on a decommissioning and land reclamation project at its Pointed Mountain natural gas field.

The series of wells and dehydration plant opened in 1972, when BP Canada was known as Amoco. Two of the six natural gas wells had already been abandoned in 1993 and the land has been restored to its natural state, according to John Lea, Grande Prairie operating centre superintendent for BP Canada.

Fact File

- As of Dec. 31, 1999, the Pointed Mountain field had produced about 314 billion cubic feet of natural gas since 1972, according to a BP report. The gas is shipped via the Westcoast Pipeline to Fort Nelson, B.C. for processing.

- Production, which once peaked at 300 million cubic feet per day, has slowed to a trickle comparatively, now at two million cubic feet of slightly sour gas per day, largely from one of two wells, Lea said. Depending on gas prices, those wells will remain on-stream next year, he noted.

- BP has another well, operated by Anderson Petroleum, still producing in the Kotenelee River area.

Two more wells are slated for abandonment this winter. The project will create seasonal, intermittent work over a projected three year period, he said.

An open house was held in Fort Liard last week to explain the situation to residents. Lea said more activity can be expected in the Pointed Mountain area, approximately 50 kilometres from Fort Liard by road, due to the clean-up project. He added that questionnaires have been circulated in the community to identify specific areas where residents believe problems may exist.

"It's not like we've caused a lot of damage out there in terms of spilling stuff all over the ground or those kinds of things," he said. "But the site's been there for 30 years and, for instance, people have identified areas where garbage was dumped and buried... We're going to be re-testing all of those sites. If there's any damage that's been done, of course, we're going to go in and clean it all up."

Lea acknowledged that some residents had expressed misgivings about an abandoned above-ground pipeline between two of the wells. He said he assured them it would be removed.

Local involvement

Don Antoine, manager of Fort Liard's Nahendeh Land and Environmental Services, said the Acho Dene will be contracted for some of the clean-up process.

"We'd like to involve the community and the band's companies wherever possible," Antoine said. "They (BP) don't want to leave on a sour note. They want to clean up their mess."

Antoine acknowledged that some resentment towards Amoco still lingers in the community because the company didn't involve the people of Fort Liard in its venture when it commenced nearly 20 years ago.

"People are still a little bitter about Amoco... but we have to try to mend the socks, so to speak," he said.

Lea also admitted that Amoco didn't make itself very popular with local residents through its business practices, but he contended that those decisions should be regarded in the context of the era.

"I'm not sure that, at the time, any of the companies doing the kind of exploration and development work that we were doing would have done it any differently," he said. "It just happened to be that we were the first ones up there."

Yet Lea said during the open house, nearly everyone he talked to had worked at Pointed Mountain for at least a short period over the past 20 years. The company has been employing local services and has been training operators over the past few years as well, he added.

"If there's one thing that I think perhaps we could have done better over the years, in hindsight, was to have just had more frequent and better communication with more people in the community," he said.