Freshwater spills plague ConocoPhillips’ first weeks

Freshwater spills plague ConocoPhillips’ first weeks
A water truck on its way to the drill site tipped over on Jan. 12 on the winter road.Photo: ConocoPhillips.

Millions of litres of spilled fresh water, an accident involving a water truck and a domestic sewage wastewater spill in January and February have hampered ConocoPhillips’ first weeks of exploratory drilling for shale oil in the Sahtu region.

The oil and gas company, currently conducting the first horizontal fracking in the territory this winter, confirmed that 2,700 cubic metres of fresh water spilled from a raised containment pond at its drill site on Feb. 5.

ConocoPhillips spokesperson Lauren Stewart said the company is still investigating the cause of the spill.

While no environmental damage is expected, she said the incident has caused delays due to the ice pad having been melted by the heated water.

“This will delay our fracturing operations by approximately one week, but we will take the time to do what needs to be done to ensure the site is safe to proceed,” Stewart said in an email.

The wastewater spill follows an accident involving a water truck on Jan. 12. The truck tipped over on a hill on the winter road between the river and construction camp.

Contractors for ConocoPhillips told the regulators in an email that the driver received two stitches, but the truck received minimal damage.

According to Paul Dixon, executive director of the Sahtu Land and Water Board (SLWB), the truck spilled a “substantial” amount of freshwater with no expected impact to the environment, but said he had not received a spill report as of yet.

Documents on the SLWB’s public registry highlighted a small glycol spill in relation to the tipped truck, while an undisclosed quantity of freshwater poured out of the top hatch of the truck.

The truck, which tipped approximately 150 metres from the river, was removed according to the spill plan and reports say only 0.25 litres of oil were found to have spilled. The contaminated snow was shovelled into an enviro and disposed of.

“The truck was on its side for two days while the proper towing equipment was brought in to remove it,” Stewart said.

The same contractors also reported to the SLWB that a sewage spill had taken place on Jan. 11 and was now frozen.

According to the contractor, 500 litres of “domestic sewage wastewater” from several wellsite trailers spilled onto a 6 square-metre area near the trailers.

“After the rig has been moved out of the way, the frozen spilled sewage will be recovered and disposed of into our environmental waste storage containers for proper disposal,” Stewart said.

Work continues on construction at the P-20 wellsite pad and on the Mackenzie River crossing, which is now rated for 32,000 kg.

The surface portion of the well at the drilling rig on lease E-76 has been completed and the crew is now working on the intermediate section.

There are approximately 55 people working at the construction camp.

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