ERCB: Alberta frac job leak caused by insufficient spacing

Insufficient distance between wellbores caused a vertical oil well to leak fluids after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby horizontal well last January in Red Deer County, Alta., an investigation by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board has determined.

In addition to allowing the horizontal wellbore to be closer than allowed by its own protocols, the operator, Midway Energy Ltd., didn’t notify the vertical well’s operator, Wild Stream Exploration Inc., about the frac job. If it had known about the operation, Wild Stream might have been able to prepare equipment for the pressure surge that occurred when its well came into communication with the fractured well, ERCB said.

Partly because no violation of provincial regulations occurred, the agency took no enforcement action.

The incident

In a Dec. 12 report, ERCB said the wellbores are 129 m apart at their closest point—less than the 135 m minimum distance indicated by Midway protocols. Modeling projected the fracture half-length at 90 m, and the protocols call for well spacing of at least 1.5 times the half-length.

Because the planned fracture stimulation size was too great for the separation distance, communication between the wells occurred within the formation both wells targeted at about 1,850 m below surface, ERCB said. Formation and frac fluids from Midway’s horizontal well flowed to surface through Wild Stream’s vertical well on Jan. 13.

Frozen ground prevented much of the fluid from seeping below the surface, ERCB said. Cleanup was mostly complete within 72 hr.

The area potentially affected by initial release of an estimated 75 cu m of fluid was about 225 m by 200 m. Vacuum trucks recovered about 68 cu m of diesel-based frac and formation fluids, some of which had flowed down a hillside and pooled in a natural depression off the lease.

Samples from eight water wells within 1,300 m of the spill site showed no elevated levels of hydrocarbons, nitrate, or nitrite. Water and soil testing and other remediation operations continue under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Wellbore integrity

Through casing integrity and cement integrity logging, ERCB determined that wellbore integrity met its regulatory requirements.

The agency said communication between wells didn’t occur until about 1 hr and 45 min after the frac job, so no significant decrease in pressure was observed at the Midway well during the operation.

Increased pressure and flow rates in the Wild Stream vertical well caused surface components, which weren’t rated for hydraulic fracturing, to fail.

ERCB said the second, third, fourth, and fifth frac stages of the horizontal hole are closest to the bottomhole location of the Wild Stream well. It said one of the last three stages was most likely to have established communication with the vertical well.

Despite damage to valves and piping, Wild Stream wellhead components maintained integrity and were able to shut in the release.

ERCB said the main leak occurred in a 1-in. fuel supply line feeding back to the pumpjack engine and walking-beam compressor coming from the casing side of the wellhead.

Responses deemed appropriate

ERCB said both companies responded to the incident appropriately.

“The incident did not impact any member of the public, wildlife, livestock, groundwater, or surface water bodies,” it said.

The agency said Midway wasn’t required by regulations to notify Wild Stream of its frac operations. If it had provided notification, ERCB said, Wild Stream could have taken steps to prevent the release or limit its effects.

Failure by Midway to follow its protocol on well spacing might have prompted an enforcement action, but ERCB decided not to take that step.

“This is a unique situation in that the incident itself is a very uncommon occurrence and did not, in the ERCB’s opinion, result from or indicate an ongoing systemic deficiency in the operations of either licensee involved.”

In addition, both companies have been taken over by other operators since the incident, the agency said.

Related Articles

EPA approves Magellan’s Corpus Christi splitter project

12/12/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final greenhouse gas prevention of significant deterioration construction permit to Magellan Pr...

Keyera to take majority interest in Alberta gas plant

12/12/2014 Keyera Corp., Calgary, will pay $65 million (Can.) to buy a 70.79% ownership interest in the Ricinus deep-cut gas plant in west-central Alberta.

PBF Energy, PBF Logistics make management changes

12/12/2014 Matthew Lucey, currently executive vice-president of PBF Energy Inc., will succeed Michael Gayda as the company’s president. Todd O’Malley, current...

TAEP: TPI still peaking, but ‘contraction unavoidable’ as oil prices fall

12/12/2014 The Texas Petro Index (TPI), a composite index based on a comprehensive group of upstream economic indicators released by the Texas Alliance of Ene...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil price extends slump

12/12/2014 Crude oil prices extended their slump on the New York market with a Dec. 11 settlement of less than $60/bbl for January, and prices continued downw...

US needs more data before ending crude export ban, House panel told

12/11/2014 Much more environmental impact information is needed before the US can reasonably remove crude oil export limits, a witness told a House Energy and...

BOEM raises offshore oil spill liability limit to $134 million

12/11/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management increased the liability limit for oil-spill related damages from offshore operations to $134 million from ...

Rosneft, Essar sign terms of oil supply agreement

12/11/2014 OAO Rosneft and Essar Energy PLC have signed key terms of an oil supply agreement in New Delhi. Rosneft said shipments to India may begin in 2015.

Barton introduces bill to remove US crude export limits

12/11/2014

US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would remove US crude oil export limits that have been in place for nearly 40 years.

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected