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Results from an aerial survey of decommissioned gas wells conducted in September 2021.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) recently completed an aerial survey of 144 decommissioned gas wells located between Fort St. John and the Milligan Hills area, in the Traditional Territories of the Blueberry River First Nations, Doig River First Nation, West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation.

As part of the Commission’s mandate to ensure the integrity of decommissioned wells, the Commission has conducted aerial surveys for the past five years using a laser-based methane detector mounted on the underside of a helicopter. This survey method allows easy access to sites in difficult and inaccessible terrain, is fast, cost-effective, and can detect very low concentrations of methane. The long-term goal of this program is to obtain a representative sampling of decommissioned wells throughout all areas of northeast B.C.

Multiple passes over the decommissioned wellsites were made throughout three days in September 2021. Of the 144 wells surveyed by air, one location was identified as potentially having a low volume methane release, outside the boundaries of a nearby wellsite. Commission inspection staff completed a follow-up field inspection and found no evidence the well was leaking.

The wells were randomly selected and included legacy wells with a Certificate of Restoration assigned to it and wells with a previous history of surface casing vent flows.

Previous aerial surveys in 2017 and 2018 were focused in the vicinity of Fort St. John and found about one per cent of decommissioned wells were emitting methane. The 2019 survey, completed east of Fort Nelson, found a higher frequency of emissions, at about three per cent. The 2020 survey, completed in the foothills between Hudson’s Hope and the Alberta border, found no evidence that surveyed wells were leaking. Results from this year’s investigation will inform inspection programs and help drive improvements to well decommissioning practices, recently updated. The Commission intends to continue the aerial inspection program annually, focusing on different areas throughout northeastern British Columbia.

For further information regarding this Information Bulletin, please contact:

Dave Fukumoto
Engineer, Drilling and Production
BC Oil and Gas Commission

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