NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL), a TransCanada subsidiary, received notice from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) that it must cease all horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operations under the Athabasca River.
The NEB issued the Inspection Officer Order to NGTL Nov. 19. The order requires the cessation at the company’s McDermott Extension natural gas pipeline project, which is located 75 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
The NEB order follows four separate incidents during which drilling resulted in the unintended release of drilling fluid into the Athabasca River. One slope failure was also recorded. According to the order, the incidents occurred Oct. 23 along the western channel and three releases Nov. 1, 7 and 9 at the same location along the eastern channel. NGTL ceased drilling operations following the Nov. 9 release.
The NEB responded immediately and continues to investigate the incidents; including an evaluation of the drilling mud composition and volumes released. On Nov. 12, an NEB inspection officer requested a material safety data sheet on the released drilling fluid additives. Following review of the sheet, it was determined that the toxicity of the drilling fluid has not been clearly established.
The NEB confirms that NGTL is currently in non-compliance with NEB regulations for its failure to adhere to the NEB-approved Environmental Protection Plan. The Onshore Pipeline Regulations requires the company to ‘develop, implement and maintain an environmental protection program that anticipates, prevents, manages and mitigates conditions that could adversely affect the environment.’
In addition to ceasing the HDD activities, NGTL must provide for the approval of the Inspection Officer, an amended HDD Continuance Plan which includes:
- Drilling fluid composition information, including complete toxicological and ecological information on all mud and sealant components.
- The specific concentrations of additives used in the drilling fluid mixture.
- An integrated contingency plan for fluid releases to the Athabasca River in both frozen and unfrozen conditions.
All agencies have been notified and the NEB investigation continues.
From 2014 to date, the NEB has issued 17 Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP’s) totaling $811,300.00 to companies not in compliance with NEB regulations. The NEB regulates 2,117 energy facilities and 73,000 km of pipeline in Canada. In 2014, NEB’s regulated pipeline network transported 1.27 billion barrels of hydrocarbon products (crude oil, natural gas, refined petroleum products and natural gas liquids).Tags: Drilling Fluid, horizontal directional drilling, NEB, NGTL, NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd, TransCanada