An in-depth discussion with Ed Dancsok, the assistant deputy minister for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Division of the Ministry of Economy made something very clear: fugitive emissions of sour gas are not going to be tolerated any more.
In speaking with the person who is the top bureaucrat in Saskatchewan whose responsibilities are solely the energy sector, he’s got the power to do something about it. And ministry will.
It was particularly telling when he related how a couple of Ministry of the Economy inspectors were recently driving down the highway following a tanker semi and another car. The car kept backing off until the inspectors passed the car and now were directly behind the semi. They soon knew why the first car had backed off, so foul were the H2S emissions. They could barely stand it.
What’s worse has been the horrible record targeted inspections have turned up. Dancsock said, “In 2013 we did full audits, day long, day-and-a-half on a facility, 22 sites, random across southeast Saskatchewan.
“We had 21 failures.”
While some of those failures were from matters as simple as flare stack positioning or weeds, six of those 21 failures were related to sour gas.
In 2014, they targeted 84 high-concentration sour sites in southeast Saskatchewan. Sixty-four failed. Of those, 29 were shut in and told to fix the matter now because the inspector is coming back tomorrow to see if it’s fixed. But 35 were issued a letter from the minister order a suspension until cleared by the ministry. That is much more serious.
Those numbers are abysmal by any standard. It’s not surprising, then, that CBC took this ball and ran with it a few weeks ago.
You can expect to see additional inspectors added soon. Job No. 1? Inspect each and every sour gas facility in the province this year. Ten thousand inspections are expected to take place this year, and their primary focus will be on sour gas.
Our industry is under a microscope each and every day. We have not been able to build a major interprovincial pipeline in Canada since Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper project in 2009 due to that scrutiny.
Like it or not, social license is now part of the lexicon. It is part of our lives. Every little slip up here and there cumulatively hurts all of us. That’s to say nothing of the physical, and perhaps fatal, effects of sour gas.
There is no room for this sort of sloppiness, especially when it becomes clear the majority of sites examined have been sloppy.
The inspectors are coming. But they shouldn’t have to, in the sense that a much better job needs to be done with respect to fugitive emissions.
Make no mistake, the assistant deputy minister spending half an hour talking about fugitive emissions to Pipeline News during a major conference was an indication this issue is very important to the government.
And therefore it is now very important to you, if it wasn’t already.