Study of abandoned BC gas wells draws nuanced reactions

Study of abandoned BC gas wells draws nuanced reactions
Study of abandoned BC gas wells draws nuanced reactions

The major provincial study on the state of abandoned gas wells in British Columbia concluded that less than 1% of them release methane into the atmosphere, but specialists are not convinced.

The British Columbia Power Authority flew a helicopter between 90 and 150 meters above 1,221 wells between 2017 and 2023 to aim a laser to detect methane leaks.

A leak is detected when the laser sends a weaker signal to the detector attached to the device.

According to the results of the study published in May, 25 wells showed signs of a potential methane leak. Nine others are still under review.

Aaron Cahill, a geoscientist at Heriot-Watt University in the UK, who has previously worked with the authority, believes the method is not foolproof, since it can miss what is actually happening at ground level.

I know what I see on the ground and I find it hard to believe that you can see that from a helicopterhe says, adding that he is skeptical of this calculation method.

In an email, Lannea Parfitt, a spokesperson for the authority, wrote that flying over wells helps her agency monitor them even though they are located in difficult to access or remote locations.

However, other specialists, notably Mary Kang, a researcher at McGill University, believe that the number of leaks would be much higher. They compared the data obtained by aerial surveillance with those obtained during ground surveillance.

According to their comparative study, aerial surveillance would not have made it possible to detect significant leaks. Aaron Cahill explains that weather conditions, temperature or even air movement caused by the helicopter can skew the data collected.

Lannea Parfitt adds that the authority conducts 4,500 ground inspections of gas and oil wells annually.

With information from Isaac Phan Nay

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