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Calgary gas producer fined for acidic release during failed transfer

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Calgary-based natural gas processing company Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd. has been fined $100,200 by the Alberta Energy Regulator for an acidic water release in 2019.

The company pleaded guilty to the charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

The incident occurred in October of 2019 at Tidewater’s Ram River sour gas processing plant near Rocky Mountain House. Sour gas is natural gas or any other gas containing significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Treatment of the sour gas creates sulphur as a byproduct, which is turned into blocks and may be stored outside, according to the court’s Agreed Statement of Facts.

Following extremely heavy rainfall, an operator moved the contents of one storage pond, which contained the surface water runoff from the plant’s sulphur blocks, into another storage pond. It was a rare move by plant officials, and the operator had only conducted a transfer once before during their 12 years of working at the plant, according to the Agreed Statement of Facts.

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Extremely cold weather meant that the hose usually used for such transfers had a seized valve. The operator instead used an above-ground circulation line. When the operator failed to close two of three release point valves, water eventually began to flow into settling ponds, which were already partially filled with water. Approximately 30m³ of untreated low ph water from the settling ponds overflowed into a drainage ditch that leads to Flare Creek.

Tidewater, which also focuses on fractionation and liquids upgrading, has since updated its standard operating procedures for storage pond transfers, according to the Agreed Statement of Facts.

Of the fine, $99,000 will be paid to the Alberta Energy Regulator to fund at least one creative sentencing project. The remaining $1,200 will address a fine and a victim fine surcharge to be paid to the Provincial Court of Alberta.

The creative sentencing project must occur within the municipalities of Clearwater, Yellowhead, or Big Horn, and “must demonstrate benefit to aquatic ecosystems and environments,” the regulator said in a statement. The regulator will publish requests for proposals for the project using established provincial practices and noted that it will oversee the creative sentencing.

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