K'jipuktuk (Halifax) - Peter Hill, CEO and director of Triangle Petroleum Corp, wants out of Nova Scotia. But it seems Nova Scotia just won't let Hill go; not until he takes care of about 15.5 million litres of radioactive water his company has left behind.
Four and a half million litres of the briny water, left over after two unsuccessful hydraulic fractures in the Kennetcook area, now sits in 'lagoons' at the Atlantic Industrial Services treatment facility in Debert, NS. The remaining water, approximately 11 million litres worth, languishes in holding ponds near Kennetcook, awaiting treatment.
The water, which contains Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM), has become the object of much consternation and concern.
For the moment, Colchester County Council has not given the green light to dump the water, treated or not, down the Debert municipal sewer system. Atlantic Industrial Services claims it can treat the water, and has the tests to prove it. Nova Scotia Environment won't allow Triangle to dump the water, as is or treated, back down the well bores. Triangle claims it can treat the water, and that 'best practices' the world over allow for re-injection of the water into the earth. Nova Scotia Environment has issued deadline after deadline to Triangle to re-mediate the well sites and treat the water.
And so it goes.
The Halifax Media Co-op caught up with Hill via telephone at the Triangle head office, in Denver, Colorado.
On the radioactive water in question:
“Our exeedances were minor, and marginally above the aqueous levels of five becquerels per millilitre. I stress again that [those levels] are for human consumption. These waters, I sure as heck wouldn't recommend drinking them, just like I wouldn't recommend you drinking sea water. But...none of these waters are going anywhere near the human food chain. Nowhere near it. They're going straight to the sea water, and that is the marine environment, and that has nothing to do with the marine environment. So we're being asked to go to a standard which, to my mind, is inappropriate. We got a couple of 12 [becquerels per millilitre], and we're talking radium 210 and radium. So we're not talking radon, and we're not talking uranium here. So it's pretty insignificant stuff. Nevertheless it's still NORMs, and we acknowledge that. We're not trying to hide it.
“Now I've pointed out to Environment that if I was to sample the rainwater flowing down the wall, the rainwater that hits the buildings made of granite and schist and the rest of it in downtown Halifax, that water would be radioactive to higher levels than what we've got. And if you take soil samples all over Nova Scotia, you'll find NORM levels above this sample.”
On the Volatile Organic Compounds that would have gone down the well shaft in the original 'frack water':
“They will have gone long ago. There was very few of them, and there were none when we measured that water. We've sampled that water for it's chemistry for five years. There's no VOCs in it. It is 99% sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Salt.
“So they've been left for three or four years, because we've asked on several occasions if we could put that water back into the well. And on each occasion that permission was refused, and no reasons were given. And they were left, with government approval, right from 2008 up to early 2011.”
On well bore re-injection:
“Why can't we just recirculate that formation water back into the well-bore? Why do you keep saying no? Give me a reason why we can't do it. It is best-practice in Alberta. It is best-practice in Saskatchewan, in BC, the rest of Canada, and certainly the rest of the world. There are notable exceptions in Paris, and France, and a few other places, but wherever there's serious amounts of shale drilling, then water disposal by re-injection is the answer.
“Give me the reasons. You've got perfect geology set up for this to happen. We will not contaminate any aquifers. And we are not doing anything of danger or consequence to the people of Nova Scotia. And it is a lot, lot safer, and more efficient, than 1,200 truck movements carrying this water to Debert from Kennetcook. So please give us reasons. And if you can't, let us sit round the table and instead of giving us deadlines, why don't we try and find solutions?”
On the safety of the Kennetcook ponds, and the potential threat of leaking radioactive water:
“They're lined with poly-ethylene, so there's no leakage. These things are very safe, with a high berm. And we keep the berm levels two metres atop of the free-board, so there's no overspill, nothing over the top.”
On the whereabouts of the 'frack water' injected into Nova Scotia's third, and perhaps lesser-known, fracked well near the town of Noel:
“We drilled three other wells [in Noel]. There was a slight frack put on one of them, and nothing was recovered. A couple of hundred cubic metres, not even that much.”
On dealing with Nova Scotia Environment:
“I am getting very frustrated through this process, because everything I'm giving to you, you're saying 'no'. But you're never giving me either an explanation or being reasonable. And I know it's got caught up in politics, and I know it's got a political dimension.
“[Environment] gave us this document with the deadlines of Aug. 30, Nov. 30, and the end of  to treat it. But it didn't give us the approval. We then got something that came back in July that said it was OK to do this pilot test in Debert to treat the waters there to dispose of those. And they then, in their wisdom, [the local office of the Environment] in Truro, sought the approval of the Colchester County Municipal Council to use their sewer facilities to take this water away. They didn't give us their approval. So now what do I do?
“I've asked on five occasions to meet the minister, meet the staff, let us sit down and work this out. And no one wants to meet with me. And I just don't get it. I really don't get it. I respect their decisions. They've got political masters and they don't want to see this industry in the province; that's their prerogative. If the people don't want it, fine.”
On potential solutions to the 15.5 million litre question:
“There are two lines of thought. One is we can put a sprinkler system inside the ponds. I could make a beautiful little sprinkler and water jet. And if I do that and 'shoosh' it up in the air, you get evaporation. And with three or four of those in that pond, I could evaporate it. That's one option.
“We [could] put a tent over it, and put air into it, and cause evaporation that way.”
“We've supported research at MIT in Boston, and they've come up with a program whereby they can take saline water, they can humidify it, condense it, and they can actually deliver distilled water. And that water will be then good enough to go into a river...We're prepared to consider applying that, up-scaling that to the [Kennetcook] site, creating that fresh water and then pumping that away. Or we could recirculate that down the well-bore.”
On Nova Scotia Environment's Penalties:
“If we breach the approval process then we're subject to fines. Under the act we could be fined $75,000. I've already spent $2 million dollars taking the water out that we've done. So seventy five thousand bucks doesn't worry me greatly. I'm more concerned with 'Why don't you respond to my letters?' I've asked for an extension. I submitted that way back in June or July, and again in September, and I had no reply.”
On Nova Scotia's penchant for burning black rocks, rather than gas:
“We've already announced that we're going to leave Nova Scotia. Because if the people don't want us there, if society doesn't want it. If the political process doesn't want it, then we understand, that's your prerogative, we'll just pack up our tent. If you don't want to support industry, and try to create jobs and create your own definitive-owned source of hydrocarbons and source of electricity and power, rather than import 80% of it, fine. That's your decision, not ours.
“Nova Scotia imports its energy. Lock, stock and barrel. And you import filthy coal to deliver 70-80% of your electricity, which is subsidized. Is anyone measuring the coal dust? The mercury? The arsenic? The levels of toxicity that those coal-fired power stations generate? Politicians, please. Let's just get our heads screwed on here, and let's just take a look at what the opportunities might look like.”
“We've done a bad job, as industry. We've not explained it well enough. And there are areas where you do need to be careful. And that's very specific geologies, very specific areas, very specific settings, where the reservoir is very shallow; there is leakage naturally of the hydrocarbons into shallower areas, into wells. And when water wells do get drilled in those, there is leakage, and people haven't paid attention. And there have been instances where truck drivers have just dumped toxic waters – flow back waters – into rivers, into streams, into inappropriate places. That's bad, you know, terrible. Punish them. I couldn't agree more. And we've got to do a better job.”
On the estimated 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas right under Nova Scotia's surface:
“The economic benefits [could be] enormous. If that 60 tcf [trillion cubic feet] could be won, that's 100, 200, 300 years of consumption for energy in Nova Scotia, right there.
“There is going to be a eastern pipeline system that goes from the producing basins of Canada that is going to go to the Eastern Seabord, and will liquify, create LNG [liquefied natural gas], and take LNG into the Atlantic basin, just like there is going to be one going from Kitimat going west, to the Chinese and Asian markets. Canada has that much gas, so does North Eastern America.
“Where is that [pipeline system] going to be? It'll be in New England or Halifax. Halifax has already got a site approved for an LNG scheme. It was done many years ago and it's available. And if there was a local catalyst like this gas, that would supply the domestic market and the international market. It would provide hundreds of jobs and supply revenue streams because of an LNG scheme that is then built in the Halifax area. It would then be an LNG exporter. That could be a terrific piece of long-term business benefit. So if people could see that, and look at that, then I think there's a huge strategic benefit.
“We had big parties very interested. We had the Koreans. We had Shell. We had big companies looking at that. So as well as doing the off-shore exploration, which is hugely expensive...you've got this domestic supply.”
On Farewell to Nova Scotia:
“We spent a lot of money here. We're not welcome. We're not supported. So we'll go. But we will re-mediate our sites. We're not going to abrogate our responsibilities. So environmentally we will clean this up and we will take care of it. But for goodness sake give us a set of rules, instead of just giving us dates and approvals. We want solutions.
“I am waiting on someone to just give me a helping hand here, and give me a solution...I don't think it's safe to be trucking this stuff all over the place. 1,200 truck movements is a whole lot of trucks...I don't think this is a very sensible way to do it, either for roads, schools, people.”