Balzac Project

Sulphur base pad removal at the Balzac gas plant..

Materials Removal

Sulphur Basepad
As of February 2015, we have removed approximately 64,500 tonnes of sulphur from the base pads with approximately 21,000 to 25,000 tonnes remaining. We have been successful in finding alternative markets (composting) for the lower spec sulphur. This lower spec sulphur would normally have to be landfilled. We will continue to seek markets to sell the remaining sulphur rather than dispose of it in landfills. Because market demand fluctuates, the sale of this sulphur will likely happen over several years, meaning that removal will also occur in stages. With an increase in truck traffic associated with the sulphur removal, Nexen has implemented operating procedures to minimize dust, with on-site activities continuing to be monitored.

The Balzac site before demolition of the iconic red & white stacks.

Demolition of the Balzac Gas Plant

Demolition activities began in mid-2013 and are expected to be completed in conjunction with future on site remediation work. Throughout demolition, Nexen reused, recycled or reclaimed over 80% of the materials (scrap metal and demolition debris) that was on the site. The remaining materials – including 90% of the stacks material – were managed according to environmental regulations. Nexen has influenced procedures to minimize dust generated by demolition activities.

Aerial photo of the Balzac Gas Plant post demolition.
The site post-demolition.

Red and White Stacks
The red and white stacks was a familiar landmark on the northeastern Calgary skyline for many years. The stacks were constructed of refractory brick and cement, and were reinforced with steel bands. During operations, they were used to exhaust hot waste gases.

In September 2013 the two red and white incinerator stacks started to come down. In October 2014 the two iconic red and white stacks that were a part of the Balzac area skyline for decades were finally laid to rest. The stack demolition was the final above-ground demolition to be completed.

Well & Pipeline Infrastructure Decommissioning

While the main Balzac gas plant is a major part of the reclamation plan, a number of wells and well sites will also be abandoned, remediated and reclaimed.

Well Abandonment

Abandonment involves terminating a well’s ability to produce oil and gas by isolating and plugging all penetrated formations. This is done to prevent cross-flow between formations, any flow to surface, and to ensure no contamination of any non-saline water source. This leaves the wellbore in a state of long-term security and stability. Nexen is required to follow Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Directive 020: Well Abandonment to meet design requirements when abandoning wells.

Abandonments are completed in two phases: down-hole abandonment and surface abandonment.

To date, 74 wells have been fully abandoned. The abandonment work going forward will be minor in scope and will include any follow-up activity required based on regulatory compliance, and any additional scope of work.

Once the well abandonment work is completed, the reclamation and remediation work will begin. Site reclamation is expected to take a decade or longer.

Reclamation of the Balzac gas plant is estimated to take approximately 10 to 15 years.

Reclaiming the Balzac Gas Plant

Site remediation and reclamation will be the final phase of the process. Nexen is working to understand the available reclamation options, a complex process given the dynamic state of development and growth in the vicinity of the Balzac gas plant.

Remediation and reclamation includes detailed site assessments to characterize known waste streams and to develop an efficient waste strategy.

Until further studies can be conducted, a definitive timeline for the reclamation process has not been developed. However, Nexen’s experience with other large facilities suggests this process will take approximately 10 to 15 years.

When reclamation is complete, the land will be suitable for a final end use. The end land use for the plant site will follow the industrial trend of development in the neighborhood. 

Reclaiming Wellsites

Individual Environmental wellsite assessments will be conducted to determine if there are any impacts to the land. Phase 1 of the assessment includes a desktop review of historical data and a field visit to understand risk and the current state of individual sites. In Phase 2 of the investigation, soil and groundwater samples are collected via boreholes and groundwater monitoring wells. Samples are analyzed by third party laboratories and data is compiled and interpreted in a report. Activity associated with these investigations is expected to create some noise and moderate traffic to the site. Investigations may take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the site.

Remediation is the process of removing pollutants or contaminants from soil, sediment, groundwater, or surface water for the general protection of human health and the environment. Each Balzac wellsite will be remediated according to Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) guidelines.

Surface Reclamation
Reclamation is the process of returning soil and vegetation on disturbed lands to a state of equivalent land capacity by re-contouring the subsoil to blend into the surrounding landscape, replacing topsoil, and establishing vegetation to match the surrounding land use. Nexen’s goal in reclamation is for the wellsite to blend into the surrounding area and support land use in a way that is functionally equivalent to what it was before development took place.

We also must satisfy requirements on surface reclamation established by AER. We will monitor reclaimed sites and conduct assessments to ensure requirements are met. A detailed site assessment, required by AER, evaluates a variety of soil conditions, topsoil depth, landscape conditions and vegetation growth. Once a wellsite passes all the requirements set out in the reclamation criteria, Nexen can apply to AER for a reclamation certificate. This certifies the land has been successfully reclaimed, and Nexen can return it to the landowner, ending the surface lease agreement.