Vesta Energy provided an update on its operations in central Alberta to Lacombe County council on Thursday. (Photo contributed)

Vesta Energy says drilling not triggering earthquakes

Company has not triggered any earthquakes since March 2019 incident

Central Alberta-based Vesta Energy has had no repeat incidents since fracking triggered an earthquake near Sylvan Lake in 2019, says the company.

Vesta vice-president Mark Lansing said that after the March 4, 2019 earthquake the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) issued a sub-surface order, which outlines what oil and gas companies should do if they detect seismic activity.

“It’s really a traffic light system for operating parameters,” Lansing, Vesta vice-president of health, safety, environment and sustainability, told Lacombe County council on Thursday.

If a minor earthquake is detected, a company may need to shift its operations away from the vulnerable zone. A larger earthquake could mean a company must shut down operations, at least temporarily, at a site.

After the 2019 earthquake, the Alberta Geological Survey, a branch of the AER, undertook an investigation of the earthquake whose epicentre was about 12 kilometres south of Sylvan Lake. It was determined the quake was caused by fracking in the area where Vesta was operating.

Since then, the company has drilled 30 to 40 wells in central Alberta and has not triggered any seismic activity that falls within the AER’s thresholds, said Lansing, who was asked about the incident by a county councillor following a company update on its activities in the area.

Vesta has about 130 wells on-stream producing about 13,000 barrels of oil a day in its operating area, which extends roughly from Ponoka to south of Penhold. The company has access to around 400 proved and probably drilling locations, which gives it 15 to 20 years of inventory, he said.

The company drills into oil reservoirs in the Duvernay formation. Wells are about 2.5 kilometres deep and lateral shafts can extend up to four kilometres depending on the geography. Three to six wells are located on a typical pad.

The company’s 8.5 ratio of assets to liabilities is considered healthy. Some Alberta oil companies have gone under because their liabilities dwarfed their potential assets.

“Overall, we’re sitting in good financial condition and shape,” he said.

Vesta has also been active in managing its environmental cleanup. Eight wells will be abandoned this year and another 30 sites are in the process of being reclaimed.

“We’re a lot further ahead than a lot of licencees out there,” he said.

The company is on pace to abandon its current inactive well inventory entirely by 2030. Abandoned wells are permanently sealed and taken out of service. They are cleaned, plugged and the casing must be cut in most cases one meter beneath the service.

When the land above the well is returned to its original state it is considered reclaimed.

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