Couple says toxic gas leaks caused by project under land

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A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world's largest carbon-capture and storage project says greenhouse gases leaking out are killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken soda pop.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/01/2011 (4278 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world’s largest carbon-capture and storage project says greenhouse gases leaking out are killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken soda pop.

The gases were supposed to have been injected permanently underground.

Cameron and Jane Kerr own nine quarter-sections of land above the Weyburn oilfield in eastern Saskatchewan. They released a consultant’s report Tuesday that links high concentrations of carbon dioxide in their soil to 6,000 tonnes of the gas injected underground every day by energy giant Cenovus (TSX:CVE) in an attempt to enhance oil recovery and fight climate change.

Jane Kerr

“We knew, obviously, there was something wrong,” said Jane Kerr.

A Cenovus spokeswoman said the company doubts those findings. She pointed out they contradict years of research from other scientists.

“It’s not what we believe,” said Rhona Delfrari.

Since 2000, Cenovus has injected about 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide underground to force more oil from an aging field and safely store greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

But in 2005, the Kerrs began noticing algae blooms, clots of foam and multicoloured scum in two ponds at the bottom of a gravel quarry on their land. Sometimes, the ponds bubbled. Small animals — cats, rabbits and goats — were regularly found dead a few metres away.

The water, said Jane Kerr, came out of the ground carbonated.

“It would fizz and foam.”

Then there were the explosions.

“At night we could hear this sort of bang like a cannon going off,” said Jane Kerr, 58. “We’d go out and check the gravel pit and, in the walls, it (had) blown a hole in the side and there would be all this foaming coming out of this hole.”

“Just like you shook up a bottle of Coke and had your finger over it and let it spray,” added her husband.

Alarmed, the couple left their farm and moved to Regina. “It was getting too dangerous to live there,” Cameron Kerr said.

He said provincial inspectors did a one-time check of air quality. Eventually, the Kerrs paid a consultant for a study.

Paul Lafleur of Petro-Find Geochem found carbon dioxide concentrations in the soil last summer that averaged about 23,000 parts per million — several times those typically found in field soils. Concentrations peaked at 110,607 parts per million.

Lafleur also used the mix of carbon isotopes he found in the gas to trace its source.

 

— The Canadian Press

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