Posted on January 11, 2011 (updated: January 11, 2011)

Sask. family demands answers on carbon capture and storage risks

REGINA — A Saskatchewan family has demanded a full public investigation of documented problems on its Weyburn property, located on top of a Cenovus Energy carbon capture and storage site, in light of independent research that indicates unnaturally high levels of CO2 in the area’s soil.

Cameron and Jane Kerr first noticed changes in surface water and well water on their property in 2004, one year after CO2 injections in the area began, and reported these incidents to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources.

Disturbances included bubbling and foaming water, unusual algae growths in ponds and animal carcasses found strewn around the ponds.

“Cenovus Energy and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources failed to properly monitor and investigate the possibility of a CO2 leak during the last six years,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Barry Robinson, who is advising the Kerrs. “Furthermore, they left the Kerrs in the position of having to prove there was a problem when it was the ministry’s duty to investigate releases from oil and gas activities.”

Cenovus, the ministry and the Kerrs agreed in the fall 2007 that the ministry would conduct a year-long investigation into soil, water and air quality on the Kerrs’ property. The ministry took water and air samples on a single day in July 2008. They did not test for CO2.

Since then, both Cenovus and the ministry have refused to conduct further studies on the property. A petroleum geologist assisting the Kerrs suggested that CO2 leakage could be occurring through faults and fractures or through abandoned oil and gas wells.

In July 2010, the Kerrs retained Petro-Find GeoChem, a Saskatoon-based consulting company, to conduct soil gas studies on their property.

Petro-Find Geochem found unusually high CO2 and methane levels in the soil on the property. An analysis of the measured CO2 done by a research laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan clearly indicated that the leaking CO2 is not naturally occurring and is similar in composition to the CO2 injected in the Weyburn field.

Should Cenovus and the ministry refuse to conduct a full investigation in the face of credible evidence linking the disturbances on the Kerr property to the carbon capture site, the Kerrs will seek legal action.

“It’s clear something is amiss here, and it’s clear that the ministry must take responsibility and conduct a full-scale investigation of the impacts carbon capture and storage has on the surrounding environment,” Robinson said.

“Carbon capture and storage — especially as carried out on the Cenovus site — is not a risk-free silver bullet solution to combating greenhouse gas emissions.”

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