WHILE Fortune Minerals finds itself under siege over its plans to develop a coal mine in the Klappan area, another company is planning to leave forever.
Shell is sending people up to the area this week to remove two remaining wellheads installed in the middle part of the last decade to explore for coalbed methane natural gas.
The company late last year surrendered all claim to the Klappan in return for $20 million in royalty credits from the province which it will put toward a water recycling facility at one of its northeastern B.C. gas producing sites.
“We had previously removed the wellhead from the Summit [drill] site so only have the two remaining to remove,” said company official Larry Lalonde of Shell locations in the Klappan.
“With that our work will mostly be done and we will look to mother nature for her efforts around vegetation taking root and growing.”
Shell at one time had an active program in the Klappan in hopes of finding commercially-viable quantities of natural gas.
Since 2004, the company spent $32.5 million on its Klappan project, said Lalonde.
But like Fortune, it ran into protests from the Tahltan worried over the effect of natural gas extraction on water supplies.
Tahltan members and environmental groups banded together to oppose Shell, resulting in marches and rallies across the region and elsewhere.
For many it was also the first time to hear about fracking or hydraulic fracturing, the process in which water and chemicals are pumped underground to release natural gas.
Protests eventually led to a temporary two-year moratorium on drilling agreed to by Shell in 2008. It was extended in 2010 and then in 2011 leading to last year’s agreement.
In evaluating the situation, Lalonde said the Klappan project was no longer a Shell priority.
“Shell has a robust portfolio of exploration and production opportunities in North America,” said Lalonde.
What Shell won’t be doing is taking up road access to the drill site locations.
That’s because it’s an existing road into the region and was originally constructed as a railbed for a BC Rail expansion that never panned out.
“Any road reclamation would be to the actual [drill] pads themselves,” said Lalonde.
Shell did, however, spend money fixing up the railbed road when needed, including extensive work after a washout took place in 2007.
There was also high water damage done to the road this spring.
The Klappan contains large coal deposits with resident coalbed methane gas that potentially could have be released through the practice called fracking.
Shell’s planned water recycling facility in northeastern B.C. is aimed at reducing the amount of fresh water needed at the gas facility.