October 9, 2006

Scientific panel will review new Alberta baseline testing standard for water wells

The Alberta government has established an independent panel of scientists to evaluate a baseline testing standard for water wells. This measure is intended to help protect rural water wells during coalbed methane development.

Under the standard, which came into effect May 1, companies wanting to drill shallow coalbed methane wells must offer and complete tests and collect baseline information on any active water well within a minimum 600-metre radius of new or recompleted coalbed methane wells. The tests measure the water well's production capability, water quality (including bacteria) and the absence or presence of gas in the water well (including methane gas).

Implementation of the standard followed from a recommendation by a government-appointed multi-stakeholder advisory committee, whose review of coalbed methane policy was completed this past May. The scientific review panel's mandate is to assess how well that standard is working.

The panel will review baseline data collected since May, as well as information on baseline testing from other jurisdictions, research relating to baseline testing and stakeholders' feedback about the standard. The group will hold its first meeting in November and will report back to Alberta Environment Minister Guy Boutilier by March 2007. Its members include the following:

Dr Kevin Parks (co-chair), manager of Alberta Energy and Utilities Board's Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) and the Provincial Geologist of Alberta. He was previously the senior hydrogeologist and leader of the AGS groundwater section and has done exploration and upstream environmental work for Calgary's energy sector.

Dr Alec Blyth, a research scientists at the Alberta Research Council with 15 years of provincial, national and international work experience in hydrogeology, geochemistry and exploration geology. An expert in the design, construction and testing of private and industrial wells, he has also applied his experience in contamination research on isotopic and other geochemical techniques to coalbed methane and geological storage of carbon dioxide and radioactive waste.

Dr Bernard Mayer, a professor of isotope geochemistry at the University of Calgary. He leads an applied geochemistry research group that uses chemical and isotopic techniques to trace water, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur compounds in surface and subsurface environments.

Dr Carl Mendoza, an associate professor in the University of Alberta's department of earth and atmospheric sciences with expertise in the study of the hydrology of Alberta's boreal plain and soil-gas and vapour migration/reaction problems. He also studies the application of groundwater flow and transport models to hydrogeological problems.

Dr Karlis Muehlenbachs, a University of Alberta professor who specializes in the study of stable isotope geochemistry. In 1994, with the collaboration of industry he began carbon isotope fingerprinting of natural gas in Alberta to determine the source of unwanted surface gas.

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