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Pipeline expansion has Rolla resident worried

For Karl Mattson, the potential for a fatal sour gas leak near his property is nothing new. But the Rolla-based artist is worried a pipeline expansion near him home will increase that risk.
pipeline
Karl Mattson stands next to an oil and gas site 100 metres from his home near Rolla.

For Karl Mattson, the potential for a fatal sour gas leak near his property is nothing new. But the Rolla-based artist is worried a pipeline expansion near him home will increase that risk.

In February, Mattson will appear before an Oil and Gas Commission appeal tribunal over an ARC Resources proposal to expand a pipeline near his property that will allow the company to transport more sour gas.

Mattson has lived on his property for 21 years, which plays host to the Sweetwater 905 festival, attracting artists from across Canada.

Mattson said he doesn’t know when the ARC Resources well that carries hydrogen sulphide gas was first installed near his property.

Hydrogen sulphide, or H2S, is a byproduct of natural gas fracking.

Megan Hjulfors, an ARC Resources supervisor for investor relations and communications, wrote in an email that the company expanded into a lesser-known part of the well’s reservoir, which brought with it more hydrogen sulphide.

“The total change in (hydrogen sulphide) concentration is extremely small,” she said. 

Right now, the amount of hydrogen sulphide that is allowed to pass through the pipeline is 0.5 per cent. ARC wants to expand the allowable amount to 1.4 per cent, to allow them to push higher concentrations of gas through the pipeline.

That increase, however, has Mattson concerned.

“I think that a concentration increase of H2S gas from 0.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent in high pressure lines within 150 metres of my home is extreme and unacceptable,” he said in a recent interview.

“I was a little frustrated to learn that they don’t need that large of an increase.”

He wants to see any increases phased in gradually and more public notification. 

“I think companies should be expected to apply each time an increase is needed,” he said.

“Companies should be expected to have to reapply each time there is an increase of 0.3 (per cent) or more, therefore ensuring proper public notification and opportunities to acquire information on status and upkeep of infrastructure and pipeline ownership.”

Hjulfors noted that “pipelines are typically licensed higher than the maximum (hydrogen sulphide) concentration expected and designed to higher specifications to ensure public safety is maintained at all times.”

Regardless of whether or not the company’s application is approved, Mattson said that the hydrogen sulphide was a “constant concern” for him, and he wants nearby landowners to be part of that process.

“It’s not just up to the companies and government to decide if (safety levels are) adequate,” he explained.

The hearing will take place Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 9 a.m., at the Stonebridge Hotel in Dawson Creek.

reporter@ahnfsj.ca