Nexen continues Balzac plant shut down
Representatives of Nexen’s Balzac gas plant provided Rocky View County with an update on work to decommission and abandon the plant, June 19.
Project Manager Andrew Hamilton told council crews are currently removing insulation from the structure, hauling more than 10 kilo-tonnes of sulphur offsite and working to abandon the site’s 65 sour gas wells, which will take place over the next three years.
“While we’ve ceased (new) sour gas operations, we will remain present in the area for some time,” said Hamilton, adding that employees and contractors put in more than 33,000 work hours in 2011 to decommission the plant. “The wells will continue to produce for the foreseeable future and we can’t just leave them.”
Nexen is also conducting studies on McDonald Lake and the local watershed, after the lake experienced its highest water levels on record in 2011, causing erosion, damage to power poles and changes in water characteristics.
“McDonald Lake is a massive environmental aspect for us,” said Hamilton. “It is very important to us that we ensure the health of the watershed.”
Hamilton said another of the company’s priorities is mitigating traffic risks and enhancing emergency response capabilities by addressing driving behaviours and traffic volumes in the area.
Planning is also underway for demolition of the plant, starting with the above-ground pipelines. The last to be demolished will be the two 400-foot smoke stacks, which have become iconic symbols in the area.
“We need to be careful with how we bring those stacks down because the power station (which will remain onsite) is in the fall shadow of the stacks,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton said complete decommissioning of the plant will take roughly 10 years, and Nexen will not be done in the field until at least 2025.
“We try to leave a positive legacy in each community we have operated in when we leave,” said Hamilton, adding Nexen continues to contribute financial support to local organizations through the Balzac Heritage Project. To date, the project has contributed $70,000 to operational costs for the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, and has committed $400,000 to the construction of a new Balzac community facility.
“This project expresses our appreciation for the support of our neighbours and the community through the 50 years of the Balzac gas plant operations,” said Hamilton.
“We look forward to continuing our ties with the community over the next several years as we decommission, reclaim and remediate the plant.”
For more information, visit www.nexeninc.com/en/Operations/Conventional/Balzac