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Terrace Standard (Canada): Shell revives methane plans

Jul 04 2007

A MAJOR energy company that left the Northwest more than two years ago after a group of native people said it wasn’t wanted is making plans to return.

Shell Canada has been holding meetings in Dease Lake and other places north of here to gauge community reaction to its plans to resume the search for coalbed methane natural gas in the Klappan area which is part of the Tahltan traditional territory.

Shell has the exclusive rights from the provincial government to look for coalbed methane in the Klappan but drilled just three exploratory wells in 2004 before pulling out in 2005.

A group of Tahltan elders and others called the Klabona Keepers said Shell’s exploration plans would harm the Klappan located up Hwy37 North.

It’s a traditional location for Tahltan hunting and is regarded as particularly environmentally sensitive because of its wildlife populations and its location as the headwaters for three northwestern rivers – the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.

Coalbed methane is natural gas held next to coal deposits because of water pressure. The gas can be pumped out but only after the water is also pumped out.

Far more wells are needed to pump out coalbed methane than other forms of natural gas and environmentalists say there are problems in dealing with the volume of water that is brought to the surface.

Back in 2005, Shell said it would return after the Tahltan reached consensus among themselves as to what kind of resource extraction should take place.

That proved difficult because while there are two village-level governments in Iskut and in Telegraph Creek, there’s also an organization called the Tahltan Central Council which speaks for the Tahltan throughout their traditional territory. The council often came into conflict with traditional groups such as the Klabona Keepers.

But Shell kept an office open in Dease Lake and is now talking up plans to drill between three and 14 exploratory wells this year and next.

“We need to consult with the community as to our plans and that’s what we are doing,” says Shell official Larry Lalonde of meetings between various Tahltan groups and others. “We want to demonstrate we can do work responsibly.”

He estimates Shell will spend between $3 and $5 million with Tahltan companies and provide jobs for up to 40 Tahltan people as part of a larger expenditure planned for 2007 and 2008.

“But this is still exploratory. We’re very early. Three to 14 wells is pretty small and we would drill only on pre-disturbed area,” said Lalonde.

Aside from dealing with any internal Tahltan politics, Lalonde said Shell must fix up a land route into the Klappan that’s been eroded and washed out from excessive snow melt.

Decades ago the provincial government built a railbed through the area in hopes of extending the tracks of Pacific Great Eastern Railway, which later changed its name to B.C. Rail. But that plan was abandoned and the railbed became a road route instead.

“A large portion needs to be repaired before we could bring in any equipment,” said Lalonde.

In a perfect world, Shell wants that work to start using Tahltan equipment and labour in the middle of July.

It would then start drilling after the ground freezes up in late fall and extend that work into next year.

http://www.terracestandard.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=33&cat=23&id=1017900&more=0

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