Case study – Birchill Canada
Birchill is an exploration and production company with a rich history in the Calgary oil and gas landscape spanning over 20 years.
Bregal Responsible Investment Report - 2017
Birchill has control of over 280 sections of land and the corresponding resources, coordinates drilling efforts and production of natural gas from conventional plays in Western Canada. Birchill is also constructing a gas plant and gathering system servicing over 130 current and future drilling locations.
Birchill is committed to its ‘Dedication to Zero’ policy – minimise environmental impacts, emissions and wildlife disturbance, zero employees or contractors’ injuries, and others. Birchill Canada is the fourth venture where Bregal backs the Birchill team. All previous rounds have been successfully developed without major sustainability incidents.
Head office: Calgary, AB, Canada.
Under the umbrella of world-class regulation, we developed a corporate culture that prioritises ‘going beyond’ and identifying sustainable options. The advancement of low-cost technology has been a large contributor to this initiative. Construction of our gas plant demonstrates our culture of sustainability, with hundreds of moving parts and micro decisions on design, equipment and processes. In constructing over 20kms of pipeline connecting our eight wells and gas plant, 100% of welds were x-rayed to ensure pipeline integrity and guard against future leaks. We have constructed a gas plant that is leading edge relative to industry standards and our competitors: A source of pride for the Birchill team.
Fugitive emissions and energy usage
Health & safety
ESG industry relevance
While fracturing techniques have been used by industry for over 60 years, high-density hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new approach to natural gas extraction. Similar to other commodities’ extraction, hydraulic fracturing is not without risks:
- Contamination of water supply – Methane can migrate to the water table as a result of extraction and production procedures. This can happen through cracks in the well cement, not the actual fracturing process. Preventative best practices include surface casing and cementing, monitoring the well integrity, and taking water samples from wells before drilling starts, in order to immediately identify changes in water quality.
- Water and chemical usage – Chemicals used in the fracking fluid can pollute ground and surface water, even after the well is no longer in use, if not disposed of appropriately. Waste water from fracking can also leave elevated levels of contaminants if it is not treated properly. Regulations in Alberta require disposing of frac water to licensed sites.
- Fugitive emissions – Leaks from the shale wells of methane or other substances may cause pollution.
- Increased seismic activity – Human activity can induce seismic activity related to energy development projects. Drillers can minimise earthquake risks through monitoring and prevention. Best practices suggest building a good understanding of the background seismicity in the area of interest, before starting drilling. Faulting is identifiable through 3D seismic and can be avoided if the area is deemed to be of high risk.
Bregal’s role in the energy transition
The investment strategies of all Bregal investment funds centre around building good businesses, growing these businesses and making them more resilient in order to create long-term value for our investors.
This strategy is mirrored in our approach to investment in energy sources. We invest in well-run energy businesses which have a role to play in meeting the world’s energy needs, in businesses which operate in a responsible way and in those which improve the resilience of the energy mix as we transition to a lower carbon future, whilst safeguarding shared economic prosperity.
Our energy portfolio in North-America focuses on natural gas exploration and production, power generation and renewables, such as solar and wind. Hence, we aim to only invest in energy sources which have a clear role in the energy transition.
The abundance of natural gas in this region has transformed the market and accelerated the transition away from more carbonintensive coal-fired power generation. Gas-fired generation is the only technology of its scale able to solve the intermittency issues of renewables. As such, we believe it represents an important stepping stone on the long-term transition to a clean, sustainable economy.
This transition is of paramount importance and we invest extensively in renewable energy globally. Renewable investments currently comprise half of our interests in the sector by number, and around one-third by value.
We are at the forefront of innovation, supporting the commercialisation of new technologies that make the renewable base as reliable as traditional power generators have been in meeting the rising energy demand of economic growth worldwide.
The oil and gas industry is highly regulated in Alberta with some of highest operational and environmental standards in the world. Birchill is often going over and above local regulations to ensure safe and sustainable exploration and production operations.
Birchill is capable of drilling at least three wells from the same pad site, which minimises the footprint of developed well sites. It also reduces disturbance to forested areas. Birchill prioritises using existing infrastructure wherever possible, and coordinates with other companies in the area to co-design access infrastructure and minimise environmental impact.
Birchill ensures that potential spills are isolated and dealt with immediately. The clean-up requirement for releases in Canada is to match the background level before operations start. Through diligent contractor management and practices, the potential for spills are minimised. Any spills that do take place are cleaned up immediately to ensure contamination doesn’t spread. Birchill discloses the full list of substances used in the fracking water.
Fugitive emissions and energy usage
Birchill plans for limited impact and employs technologies to minimise fugitive emissions. The gas plant is electrified via the local permanent utility, as opposed to running natural gas generator sets, thus substantially reducing site emissions compared to industry practices in remote regions. Electric-driven air compressors supply site instrumentation, chemical pumps, and compressors with dry air instead of gas to minimise or eliminate site emissions as much as practical.
Wherever possible, low gas consumption instrumentation devices are used at the producing well sites. Flaring gas while production testing is kept to a minimum by doing these procedures in-line to the gas plant.
Health & safety
There were no reportable safety incidents reported in 2017 conducting operations including lease construction, drilling and completions, pipelining and gas plant construction.
All contractors are pre-screened prior to being hired to ensure they have the appropriate safety certifications. Contractors are also required to undergo Birchill’s orientation prior to engaging in work if they will not always be directly supervised by Birchill.
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