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Permafrost Monitoring of Remote Drilling Sumps

Assessing climate change impact on remote drilling sumps in the Canadian Arctic

  • Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories

    Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories

Identifying solutions to promote long-term stability where permafrost is thawing

Along with climate change comes thawing of permafrost in the Canadian Arctic, making drilling and disposing of drilling wastes in remote locations in northern Canada more challenging. The in-situ disposal of drilling wastes in remote sumps was a common historic practice for oil and gas companies—especially in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) of the Northwest Territories (NWT) where extensive oil and gas exploration activities took place between the 1960s and the late 2000s in the Mackenzie Delta.

The practice of encapsulating drilling wastes in frozen ground was built on the idea that the buried wastes would freeze back and be permanently contained within a thick layer of permafrost, a key feature of the Arctic landscape. Warming climate and a shifting ground thermal regime are now impacting the stability of remote drilling sumps, but we’re helping to meet the challenge with permafrost monitoring. Through the execution of annual monitoring programs, we monitor sump performance for permafrost degradation and subsidence of sump cover and we’re identifying solutions to promote long-term stability of the sites.

As a result, we’re helping northern communities dispose of drilling wastes safely and responsibly.

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