Location: About 30 kilometres southwest of Pincher Creek in southern Alberta.

Products: Sales gas (methane), natural gas liquids, condensate and sulphur

Sales gas (methane) is shipped by pipeline to markets in Eastern Canada and the United States. It is used primarily for heating and electrical generation.

Natural gas liquids (NGL) include propane, butane and ethane. Propane is sold to domestic and United States distributors for heating, crop drying, auto fuel and petrochemical feedstock. Butane is shipped to refineries where it is used as a gasoline blending component and as a fuel in products such as butane lighters and curling irons. Ethane is shipped by pipeline to petrochemical plants where it is used as a "building block" for a variety of chemicals and plastics.

Condensate is a petroleum liquid similar to unrefined gasoline. It is shipped by pipeline to refineries as a feedstock to convert crude oil into various finished petroleum products, or for use as a diluent that thins heavy crude oil so that it will pump or move down a pipeline. 

Sulphur is used to make a wide range of products from fertilizers to fabric to pharmaceuticals. Shell Canada is one of the largest independent marketers of sulphur in the world.

The Waterton Complex, owned and operated by Shell, was constructed to process sour natural gas from the Waterton field.

In 1957, Waterton drilled its first well. It’s been more than 50 years, and the Waterton Complex has drilled more than 340 wells with a design capacity to produce nearly 3500 e3m3 per day – that’s enough gas to meet the average annual residential natural gas needs of over 650,000 Canadian households. In June 2012, we celebrated the Waterton Complex’s 50th anniversary in Pincher Creek alongside over 100 community members.

Contact Telephone Hours
Complex admin office: 403-627-7200
Business hours
Contact Shell Helps for other inquiries: 1-800-661-1600 Monday to Friday, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm MST
Report an emergency: 403-627-4200 24-hour line



Shell’s Waterton natural gas is sour because it contains hydrogen sulphide, a potentially dangerous substance which must be handled with care to prevent harm to people or the environment.

A pipeline from each well forms part of a gathering system which feeds raw sour gas and the associated liquids to the plant. Gas flows to the plant because of the natural underground pressure of the reservoir or it may be assisted by compressors.

When the sour natural gas first enters the plant, vapour and liquids are separated in a large vessel called an inlet separator. Some light hydrocarbons remain suspended in the liquid. Heat removes these gases so the liquid can be handled safely.

Heavy hydrocarbons are removed from the gas by passing the stream, under pressure, through a light oil. The oil is then distilled to remove these hydrocarbons. The heavy hydrocarbons are combined with liquids from the inlet separator and sent to storage.

At this point, the gas still contains three components which must be removed before it can be sold: hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and water.

Hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide are removed by passing the gas through a chemical solution that 'sweetens' the gas. Water and natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as ethane, propane and butane are extracted as separate products before the gas leaves the plant by dehydrating and subsequently cooling the gas.

The sweetening solution is distilled to recover the hydrogen sulphide. Ninety-seven per cent of the hydrogen sulphide is reduced to elemental sulphur by combining the gas with oxygen and burning it.

To achieve the 98.7 per cent recovery rate required by government regulations, the Waterton Complex uses the Super Claus Tail Gas Treating Process.


No job is more important than ensuring the safety of our neighbours, contractors and employees and protecting the environment. All Waterton employees are trained in safe work procedures and a response system is in place in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Workplace Safety

Safety is always our first priority. We aim to have zero fatalities and to prevent incidents like spills, fires and accidents. We are working to ensure compliance with our safety procedures and tackling the cultural issues that can lead to unsafe behaviour.

The Waterton Complex has won both the Canadian Gas Processors Association and Alberta Petrochemical Safety Council Large Plant Safety Awards.

Emergency Response System

In the unlikely event of an emergency, our response procedures are designed to protect the safety of the public living in the vicinity of our facilities. The Complex emergency procedures manual outlines step-by-step emergency response action. Complex employees are trained to handle emergencies should any arise. Staff maintain a high degree of emergency preparedness by conducting regular simulated exercises.

To report an unusual odour, spill or other emergency to the Waterton Complex please call (403) 627-4200 (24-hour line).


At Shell, we believe that resource development can coincide with environmental protection when the principles of sustainable development are applied. In support of this, we have five aspirational operating principles that focus on safety and protecting water, air, wildlife and members of the communities where we operate.

For example, Shell supports a wide range of social investment programs in the Greater Foothills region. In 2015, we spent more than $184,000 on community, environmental and educational initiatives.

We also go beyond required government regulations to conserve and reclaim sites and access roads from which we are no longer producing. Shell’s Decommissioning, Abandonment and Reclamation team, or DAR, proactively manages the decommissioning, environmental assessment and remediation of our assets to meet the expectations of our regulators and our community. Sites are restored with native vegetation, trees and shrubs that match the surrounding areas, sustain the land use and truly reduce our footprint. Shell doesn’t just reclaim the site of an abandoned well; we also reclaim the site’s access road to ensure we minimize our footprint.

Find out more about Shell’s reclamation and environmental stewardship in the Foothills

Waterton Advisory Group (WAG)

WAG is a multi-stakeholder group established to ensure that the Waterton Field is developed in a manner that balances social, environmental and economic benefits for the community and region. Attendance is open to anyone interested in broad discussions to find collaborative solutions. The group meets quarterly to discuss operations, ask questions and work together to ensure responsible development.

Chinook News

The Chinook News is the annual newsletter for Waterton, featuring Shell stories from the area.

Newsletter 2013
Newsletter 2014
Newsletter 2015

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