Sketch in B.C. independent panel report illustrates potential effects of horizontal drilling and use of water and sand “proppant” to extract natural gas from deep shale formations. (B.C. government)

Research needs to catch up with B.C.’s gas drilling industry, experts say

Hydraulic fracturing review ordered by Premier John Horgan

B.C.’s rapidly expanded shale gas industry has made progress on reducing fresh water use, but more study is needed on its seismic effects, emissions of methane-intensive gas and disposal of fluids, an expert panel has told the provincial government.

Premier John Horgan delivered on an election promise by appointing an independent panel of experts to study hydraulic fracturing and associated environmental effects, and their report was released Tuesday.

The report follows an audit of the growing natural gas industry released last week by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer, reporting that a half century of drilling in northeastern B.C. has left a backlog of more than 7,000 inactive gas well sites that have not been permanently sealed with concrete and had their sites remediated.

READ MORE: B.C. industry has to pay for old gas well cleanup

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink prepares B.C. pipeline work camps

The gas drilling review panel concludes that the current regulations in place in B.C. “appear to be robust,” but the rapid growth of the industry since horizontal fracturing became widely used in the 1990s meant not enough data were available to the panel to assess the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement with those regulations.

• Water quality: The panel heard from representatives of Treaty 8 First Nations as well as academics, government staff, consultants and environmental activists. “Water quality in Northeast B.C. ultimately is vulnerable to contamination,” the panel concluded. “Because shale gas development is a relatively recent activity in B.C., as it is elsewhere, there has been much scrambling on the part of researchers, regulators and government and non-government agencies to collect data.”

The report notes that the cities of Dawson Creek and Fort St. John do regular water quality testing of their municipal supplies. “Overall, no trends have been observed.”

• Vertical migration of fluids: A hydrogeologist with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission told the panel that while there remains public concern, “at the depths of hydraulic fracturing in B.C., the potential for a pathway connection to the usable groundwater zone due to hydraulic fracturing propagation is negligible.”

Another expert from the Geological Survey of Canada said studies of fluid migration from shallower formations in Quebec and New Brunswick have found fractures in the uppermost 60 metres of bedrock, and that dissolved methane has been found in shallow groundwater.

• Seismic effects: Small earthquakes induced by oil and gas activities were first detected in B.C. in 1984, and they occur mainly from pumping waste water back into deep rock formations for disposal. Of the 35 detected overall, the largest in 1994 was magnitude 4.3 and moderate shaking was felt over a wide area.

In the Montney shale region, waste water disposal was moved to a different rock formation after a series of earthquakes was recorded up to 2015. The report recommends assessment of “fault slip” in each formation before fluid-injection operations.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Order in the chambers: Qualicum Beach votes for council code of conduct

Coun. Robert Filmer’s motion passes unanimously at town meeting

Rainbow crosswalk in Qualicum Beach covered in mysterious black substance

‘It was disappointing to see this act of disrespect take place inside our community’

Oceanside RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Nanoose Bay’s Northwest Bay Road again open to the public

Single-lane alternating traffic expected to stretch into September

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

$5-million lotto ticket sold in Nanaimo

Someone matched all six numbers in Wednesday’s 6/49 draw

UPDATE: B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says he was ‘tackled’ and ‘stabbed’ in apartment

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Province funds new shuttle buses for 13 B.C. senior centres

Activity, socializing helps maintain health, Adrian Dix says

Most Read