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.

BC legislatureLNG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Southeast Kootenay school district set to reopen next week

Individual schools have creative timetables and schedules in order to adhere to public health orders

George Morris turns 99

Friends, family and neighbours gathered outside at Terra Lee Terraces in Cranbrook… Continue reading

Rotarians at work at Fred Scott Villas

Members of the Cranbrook Rotary Club, along with some key community volunteers,… Continue reading

The Weed Warrior: an invasive weed, new to the East Kootenay

Wild Parsnip is a plant that most of us don’t want to have a Close Encounter of any Kind with

Possible Kermode Bear spotted near Castlegar

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run on May 27

WATCH: Cranbrook Farmer’s Market kicks off 2020 season

The first market of the year took place on Saturday, May 30.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read