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)

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

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Royal LePage Arena was an addition to West Kelowna championed by Len Novakowski. (File photo)
West Kelowna community leader Novakowski dies

Former Westside regional district director Len Novakowski dies after lengthy health battle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Most Read