Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall. (Hansard TV)

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall. (Hansard TV)

Independent panel to review hydraulic fracturing impact in B.C.

Experts will study effects on earthquakes, water and climate change

The B.C. NDP government is proceeding with its promised technical review of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction, as one of the larger players in the global gas market considers going ahead with an export facility in the Kitimat area.

Three geological experts will look at the connections between what is commonly called “fracking” and earthquakes and how the process affects water quality and supply. They will also examine to what extent wells that use the process leak methane, the main component of natural gas, to the atmosphere, where it is a significant greenhouse gas.

“We’re going to be looking at how we extract natural gas here in B.C., making sure that our regulations are strong and that we’re doing things a safe way” said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall.

The review, an NDP campaign promise in the 2017 election, comes as LNG Canada considers a final investment decision on a liquefied natural gas export terminal at Kitimat. LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz told an investment forum in Vancouver this week that his Shell-led investor group is preparing to begin construction as early as this year.

LNG Canada is a consortium including Shell, PetroChina, Korea Gas and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan. It is considered a leading proponent to export LNG from northeastern B.C. since the Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG dropped its bid for a similar export terminal near Prince Rupert last year.

RELATED: Petronas drops LNG project for northern B.C.

LNG Canada has an agreement with TransCanada Corp. to build a pipeline through the Rocky Mountains from northeastern B.C., where Shell and others have major gas drilling operations in the Montney shale near Dawson Creek and other gas-rich formations.

A three-member panel will be made up of SFU hydrology professor Diana M. Allen, UBC rock mechanics and rock engineering professor Erik Eberhardt, and geological engineer Amanda Bustin. They will consult with academics, industry associations, northeast B.C. communities, Treaty 8 First Nations and environmental groups.

Results of the review are expected by the end of the year.