About those “experts”

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Recently someone criticized me in front of a room of 400 people for poking fun at certain self-described “experts”.  It was a fair point so this blog will try to be serious.

I didn’t poke fun because of their lack of expertise in oil and gas since there has only been a very small oil and gas industry in Quebec and we, more than anyone, recognize it is not reasonable to expect there to be a lot of local oil and gas expertise.

We have been well-informed that it is our responsibility to share information with the population and Questerre has responded. We have one of the world’s first web pages in French on shale gas at questerrestage.wpengine.com/fr and you may be reading this blog in French as well. We have held community meetings, met with over 80 mayors, many business organizations, several environmental groups, government representatives, and basically anyone willing to meet with us. We have also given dozens of interviews.  For our troubles, we have been accused in print of ‘trying to buy the population’, ‘going on a charm offensive’ and ‘playing the transparency card’.

What I have been reacting to are statements such as that a relief well might have to be drilled due to natural gas migration outside the conductor pipe (click here to find out what a conductor pipe is). Note: It is very commonly known that relief wells are a last resort to relieve pressure to control a blow-out. In addition, the relief well will need conductor pipe too. So what would stop the natural gas migration outside the conductor pipe on the relief well?  The suggestion is ridiculous on its face as the most basic of fact checks would have determined.

There have been many, many statements like this over the past few months and I confess they are deeply frustrating.  It is why I started this blog.  To industry people these type of statements are akin to saying Elvis is Alive or Sasquatch lives. They are tabloid geologisms and they create noise that makes a fact- and science-based discussion very difficult.

A recent poll showed that Quebecers understand there is a lack of oil and gas expertise in Quebec.  In a Montreal Economic Institute poll, 62% of Quebecers said they believed technology and expertise from Western Canada is needed to develop natural gas reserves.  They are right. Western Canadians are the best in the world at on-shore natural gas development.

There are all kinds of PhD’s just like there are all kinds of medical doctors.  If you have a heart problem you may have some interest in what your knee doctor says.  But I am sure you would be more confident in the advice from your cardiac surgeon.

I am sorry to those who think I am too critical but I believe a good knee doctor would tell you to consult a cardiac surgeon about your heart problem.  So when I refer to subway geologists I am not criticizing their expertise in sub soil stability; rather, I am highlighting their actual expertise.

I am also stating my opinion that it is plain irresponsible to give declarative expert opinions on areas outside of one’s expertise.