We don’t know enough

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

The Council of Canadian Academies just issued their report on fracing.

The report implies that Quebec might be the model for the best way forward.  A quote from the report:

“The Panel notes that the research needed to support improved science-based decisions concerning cumulative environmental impacts has not yet begun,  except in Quebec, and is unlikely to occur without a concerted effort among  industry, government, academia, and the public in each of the provinces with  significant shale gas potential.”

There are many things we still don’t know, they say.  The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers politely replied a balanced approach might be in order.

Nonetheless, there seems to be some wisdom in their words because there is something all of Canada can learn from the Quebec study.  The Strategic Environmental Assessment released earlier this year is made up of 73 separate independent studies.  Perhaps it’s no coincidence these studies address most of the Council’s concerns surrounding lack of knowledge.  A few examples from the Strategic Environmental Assessment:

  • “hydraulic fracturing in the Utica shale could not cause a significant migration of fluids and methane along a fault or natural fractures to the surface aquifers in the next 1000 years.”
  • “the [gas leaks] rates currently measured on shale gas wells are almost nil.”
  • researchers found no relationship between the presence, nature and the concentration of gases in water wells and shale gas wells.
  • the potential release of several compounds or elements [from flowback water} seems limited, and it is unlikely that they would cause problems in the environment.
  • compounds most commonly used in hydraulic fracturing in Quebec were relatively non-toxic, non- bio accumulative and highly degradable.

Overall the Strategic Environmental Assessment found that modern natural gas extraction can be done safely with modern best practices and it’s possible to mitigate impacts.

The Council suggests impacts are specific to local environments.  Thus, there needs to be separate studies in every area.

A more balanced approach might be to realize many of the conclusions of the Quebec study are generally applicable while some are not.   We can learn from the Quebec study.

The council also realized that without activity there is little to study.  They recommend on-going research in conjunction with development.  It seems the natural next step in Quebec is to begin developing a discovery and take their research to the next stage too.