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Oh, Canada’s Become a Home for Record Fracking

Posted on Dec 28, 2011
Toban Black (CC-BY)

By Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica

This piece was originally published by ProPublica.

Early last year, deep in the forests of northern British Columbia, workers for Apache Corp. performed what the company proclaimed was the biggest hydraulic fracturing operation ever.

The project used 259 million gallons of water and 50,000 tons of sand to frack 16 gas wells side by side. It was “nearly four times larger than any project of its nature in North America,” Apache boasted.

The record didn’t stand for long. By the end of the year, Apache and its partner, Encana, topped it by half at a neighboring site.

As furious debate over fracking continues in the United States, it is instructive to look at how a similar gas boom is unfolding for our neighbor to the north.

To a large extent, the same themes have emerged as Canada struggles to balance the economic benefits drilling has brought with the reports of water contamination and air pollution that have accompanied them.

The Canadian boom has differed in one regard: The western provinces’ exuberant embrace of large-scale fracking offers a vision of what could happen elsewhere if governments clear away at least some of the regulatory hurdles to growth.

Even as some officials have questioned the wisdom of doing so, Alberta and British Columbia have dueled to draw investment by offering financial incentives and loosening rules. The result has been some of the most intensive drilling anywhere.

“There definitely is concern on the part of people living in northeast B.C. on the scale of developments, which are quite significant already and are only in their infancy,“said Ben Parfitt, an analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a research institute that promotes environmental sustainability. “We are seeing some of the largest fracking operations anywhere on earth.”

Canada’s eastern regions have proceeded more cautiously. In March, Quebec placed a moratorium on shale development pending further study. Protesters have taken to the streets in New Brunswick demanding the same.

Public opposition, coupled with low gas prices, has slowed drilling over the past year. Still, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects production from shale and other unconventional sources to more than triple in the next decade.

The industry’s aggressive plan for growth has drawn an ambivalent response from the nation’s top environmental officials.

In March, Canada’s deputy minister of the environment sent an internal memo warning that more work was needed to assess the risks from shale gas drilling. The memo, obtained by an Ottawa-based newspaper and addressed to Environment Minister Peter Kent, said water use and contamination top a list of environmental concerns including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the use of unknown toxic chemicals. Kent subsequently ordered two studies looking at the safety and environmental impacts of shale drilling.

Yet, in a written response to questions from ProPublica, the environment ministry affirmed its commitment to continued development.

“Our Government believes shale gas is an important strategic resource that could provide numerous economic benefits to Canada,” the ministry’s statement said. Gas is an important part of a clean energy future, the ministry added, saying that “a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.”

B.C., Alberta Lure Drillers

Canada’s current drilling boom dates to the late 1990s, when Encana began using fracking to extract gas from dense rock in northern British Columbia.

The second-largest gas driller in North America, Encana also started fracking shallow coal seams, or coalbed methane, in Alberta in the early 2000s, using nitrogen rather than water to free the gas. Coalbed methane drilling generally requires less fluid than fracking shale but occurs much closer to drinking water.

In some cases, Encana and other companies have drilled wells directly into aquifers, injecting fracking fluids into groundwater suitable for drinking.

In the middle of the last decade, Encana and other operators started exploring northern British Columbia’s shale gas reserves. The formations were promising, holding at least 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to industry estimates.

But drillers faced formidable hurdles to get to it. Unlike the Barnett and Marcellus shales in the U.S., Canada’s best shale basins are far from most markets and existing infrastructure. Soggy ground slows drilling in the spring and summer, and the average high temperature hovers around zero degrees Fahrenheit in January.

To encourage development, British Columbia enacted a series of incentives, including reduced royalties for deep drilling and credits for building roads and pipelines in the remote regions.


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By prosefights, January 2, 2012 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio interrupts natural-gas drilling operations
Ohio has suspended the underground disposal of wastewater from natural-gas drilling operations “indefinitely” in the Youngstown after a series of 11 recent earthquakes, including one on Saturday with a magnitude of 4.0.

nmgco page -
You +1’d this publicly. Undo
Nmgco is supplying gas with only 869.4 BTU/ft3? ... NMGCO should have some technical experts qualified to comment on whether Ms Hammelman’s and Mr ...;=&gs;_sm=&gs;_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=890a274ff6b690bf

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By prosefights, January 1, 2012 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

McDONALD, Ohio (AP) — Officials said Saturday they believe the latest earthquake activity in northeast Ohio is related to the injection of wastewater into the ground near a fault line, creating enough pressure to cause seismic activity.

The brine wastewater comes from drilling operations that use the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale. But Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer said during a news teleconference that fracking is not causing the quakes.

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By purplewolf, January 1, 2012 at 1:05 am Link to this comment

4 pt. earthquake in Ohio today and yes they were fracking there. As for all the TV ads telling then sheeple that it is totally safe. Bull. As for the people refusing to let the frackers back on their land, the courts will back big energy. Some people who had a contract with 1 of these companies sold it sold to another companies and the contract had run out. The land owners had the right to get a better price for the use of their property, the other company refused and it ended up in court and the courts let big energy pay the people the old rate that was about like 3 cents per acre. Other people water in the home became contaminated so the companies promised to supply them with clean water as long as they were there drilling, the clean water lasted for a few weeks and the company reneged on that. The homeowners have tap water that catches fire when you turn on the tap, water is all kinds of colors willed with unknown chemicals and dirt. I can see where the Mayan predictions might just happen if we keep disrespecting the only home we really have.

“After the last tree is cut down,the last animal is slaughtered and all the waters poisoned,only then will you realize you cannot eat money.” Old Native Indian saying, Buffalo Spirit.

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By prosefights, December 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

Snyder, Texas has another fracking earthquake

Featured on TV news in Lubbock Friday morning December 30, 2011

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By drbhelthi, December 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

If fracking is safe and environmentally sustainable, why has ground water become polluted in all areas where fracking has been done?  All areas where fracking has occurred.

Fracking = the systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers.
Fracking = the systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers.

The systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers ?

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By SteveL, December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment

US Geothermal Power Potential 10x That Of Coal Power Plants, New Analysis Shows

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By John Boyle, December 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And _ _ _ _ they’ve just started fracking in the 51st state.
Only difference being that WATER is the most precious resource on the driest habitable land mass on Earth.

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By prosefights, December 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

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By berniem, December 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment

There goes my misconception about Canada being sane!

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By Big B, December 29, 2011 at 11:14 am Link to this comment

Thw frackers are just about finished raping western pa and are about to pull up stakes and move on to Ohio.

who would have ever thought that, instead of spending our time and money developing alternative energy sources, we would dig, suck, mine, and burn everything we could get our hands on.

Oh that’s right, I did. and just about everybody else too.

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By SarcastiCanuck, December 29, 2011 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When I was young I thought we here in Canada were better than other countries in the world(especially the U.S.),when it came to caring for the environment.Now I understand that money rules and the rest comes second.Canada is now becoming an energy leader in the world and our land,water and our people will pay the devil’s price down the road.We are now No better than anybody and have rightfully earned any scorn towards us….Like DrBones said,it always comes down to MONEY.

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By Roger Lafontaine, December 29, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We’re all in a mad rush to destroy ourselves in order to extract some $$$$$ out of the planet. Who invented $$$$$ anyway? We did, in order to facilitate trade or something. Now that very obsolete invention has become totally destructive, and guess what we’re going to hang on to it until it kills us, every last one of us. That is the limit of human intelligence. The sky’s not the limit anymore, profit is.

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By Paul McGuire, December 29, 2011 at 6:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A familiar story, this digging for precious materials
at the expense of those even more valuable. It’s time
to dig that old dog-eared copy of God’s Little Acre out
of the pile of books in the attic.

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By Anarcissie, December 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

Canada has generally been a natural-resources colony for U.S.-based corporations.  When I was there in the 1970s it was logging: square miles of old-growth forest could disappear overnight with nary a peep of protest.  Now—well, I guess there’ll be rainbows in Canadian water before long.

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By tapxe, December 28, 2011 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, I disagree…

Frack all you want.


I haven’t stepped on the north American continent and won’t again for a long time.

if you’re a jew, would you go to nazi Germany?

I’m not a jew, just a liberty loving causasian and ameriKa is much worse than the nazis ever were (Ok not towards the jews…  who BTW, run ameriKa, finance, media, gov’t, etc. - into the ground -) and because I am a vocal dissident, I am blacklisted, etc, the works.

Let them self destruct, and fracking is a great way to achieve that in very little time.

Once the Ogallala aquifer is dead (on its way real fast already), ameriKa is completely finished, no more bread basket, etc…

The faster, the better.

Self destruct from within, that’s as close to divine justice as you can get.

As for all the morons still living there…  Fuck’em.

If they lack the wherewithall to stand to tyranny (I openly call for armed insurrection) that has eviscerated the US Constitution, they’re not worthy of Liberty and will get what they deserve.

As for me, not that you’d care, I am doing just fine in tropical paradise with world class free health care and university for the kids, etc, etc.  The economy is down somewhat, but we’re still prospering.

Best decision I ever made to move my family out of uSSa shortly after the 9-11 writing on the wall became very clear.

Love it or leave it?

I left it because I love America and I can’t stand and won’t have any part in what she’s morphing into.

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By NZDoug, December 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

Why can’t they process the crap in Canada and use the mother truckers to ship it?

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, December 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Fracking = Polluting groundwater.

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By Blueokie, December 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

Ottawa should just drop the pretense and change its name to Houston du Nord.

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By Dr Bones, December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Looks like energy prices should plummet given all the drilling to babies are doing.  Best bet is to invest in clean water! It always comes down to MONEY!

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By diamond, December 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

I live in an area where fracking is a developing nightmare and farmers have started a campaign called ‘lock the gate’ to deny these companies admission to their land. They even want to drill at a religious retreat with a convent and monastery and it’s not out of the question that they will drill in urban areas too. The process of fracking is destroying water supplies and may eventually impact on the main source of agricultural water supplies. I don’t know whether or not they are going to turn up one day and tell me they’re drilling on my land and I have no way to stop them because you only own the land, not what’s under it. It’s yet more proof, if any is needed, that national governments and state governments are powerless to represent voters or protect their interests and the power is now all in the hands of corporations and corporations, as Charles A. Reich pointed out in ‘The Greening of America’, are insane.

Only an essentially mindless entity, he writes, an organism lacking all human values would ‘cut the last redwoods, pollute the most beautiful beaches, invent machines to injure and destroy plant and human life…To have only one value (corporate value) is, in human terms, to be mad’. And the mad are now calling the shots.

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By gerard, December 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

All I can think of to say is:  “Keep your fracking hands off my Mother!

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