The development of unconventional oil and gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing has brought increased debate and discussion on this matter. Some support the shale gas revolution, while others want to ban it’s practice, and some are not so sure one way or the other. The discussion at the government level is equally divided across Canada as to how to manage the industry, while addressing public concerns.
At the heart of the issue is water…it’s use, management. protection, and it’s ecological and socio-economic importance.
To maximize the harvesting of underground resources water is used. The concern over the risks associated with this practice are relatively new to the decision makers. Risks can include the water use, induced seismicity, and contamination. Sometimes little water is required , sometimes quite a bit, depending on the circumstances. The waste water whether returned to the watershed or becomes a consumptive use is a concern. Hydraulic fracturing requires injecting water into a geologic formation, sometimes with chemical additives. some of the water returns to the surface, some leaches into the formation. We have to understand the risks associated with it’s use, handling, storage, and eventual disposal of this flow back water. What will be the effect, if and when this “used” water ,with it’s contaminants reaches waste streams?
Looking further into the issue there are concerns with surface spills of highly saline water, truck or pipeline spills, and a lack of information about what is being transported. Environment Canada and Health Canada have a list of some 800 known or suspected substances used in hydraulic fracturing, 33 of which are considered toxic. there is a potential for surface water contamination from leaks or spills at or near the surface.Industry has moved ahead at a rapid pace..with the understanding of potential blow back’s not entirely understood at this point.
Falling oil and gas prices have slowed the industry at this time, continued development of our resources is a given. Perhaps this breathing room can allow research to understand it’s impact on the environment and human health.
This blog inspired by the article, Fractured Knowledge, by Kathryn Ross in Water Canada, Nov/Dec 2015.
Fracking..the good, the bad, and the ugly by 60 minutes.