Coalbed-methane drilling gets OK, Strict guidelines, testing promised, but some see dangers ahead

Coalbed-methane drilling gets OK, Strict guidelines, testing promised, but some see dangers ahead by James Baxter, The Edmonton Journal, May 12, 2006
Coalbed-methane development was given the green light by the provincial government, but strict new groundwater testing will be required before companies will be licensed to drill.

Environment Minister Guy Boutilier said he would shut down any well the moment it is determined coalbed-methane drilling is having a negative effect on nearby wells and groundwater. “If there is any coalbed methane that is showing that the pressure has decreased, (or) the quality of water there has been a negative impact, we’ll have the testing and I will be the first one to come back and say ‘we’re shutting down this drilling because of that,’ ” Boutilier said emphatically. …

Oscar Steiner, who participated in the water subcommittee, said the problem rarely relates to an absence of law, but usually stems from lax enforcement. He said Melchin’s and Boutilier’s promises to protect Alberta’s freshwater are worthless unless they are backed up with significantly more funds to increase the government’s capacity for testing and enforcement. “The report gives no indication how these things will be enforced,” said Steiner. He also said the report offers no way of dealing with residents in areas where contamination might have already occurred. Steiner said the government is also doing little to research the possible long-term harm that can come from fraccing, the process of fracturing the coalbeds to extract gas. Fraccing uses liquids under extremely high pressure, including a variety of strong acids, to fracture reservoir formations. The process is often required because of the limited permeability of some rock formations. “Fraccing allows for migration (of methane and other gases into freshwater aquifers) because it creates holes that didn’t previously exist,” he said, adding that the government and companies refuse to publish what chemicals they are using in the process. He said that because of the chemicals, a lot of study is still needed to determine whether fraccing is safe at any depth, even well below the freshwater table. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2013: lberta to consider testing water near fracking sites, Energy companies are not required to test water quality even though the ERCB knew a decade ago that hydraulic fracturing in Alberta was causing serious damages ]

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