Divine intervention or diversion? Nova Scotia slams door shut on high volume horizontal fracing, but opens it wide for other known invasive, contaminating experiments. “These did occasionally contaminate water resources,” CAPP says

Andrew Younger statement on Nova Scotia hydraulic fracturing ban by Andrew Younger, September 3, 2014, The Chronicle Herald

Since becoming the province’s minister of energy, I’ve read all the letters from Nova Scotians which have reached my office both for and against high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing. I’ve read numerous studies and reports commissioned by various parties, including the Wheeler report, which was recently delivered to our government.

The first onshore petroleum well in Nova Scotia was drilled in 1869. More than 125 wells have been drilled since that first well. Three of those wells were hydraulically fractured in shale formations. Across North America, the Council of Canadian Academies says “several tens of thousands” of shale gas wells are currently in production. The majority of shale based wells are stimulated using high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing, a process where, as its core, water, sand, and chemicals are pushed into the rock formation to help release oil or gas. There are numerous examples of this technique being used safely and without incident. However, there are also examples of things going wrong.

Nova Scotia is an energy leader. Our decision will not change this. Our government is actively working with the offshore industry to ensure the responsible and sustainable development of those resources in a way that ensures the primary benefit is to Nova Scotians. Onshore, coal bed methane projects in places like Stellarton have received strong community support and show strong promise. … 

At the same time, new extraction technologies are being developed which will likely minimize or eliminate many risks and concerns. We have incredible potential for safe, sustainable, and large-scale resource development in our province. Through a strong and fair regulatory environment, our government will pursue resource development that advances our province and local communities. … Andrew Younger is Nova Scotia’s minister of energy. [Emphasis added]

Process raises concerns over water usage, quality presented by CAPP (The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers), August 28, 2014, Report on Fracking in The Calgary Herald

Yet CAPP’s Alex Ferguson says many worries about water quality are based on past operations involving coal-bed methane — shallow deposits in closer proximity to groundwater. These did occasionally contaminate water resources, he says. In some of the more infamous instances, affected landowners could light their well water on fire.

2014 08 28 Calgary Herald Report on Fracking 'Presented by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers'

2014 08 28 CAPP's Alex Ferguson admits coalbed methane contaminated well water, in some more infamous cases, landowners could set their water on fire

There are proven cases of frac’ing contamination July 14, 2014

Re: “Documented cases of fracking contamination are not proven” June 23, 2014

There are proven cases documented and industry admits they don’t know what their frac’s do. [Deep, shallow, vertical, slant and horizontal]

1987 Report to Congress: Kaiser frac’d about 4,000 feet deep “allowing migration of fracture fluid from the gas well to Mr. Parson’s water well. This fracture fluid, along with natural gas was present in Mr. Parson’s water rendering it unusable.”

1989 Industry: “hydraulic fracturing stimulation” for light oil, in several wells in Manitoba propagated into a water zone.

2001, 2004 Groundwater Database entries: Gas wells 02-06-04 perforations at 100.5 metres, 05-14-27-22-W4M intentionally fractured Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers.

2005 – Current: “Oil wells on the Campbell property have caused gas from 1,757 metres to enter their aquifer,” said Muehlenbachs

2005/06 Industry: “….industry still has much to learn about hydraulic fractures. Fractures from both horizontal and vertical wells can propagate vertically out of the intended zone, … potentially connecting up with other hydraulic fracturing stages or unwanted water or gas intervals.”

2006 Regulator: “Information provided by industry to date shows that there may not always be a complete understanding of fracture propagation at shallow depths and that programs are not always subject to rigorous engineering design.”

2008 Industry: “We Can Safely Say That We Know Everything There Is To Know About Hydraulically Created Fractures EXCEPT How Deeply They Penetrate; Their Vertical Extents; Their Symmetries About the Wellbore; Whether They Are Planar or Multi-stranded; Their Geometries At The Perimeter; Which Directions They Go; What Their Conductivities Are”

2008 what we don't know about hydraulic fracturing is lot's but they still make a lot of money

2010 Regulator: “Fracture propagation via large scale hydraulic fracturing operations has proven difficult to predict. Existing planes of weakness in target formations may result in fracture lengths that exceed initial design expectations.”

2012 Regulator: “High-Risk Enforcement Action against Crew Energy Ltd.” for a frac incident that contaminated groundwater. “The concentrations of chloride…remains elevated. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) concentrations remained unchanged….”

Mr. Meikle’s letter: “Again when oil companies are going to hydraulically stimulate wells, they test all surrounding water wells for water quality and production rate.”

In my experience, companies refuse to do this, don’t test for all chemicals used on the few wells they do test and refuse complete chemical disclosure before drilling, preventing appropriate testing. And after a community’s water is contaminated and water tower explodes, Alberta regulators argue in court they owe ‘no duty of care’ to anyone harmed by industry’s contamination.

Mr. Meikle’s letter: “All chemicals used in fracking have to be reported to the AER.”

Not according to the regulator’s General Counsel: “the ERCB does not currently require licensees to provide detailed disclosure of the chemical composition of fracturing fluids.”

I asked what chemicals were injected in my community’s aquifers. Encana and the regulators refuse to cooperate.

Let’s hope more proof doesn’t involve Mr. Meikle’s water or loved ones. Fighting for accountability, justice and safe water, is an expensive, full-time job.

Jessica Ernst

2014 07 14 ThereAreProvenCasesOfFracContamination by Jessica Ernst published in Rocky View Weekly

Fracking ban makes future study ‘really hard’: Wheeler panel industry member by Monica Graham, September 6, 2014, The Chronicle Herald

Energy Minister Andrew Younger’s plan to ban hydraulic fracturing demonstrates an incomplete reading of the Wheeler report, said a member of the panel that studied the controversial method of extracting onshore natural gas in Nova Scotia. Younger’s comments about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and his quick move to ban the practice show that he doesn’t understand the report or the subject, said Brad Hayes, head of the Calgary firm of Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd. Hayes, whose company investigates and assesses geophysical and geological data for the petroleum industry, served on the panel that Cape Breton University president David Wheeler led. …

There is no scientific definition of fracking volume, which can run the spectrum from “tens of cubic metres to tens of thousands,” Hayes said. “Any definition would be arbitrary,” he said. “If you stop dead and say, ‘You can’t do anything,’ it’s really hard to do any studies.” …

The one company holding a shale licence has stated it will work within the legislation, and the Stellarton coal bed methane project, with strong community support, looks commercially promising, [Younger] said. …

Canada has a different regulatory climate than the United States and the industries in the two countries shouldn’t be compared, Hayes said. No one can promise, with certainty, that there will be no damaged water supplies or other negative effects from hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia, he said.

Hayes said to his knowledge, negative effects haven’t happened in Canada. But he said he understands Nova Scotia’s attitude toward the practice. “People have been told a lot of things and they’ve been disappointed.”

Fracking ban definition of ‘high-volume’ practice unclear by Aaron Beswick, September 5, 2014, The Chronicle Herald

What is high-volume fracking? Apparently, legislation is coming to ban it in Nova Scotia. …

The only reference Marco Navarro-Genie from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies could find to such a practice in the report was with regard to the amount of wells drilled. In Cape Breton University president David Wheeler’s report on the controversial method of pumping water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to open up oil- and gas-bearing shale deposits, high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia would be if over 20,000 wells were drilled.

After speaking to citizens in Pugwash on Friday about the importance of the province harvesting its natural resources, Navarro-Genie said the minister’s announcement will leave the door open to medium- and low-volume fracking — whatever they are. “I expect this will come to light in the fullness of time when the legislation is debated in the house,” he said. Asked whether he thought Younger had yet decided what high-volume fracking is, Navarro-Genie replied: “I have to assume when the minister speaks, he knows what he’s talking about.”

When contacted by The Chronicle Herald for an explanation, the Energy Department provided a written response stating “the practice we are banning uses high volumes of water with sand and chemicals to develop natural gas in tight shales. The detail on the legal definition of the practice will come this fall as part of the legislation/regulations.”

[There are many other fluids than water that companies can use to frac shales, deep and shallow, vertical and horizontal, including CO2, nitrogen (gelled or foamed with chemicals), propane/butane (eg Gasfrac) which also need chemicals to gel and has become nearly completely robotic because it’s a dangerous way to frac,  and then there’s diesel and who knows what else]

Fracking ban only applies to ‘high-volume’ fracking says AIMS CEO by Dave Mathieson, September 05, 2014, Cumberland News Now
The banning of high-level onshore hydraulic fracturing by the Liberal government of Nova Scotia shouldn’t pose problems for companies wishing to explore, develop and frack natural gas wells in the province. 

Navarro sees positives in the Wheeler commission report. “It sets a standard by saying fracking could be good if the proper frameworks are in place.” 

Navarro then talked about the history of fracturing in Canada. “Fracking has been used in Canada since the 1960’s,” he said. “Since then more than 175,000 wells have been fracked in B.C. and Alberta without a single proven incident of water contamination.”

Wells have also been fracked in Saskatchewan and Quebec. [In Quebec, most of the new shale wells are leaking, many are shallow and vertical. The regulator ordered the leaks repaired, the companies tried, and failed. Groundwater in Quebec is already contaminated with methane near leaking frac’d wells and communities that tried to protect their drinking water supplies are being sued by energy companies not wanting reasonable groundwater protections.]

“And right here next door 49 have been fracked in New Brunswick without any kind of pollution or contamination,”

[A few examples: Penobsquis is the most obvious case of numerous water wells gone bad, the 2006 radioactive frac sand blow out there by BJ Services, methane contaminated water at Stoney Creek, the New Brunswick frac waste problem Triangle created in Nova Scotia and historic problems] he added.

circa1940 Fracturing Stoney Creek well in New Brunswick with nitroglycerin

 Fracturing Stoney Creek [New Brunswick] Field well with nitroglycerin, circa 1940 in Oil and Natural Gas in New Brunswick: Historical and Current Industry-related Activities

First Penobsquis, now Stoney Creek — what’s next? ]

“Let me be clear, none of which I have said means to imply there are no environmental concerns or they are not legitimate.”

Navarro-Genie made it clear he is not a geologist. “I don’t want to be accused of practicing geology without a license. My PhD is in social science.” He is former vice president of research for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, has taught political science…. “I actually don’t have a position (on fracking), one way or another, but I don’t like the notion there are people who are saying, ‘don’t do it,’ based on flimsy evidence.” He wishes evidence was based more on science than emotion. “Fracking could be bad. If we find out it’s bad, then we don’t do it. If we do exploration and find out it’s beyond our capability, then we don’t do it.”

Navarro-Genie says Nova Scotians are equipped to fracture wells responsibly.

If everywhere else in the country they were failing badly in fracking, is it beyond the capabilities of Nova Scotians to do it right?” 

Nova Scotia’s ban on fracking: We’ve come a long way. Not there yet by Ken Summers, September 5, 2014, Halifax Media Coop
Just about no one expected a ban on shale gas hydraulic fracturing. The Chronicle Herald was positively apoplectic with it’s shrill four piece barrage at the government.

Fracking activists knew that Younger’s announcement was good news, but were left scratching their heads about what exactly the government was proposing to do. At first it was not clear that it was in practice a ban on shale gas fracturing.

But both in the Wednesday news conference, and in an extensive interview on CBC radio the next morning, Younger clearly laid out the process. This fall the government will bring in legislation prohibiting the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing of shale for oil or gas. The ban will be indefinite. … To Andrew Younger’s credit he came to the conclusion that the ban should be indefinite because we have no reason to expect that anything will have changed in those time frames that will resolve Nova Scotians profound concerns about hydraulic fracturing.

The Fine Print: the Wheeler Reports “Manageable Risks”

The fine print in the Liberal government’s ban on shale gas fracking is not really their own doing. David Wheeler said from the time of his appointment by the NDP government that the end result would be “consensus building.” This has always meant that the industry also gets to put forward it’s agenda with a bare minimum of filtering. Industry and industry friendly Review staff and panel members got to write the crucial chapters on risks to water and the closely associated ‘well bore integrity’ that takes in greenhouse gas methane emissions as well as risks to our water.

These chapters were prominently featured in the Report’s summaries and conclusions that the risks in hydraulic fracturing were “manageable.”

The industry lobbyists Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) were quick to seize on the Wheeler Report. And we can count on hearing more from them about those manageable risks….

[The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] like what they see in the Wheeler Report.

Coal Bed Methane

The minister went to great lengths to talk up the potential for developing coal bed methane in Nova Scotia, and specifically of the East Coast Ventures project in Stellarton. … Younger also claimed community support and First Nations support for the Stellarton project. … The government’s hopes for coal bed methane is one of the places where the rubber hits the road with Younger’s announcement that the ban on fracturing will only apply to high volume hydraulic fracturing of [horizontal] shale beds. 

Whatever he intended, minister Younger has re-opened that door for them. The legislation that he has outlined would not prohibit the fracking of coal beds that are far closer to water aquifers than are the shale bed resources. The questions the Wheeler Panel raised were about all unconventional gas development, not just about shale bed gas extraction.

Nova Scotia has ‘tight sand’ gas formations similar to the McCully field with its over 30 producing wells and the myriad environmental and social problems in the Pennobsquis valley of New Brunswick. … But since hydraulic fracturing of tight sands does not require high volume hydraulic fracturing, it also would be permitted under the legislation that minister Younger has proposed.

Coal Bed Methane Extraction: “Don’t Worry. It’s Not Fracking” by Ken Summers, November 30, 2013

By now most Nova Scotians are aware that there is a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia. The current government has assured us it will remain in place at least until after the reporting of the Wheeler Review in mid-2014.

Coal bed methane extraction is a technology closely associated with shale bed fracking. While there have long been leases in Nova Scotia for exploration, the very first that was heard about actual plans was in a news release from the new provincial government early in November. Natural gas exploration in Pictou County is getting underway, under strict regulations from the departments of Energy and Environment. “East Coast Energy has all of the necessary permits in place to begin exploring for local and cleaner sources of natural gas,” said Energy Minister Andrew Younger. …

East Coast Ventures went to even greater lengths to distance their project from fracking.

“It’s not fracking.” [Why have companies and regulators begun saying this everywhere around the world where they’re fracing or wanting to frac coalbed methane, including Encana in their Statement of Defence filed for the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit?] 

“Not fracking.” But one of the major reasons the former NDP government took its internal review of hydraulic fracturing out of the hands of the Departments of Energy and Environment, was precisely because of that broad vote of no confidence in Environment’s assurances of the safety of the fracking waste processing they had approved.

“Not fracking.” But the Environment Department approvals for the Pictou County coal bed methane extraction use the regulatory protocols it has developed for hydraulic fracturing waste water.

“Not fracking.” But the early indications are that leakage from producing wells is even more prevalent with coal bed methane extraction than it is for shale gas fracking. Routine leakages contribute substantially to global climate change, and to local airborne pollution of volatile organic chemicals. Bland assurances from industry and government about the steel and concrete casings “sealing off” well bores have to be stacked up against data for the incidence of well casing failures.

“Its not fracking,” says our new Liberal government. But the much shallower depths of coal bed methane extraction poses even more risk of pollution of groundwater aquifers than does shale gas fracking.

“Not fracking.” But the intensity of the industrial infrastructure for coal bed methane extraction is the same as it is for shale gas fracking: wells counted in the hundreds, on pads a kilometre apart; and all the tanks, pipelines, access roads and compressor stations.

“Not fracking.” But Environment’s own study describes in detail the same concerns with coal bed methane extraction waste water as there are with shale gas fracking.

“Not fracking.” But the industry, it’s enthusiastic promoters in the Energy Department, and the enablers in the Environment Department have learned their lessons from the public outcry over fracking in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. They have kept the extended planning and approval of this coal bed methane project completely under wraps until the drill site was fully constructed and only lacked the imminent arrival of the drill rig.

“Not fracking.” Fingers crossed: no fracking [what about stimulation?] in these first wells at least. Small matter that in a producing coal bed methane field, some of the wells have to be hydraulically fractured. So why was consideration of this project by government not tabled, pending the outcome of the province’s review of hydraulic fracturing? [Emphasis added] 

‘Incredible’ gas find eyed by Michael Gorman, Truro Bureau, October 31, 2013, The Chronicle Herald

East Coast Energy Inc. of Stellarton recently received the go-ahead from the province’s Energy and Environment Departments to drill two test wells into the Foord coal seam about 540 metres underground.

Julie Cohen, company president and CEO, said core samples taken in 2011 produced “incredible numbers” for coal bed methane content. Even with that knowledge, Cohen is downplaying expectations until the tests wells are drilled and the results analyzed. “Even a fraction of that, we’d be very happy,” she said. …

Drilling will take place in the McLellans Brook area and does not involve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The point in this case is to remove water from the ground, not inject it, said Cohen. “It’s a different process,” she said. “In our program, there is no hydraulic fracturing. It wouldn’t make sense in our program.”

While the activity is on the Foord seam, the same geologic formation as the Westray mine, Energy Minister Andrew Younger said the drilling isn’t into the disaster site. “They’re not drilling into the old Westray mine,” Younger said after a cabinet meeting in Halifax.

“And there has been coal gas exploration in that area, my goodness, since I think 1869, so this isn’t new.” In fact, a department spokesman said in an email later, the first coal bed methane exploration in the Stellarton area occurred in 1979.

Younger also said the company consulted with the local chamber of commerce, as well the general public within a kilometre of the site. He said the issue of proximity to Westray, where 26 miners died in an explosion in 1992, wasn’t raised.

“I think if that was going to be raised as a concern, that actually would have already come up,” he said. [Perhaps it would have, had the company and government consulted with all Nova Scotians, and not just in such a tiny area.]

Approval from the province came following proof of erosion, spill and air-quality control measures and water testing of all wells within one kilometre and monitoring of all surface water within 500 metres of the drill site.

An open house in the community, permission from landowners and Aboriginal notification were also all part of the application requirements.

The company submitted an emergency response plan and will provide daily reports to the Energy Department once drilling begins. Further activities would require a new application for permits from the Energy and Environment departments.

The horizontal well will have a vertical opening to pump out water as part of the dewatering process. Production could come from that well, assuming things go as hoped, said Cohen, but she doesn’t want to get too far ahead of herself. “By Q2 we’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with,” she said.

The company has invested $3.5million into the effort so far. [Emphasis added]

Fracking ban gets mixed reaction by Mary Ellen MacIntyre, September 4, 2014, The Chronicle Herald with The Canadian Press
Fracking opponents say the province’s ban on the hydraulic fracturing process is welcome news, but they’re not dancing in the streets just yet. “I’m looking forward to seeing the legislation around this, certainly, but the regulations around conventional drilling are antiquated in the first place,” said Neal Livingston, co-chairman of the Margaree Environmental Association.

Based in Lake Ainslie, Inverness County, the association was one of the leading opponents of any plan for hydraulic fracturing in the province. The process for extracting shale gas from deep beneath the earth is a technology feared unsafe by many environmentalists.

Certainly, residents living in the Lake Ainslie area had safety concerns after an exploration company spoke of plans in the area. “The drilling was scheduled to take place far too close to people’s homes, to waterways, and people certainly were upset by the prospect,” Livingston added. Through a series of protests, information campaigns and media blitzes, the organization helped prompt the province to set up a panel to study the issue. David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University, headed up the panel. After he recently presented his findings to government, the Liberals announced Wednesday that legislation will be put in place to ban the technology for the time being. Wheeler has opted not to speak on the government’s plan. His executive assistant said Thursday the university president would not take any calls from reporters on the matter. … [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

March 30, 2012: Shallow fracking ban small comfort to critics

A forthcoming ban on shallow hydraulic fracturing ought to assure the public that oil and gas exploration won’t pollute groundwater, says Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers. … But the greatest risk arises when fracking is conducted at shallow depths, said Cathers. Such was the case in Pavillion, Wyoming, where residents blame fracking for fouled water. An investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seems to bear this out. In December, the agency concluded that fracking was likely to blame for polluted groundwater. Industry disputes the findings.

Territorial officials have yet to set a depth limit, said Cathers. But it’s likely that the practice won’t be allowed any farther up than approximately 650 metres, he said.

But shallow fracking is “a non-issue,” said the NDP’s Jim Tredger. “I don’t know of any jurisdictions in North America, other than Alberta, where it’s still being done,” he said. “And Alberta is phasing it out.”

Richard Corbet, the oil and gas branch’s manager of operations, agreed that “very little” shallow fracking is done. “It’s generally a complete waste of time and effort, except for with coal and methane. And that one is quite a ways out, as far as Yukon is concerned,” he said.

More than half of North America’s natural gas wells drilled in the past decade have been fracked, said Corbet. Of those, only a small number have gone awry. [Emphasis added]

December 2012: Encana fracing above the Base of Groundwater Protection after fracing directly into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers in 2004 and hundreds of other shallow wells:

Encana shallow fracing at Rosebud before mandated Baseline Testing April 2006 shows location water tower that exploded in 2005Encana continues fracing above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud. For more information see the Ernst Clause 

August 12, 2014: What took so long for this to be reported? Oil companies fracking into drinking water sources, new research shows

….the industry has long held that it does not hydraulically fracture into underground sources of drinking water because oil and gas deposits sit far deeper than aquifers. ….

The study, however, found that energy companies used acid stimulation, a production method, and hydraulic fracturing in the Wind River and Fort Union geological formations that make up the Pavillion gas field and that contain both natural gas and sources of drinking water.

“Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and millions of gallons of fluids containing numerous inorganic and organic additives were injected directly into these two formations during hundreds of stimulation events,” concluded Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences in a presentation Tuesday at the American Chemical Society conference in San Francisco.

September 26, 2014: Learn to ask and recognize where and how laws, regulations and their application harm communities, by siding with corporations ]

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