Fracking on the rise in Manitoba, Not as dirty as American kin, but oil well regulation lacking

Fracking on the rise in Manitoba, Not as dirty as American kin, but oil well regulation lacking by Mary Agnes Welch, July 2, 2013, Winnipeg Free Press
Manitobans could soon know a little more about some of the environmentally-worrisome effects of fracking in the province’s booming oilpatch. The province is working on a series of new regulations that would require oil companies to report the type and amount of fracking chemicals used in each oil well. That information would become part of a plain-language, searchable online database available to all Manitobans. Fracking has been going on in the province for years, though most Manitobans consider it an American phenomenon, one whose environmental worries don’t apply here. Those worries include the amount of freshwater used for fracking and the fate of the briny water unleashed when oil is extracted.

The province is also reviewing how other jurisdictions ensure drinking water isn’t contaminated by nearby oil wells, how to better track how much fresh groundwater and surface water is used in fracking and where that water comes from. “We think we have very good rules,” said John Fox, assistant deputy minister of the mineral resources division of Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines. “There are certainly public issues, and we want to make sure we have the information that we can assure the public so their concerns are addressed.” Though it’s a huge environmental issue south of the border, fracking has been under the radar for most Manitobans, even green-minded ones.

Manitoba’s small, conventional oil industry dates back decades, but the first horizontal well, the kind most commonly associated with fracking, was only drilled a little more than 20 years ago. … Much of the concern about fracking in the United States — contaminated aquifers, the disposal of toxic waste water, even earthquakes — has been the result of shale gas fracking, which involves a much more extensive process than used for oil. … Still, Manitoba’s fracking is significant and growing. There are well over 3,600 active oil wells in the province and most of them use fracking. … Fox said Manitoba is looking at creating a Manitoba version of the FracFocus website now in use in the United States and British Columbia. It helps convert highly-technical fracking information into a more searchable, user-friendly, plain language that allows the public to access a list of fracking chemicals, well-by-well. A final decision about FracFocus could be made by year-end, with implementation next year. The way fracking is regulated and reported now in Manitoba, environmental consultant Gaile Whelan Enns said it’s difficult to gather a true picture of the environmental effects, including what exactly is added to fracking fluid, where the freshwater comes from and what happens to the waste. She also said, while new regulations are worthwhile, they require stiff penalties and enough staff to properly inspect and enforce the rules. The province has traditionally stumbled when it comes to enforcement, she said, which is particularly worrisome in a province as reliant on clean water as Manitoba. “We are a province of water and therefore we are a province of water challenges and risks,” said Whelan Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands.

Fox said the province is looking at whether to implement water-well testing near proposed oil wells, to have a water-quality baseline against which any contamination can be measured. Regulators are also studying whether to better collect data on the source and amount of freshwater used in the fracking process.

Fox said there has never been an incident in Manitoba where fracking fluid has contaminated ground water aquifers. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Effective Hydraulic Fracturing Of The Lower Amaranth Formation In Southern Manitoba by Kooyman, RW, MB Muir, RP Marcinew, K Bennaceur in Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology Vol 28, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1989. Paper No 89-05-05.
Following the unsuccessful stimulation of several wells in the South Pierson field where hydraulic fractures propagated into the underlying water zone, a comprehensive re-evaluation and detailed design effort was implemented to minimize the potential for water production. [Emphasis added]

FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure Voluntary Fracking Reporting? Bloomberg: Chemicals Not Reported, Half of All Wells “Obscured”

Brief review of threats to Canada’s groundwater from the oil and gas industry’s methane migration and hydraulic fracturing by Ernst Environmental Services, June 16, 2013

French Translation in progress by Amie du Richelieu, June 16, 2013

FrackingCanada: The Science is Deafening – Industry’s Gas Migration ]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.