Is LNG fracturing worth its weight in water?

Is LNG fracturing worth its weight in water? by Justine Hunter, December 29, 2013, The Globe and Mail
More than seven billion litres of water were used for fracking in B.C. last year. If the government’s liquefied natural gas sector takes off, the water needed to get shale gas out of the ground in the northeast corner of the province will likely increase by 500 per cent, or more.

Much of that water is consumed with only minimal regulation. A new law set to be introduced in the spring would, for the first time in B.C., impose fees for the use of groundwater and allow for government to restrict water use in times of scarcity. But it’s not likely to rein in the practise of hydraulic fracturing, which is critical to the development of LNG.

Lana Lowe is the director of the Fort Nelson First Nation’s department of land and resources. The water taken out of the band’s territory has already increased 12-fold in the past two years. Sitting in on an environmental appeal board hearing in Victoria in late December, where the Fort Nelson are trying to stop just one of the many applications for a fracking project in their backyard, Ms. Lowe senses that they are trying to stand in the way of a locomotive. “There is a gold rush on our water resources,” she said, during a break in the hearing, which has already run on for weeks.

At issue in the appeal board hearing is Nexen Inc.’s licence to divert water from North Tsea Lake, north of Fort Nelson – up to 2.5 billion litres per year. The company stores the water for fracking. The Fort Nelson First Nation says this is in the core of their traditional territory and it infringes on their treaty rights, which grant them the right to hunt and fish as they did before they signed their treaty in 1899. This is just one of many such projects in their territory, and the cumulative impact has transformed the north, now cross-hatched by clearings for seismic readings, the most visible mark on the landscape. But below, the water table is changing too. Ms. Lowe recalls her grandmother used to drink straight out of the muskeg. “Our elders didn’t have to bring water when they went out on the land. … Now everyone packs water. They are afraid of contamination.”

Environment Minister Mary Polak is planning to bring in the new Water Sustainability Act in the spring, applying some regulation to the allocation of water rights. She said in an interview this should address some of the fears around fracking. … “I think increasing transparency will be a huge part in creating that trust. We have made good strides but there is more we can do. The more information people have, the more confidence they can feel in our regulatory regime.” However, she does not see the need for a dramatic change in practices: “We don’t have any evidence of drinking water contamination in our history of fracking.” Then again, that is still under study. The Ministry of Health is conducting a Human Health Risk Assessment of the oil and gas sector in the region. The study is expected to be complete by the spring.

Ms. Lowe, who has reviewed the proposed changes to water regulations, doesn’t take much comfort from Ms. Polak’s assurances. “This new Water Act looks like they are going to make it easier for companies to get what they want for shale gas. We are getting in front of that, and it is a really tough position to be in. There is so much pressure to get this done.” Ms. Polak acknowledges that her legislation is unlikely to satisfy everyone. The new Water Sustainability Act is bound, she said, to “get people’s dander up.” But she accepts that as inevitable, falling back to a quote attributed to Mark Twain to describe the path ahead: “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Insatiable Thirst? When drought occurs, fracking and farming collide

Encana, Anadarko, Pioneer, Apache Have Greatest Fracking Water Risks; Investors have exposure to these formidable risks

BUSINESS BRIEFING: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson files lawsuit against company building frack water tower near his rance, to store water for fracing

Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers

Study: In Midst of Drought, Fracking Industry Does Little to Recycle Water

Los Angeles City Council Passes LA ‘Fracking’ Ban in 10 – 0 vote!

Insatiable Thirst? When drought occurs, fracking and farming collide

California farmers ask governor for fracking moratorium to save water; Energy in Depth says fracing does not use millions of gallons of water

AEA: Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe

A proportion (25% to 100%) of the water used in hydraulic fracturing is not recovered, and consequently this water is lost permanently to re-use, which differs from some other water uses in which water can be recovered and processed for re-use.

2013 LIPG failes to reveal the fine print

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