Tag Archives: fracking

Vancouver Sun Op-Ed: Rush to Deplete BC’s Gas Reserves Makes No Sense


Read this op-ed in the Vancouver Sun by Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and renowned geologist and energy expert David Hughes, calling into question the BC Liberal Government’s policy for dramatically expanding natural gas development. (Nov. 14, 2012)

British Columbia is no petro state. So why do our political leaders insist that we are a global energy power?

At the University of Calgary last month, Premier Christy Clark boldly asserted that B.C. could one day export four trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, an amount that would put us on par with the output of Alberta’s oilsands industry.

Clark also said that over the next 30 years such exports “could add over a trillion dollars” to our province’s gross domestic product.

These sound like impressive numbers. But drill into them a bit, and they appear to be overstated, which raises critical questions.

What does exporting four trillion cubic feet of gas per year from B.C. actually mean, when viewed against what we have? What would the economic, energy security and climate consequences be of producing all that gas and more?

Consider the following facts.

Last year, B.C. produced a record 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — among the most water-depleting and energy-draining gas on earth, due to the deployment of highly controversial fracking technology.

The bulk of that gas went to Alberta to assist in the most water-depleting and energy-draining oil production on Earth. The next biggest slice went to the United States. What was left we used here in the province.

Presumably, we would not simply shut off the taps on these markets in the event that five new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals are built on our coast, and we begin shipping four trillion cubic feet of our gas to China, Japan and elsewhere. The government’s energy policies would therefore see gas extraction rates quintuple in northeastern B.C. — and probably a whole lot more because natural gas will likely be burned to power all those LNG plants.

What not enough of us have asked the government about is what such policies mean in terms of depleting our non-renewable fossil fuel resources and undermining our ability to meet our legislated greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

Now is the time to do so. Here’s why.

According to British Columbia’s Oil and Gas Commission, our current reserves of natural gas total roughly 33 trillion cubic feet. Based on our premier’s projections of 4 trillion cubic feet per year of gas exports, we’d drain our entire reserves in just 8 years, or less if we continued to supply our own needs and those of our existing customers.

Now the likelihood is that we have far more gas. Estimated total resources for B.C. exceed 1,200 trillion cubic feet. But even optimistically assuming we can successfully extract one quarter of those resources, we’d be completely out of gas in 75 years — that is if we exported it all and left nothing for ourselves or for our neighbours.

Speaking of neighbours, Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board projects a 35 per cent decline in its own gas production over the next decade. And according to Canada’s National Energy Board, total Canadian natural gas production is down nearly 20% today from its peak in 2002.

The only western Canadian jurisdiction whose reserves and production show growth is here in B.C. And our elected leaders’ vision is that we rush whatever we have out of the country.
Premier Clark and B.C. Energy Minister, Rich Coleman, call their gas export plans a “strategy”. Their choice of wording is an insult both to the English language and to basic economics.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Depleting+natural+reserves+makes+sense+British+Columbia/7549767/story.html


Timelapse Animations Reveal Staggering Water Withdrawals, Industrial Activity for Fracking


Watch these timelapse animations of recent water withdrawals and industrial activity in Fort Nelson First Nation traditional territory for natural gas hydraulic fracturing. These short term licenses were all issued without public or First Nations consultation. Courtesy of FNFN Lands Dept. and mapper Bobby Concepcion.


American Gas Firm Launching $250 Million NAFTA Challenge to Quebec Fracking Ban


Read this story from the Globe and Mail on US energy firm Lone Pine Resources’ forthcoming NAFTA challenge regarding lost economic opportunities resulting from Quebec’s ban on natural gas hydraulic fracturing. (Nov. 15, 2012)

A U.S.-incorporated energy firm, Lone Pine Resources Inc., is taking on Quebec’s stand against fracking, saying it violates the North American free-trade agreement and demanding more than $250-million in compensation.

Lone Pine Resources Inc., headquartered in Calgary but incorporated in Delaware, disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week that on Nov. 8, it filed a notice of intent to sue the Canadian government under NAFTA’s controversial Chapter 11.

Those provisions of the trade treaty allow U.S. and Mexican companies to sue Ottawa if they feel they have been wronged by a government policy or action.

Lone Pine is just one of many major natural gas companies affected by Quebec’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting liquids deep into the ground. Fracking has been controversial over fears for its effects on the environment and drinking water, and has been banned in several European countries. The industry says that done properly, it is safe.

According to Lone Pine, Quebec passed legislation last June that, in addition to the moratorium, also completely cancelled permits for oil and gas activity in areas directly below the waters of the St. Lawrence River – including the revoking of a permit held by Lone Pine covering 33,460 acres.”

Company spokesman Shane Abel said in an interview that Quebec’s legislation denies the company any compensation for the loss of its permit.

“We think that the expropriation is arbitrary and without merit,” he said. “… We think that’s a clear violation of the NAFTA agreement.”

The NAFTA challenge, levelled at a major environmental policy, is fuel for critics of trade deals who are now attacking Canada’s proposed investor-protection agreement with China, which would extend similar rights to Chinese investors in Canada.

“It contradicts everything the government has said about the China investment treaty, about it having no impact on the environment and there being no threats to non-discriminatory environmental measures,” said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/nafta-challenge-launched-over-quebec-fracking-ban/article5337929/


Fort Nelson First Nation Pushes for Shale Gas Water Licence Reform


Read this story by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail on Fort Nelson First Nation’s concerns about long-term water withdrawal licence applications for shale gas development in their territory in northeast BC. (Nov. 13, 2012)

Kanute Loe, an elder with a small native band in northeast British Columbia, measures the impact of the gas industry on the environment by looking at the water levels dropping in the streams and rivers he fishes.

“I spend a lot of my time in the bush. I travel the rivers … there’s creeks that there’s no water coming out of,” he said Tuesday.

“All of a sudden we’re having trouble catching fish … Our rivers are getting harder to navigate … it’s almost like somebody drilled a hole in the bottom of the bathtub,” Mr. Loe said in Vancouver at a news conference to express aboriginal concerns about increasing water extraction by industry.

Sharleen Wildeman, chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation, said her band has grown alarmed at the growing needs of the gas industry, which draws water from streams, lakes and rivers. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals in a slurry that is injected deep under ground. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, breaks up shale structures and releases gas deposits.

Ms. Wildeman, whose 800-member band is located near the booming Horn River gas fields, said industry in that area has 20 long-term water licence applications before the B.C. government. If those licences are approved, she said, it would authorize industry to withdraw “tens of billions of litres of water annually” for up to 40 years, for use in fracking operations.

“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be,” she said.

Ms. Wildeman is upset with a government consultation process “that has stalled,” and she said the band is demanding five conditions be met before any new water licences are approved.

She said the band wants baseline environmental studies done before licences are issued; multi-year development plans filed in advance to identify proposed water sources, gas-well sites, roads and camps; environmental plans that cap water withdrawals at ecologically acceptable levels; protection of culturally significant land and water resources, and an agreement that environmental impact monitoring and enforcement will be done by an independent body.

“Failure to embrace these fundamental reforms will lead to increasing yet avoidable conflict,” Ms. Wildeman said.

Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/native-band-in-northeast-bc-pushes-for-water-licensing-reform/article5268459/


Fort Nelson First Nation to Discuss Massive Shale Gas Water Licenses Nov. 13 in Vancouver


Leaders of Fort Nelson First Nation from northeast BC are coming to Vancouver to share their concerns over 20 new long-term water withdrawal licenses the BC Liberal Government is considering issuing for shale gas operations in their traditional territory.

One such license alone – for which natural gas giant Encana is expecting imminent approval – would enable the company to dam and divert up to 3 BILLION litres a year of fresh water from the Fort Nelson River, which is described by elders as the lifeblood of their territory and identified by the community as a cultural protection zone. Under the current Water Act, withdrawal licenses are valid for up to 40 years.

“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be on our land, our families and on our community” says Fort Nelson First Nation Chief, Sharleen Wildeman. The chief will lead a 10-person delegation of council members, elders and band staff to Vancouver Tuesday Nov. 13 to take their concerns to the media and public.

The public is invited to attend a town hall dialogue featuring Chief, Council and community members from Fort Nelson First Nation – Tuesday evening at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (800 E. Broadway). Doors open at 6:30 – event runs from 7-9:30 pm.

The evening, which is co-hosted by Council of Canadians and the Wilderness Committee, will also feature a presentation by leading independent water and energy expert Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Encana’s license application, which would involve constructing a 20-metre concrete barrier across the river, is just one of 20 similar applications throughout the region, which could ultimately represent over a trillion litres of fresh water being diverted to shale gas production in the long-term. According to community representatives, “The water will be permanently withdrawn and mixed with highly toxic chemicals for shale gas extraction. Ultimately the majority of the water will be disposed of via ‘deep oilfield injection’.”

They also point out that Fort Nelson First Nation has worked for years with the natural gas industry and government to provide economic opportunities for it members and the entire province through responsible resource development. But the plan to issue these water licenses has forced the community to draw a line in the sand. After pursuing every other avenue available to it – including repeated efforts to reach out to the Province, which have gone ignored – the community feels it must now appeal to the public for support to put a stop to this plan and ensure the public and First Nations are properly consulted in the development of a responsible water management plan.

They insist that plan must include a comprehensive suite of safeguards for water – such as adequate baseline studies, multi-year development plans submitted by industry, environmental and industry monitoring, cumulative impacts assessment, and the ability to designate culturally significant land and water resources as off-limits to development.

To learn more on this important topic and find out how you can get involved, come be a part of the discussion with Fort Nelson First Nation and independent water and energy experts this Tuesday evening at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.


LNG, Plans to Ship Canadian Gas to Asia Misguided


Read this letter to the editor published in the Alaska Highway News which questions the province and gas industry’s plans to open up new markets in Asia by building massive Liquefied Natural Gas plants on BC’s coast. (Nov. 2, 2012)

…Alberta oil is not needed by China or any other part of the world. They have closer,less polluting sources available. The driving force behind Northern Gateway is nothing but corporate greed. If common sense prevails,Northern Gateway is “dead in the water”.

Now,we must also focus on what is fast becoming a horrible, depleting, destructive LNG industry. The proposed number of LNG plants and the diameters and number of proposed pipelines is totally unsustainable and amounts to nothing better than a pre-emptory attack on future generations of not only British Columbians but all Canadians. B.C. does not need to increase natural gas extraction. They simply need to collect royalties on all of the gas that is now being extracted.

While a much smaller, sustainable LNG industry might make sense, the current monstrosity does not. Government propaganda touting Canada’s vast natural gas reserves is neither accurate nor honest. My research shows Canada with 1% of the worlds proven natural gas reserves. China also has 1%. India has .57%.Why would we allow our resources to be depleted so we can give them to China which already has as much natural gas as we do? Australia has much more gas than we do (1.27% of world proven reserves) and is much closer to China and India,reducing polluting,destructive,expensive shipping. Also Russia with the worlds largest reserves(18.3%) borders on China. A land based pipeline could obviously supply China, completely eliminating the need for LNG. Because of the fact that LNG is as polluting as coal, the land based pipeline from Russia would be much, much better for our environment. LNG is NOT a “green” fuel.

Read more: http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/article/20121102/FORTSTJOHN0303/311029967/-1/fortstjohn/lng-liability


Mike Smyth: NDP Have a Fracking Problem


Read this column by the Province’s Mike Smyth on the NDP’s confusing position on fracking – the controversial natural gas extraction method. (Oct. 21, 2012)

There’s still some mystery around the science and practice of fracking, a system of drilling for natural gas that’s become more and more controversial in recent years.

But trying to figure out where Adrian Dix and the NDP stand on the issue? Well, that’s one of the biggest fracking mysteries in B.C. politics right now.

Let’s start with what fracking – short for “hydraulic fracturing”- is and how it works in B.C.

Fracking involves sinking a deep, narrow well into the earth and bedrock and pumping tonnes of fluids – about 99 per cent water – down the pipe at very high pressures.

The pressurized fluid cracks the rock at the bottom of pipe, releasing the natural gas trapped within it.

This technological breakthrough has opened up a large and rapidly growing natural-gas industry in northeastern B.C., which Premier Christy Clark and her governing Liberals want to expand.

But environmentalists such as David Suzuki are sounding the alarm, warning about toxic waste water, accidental spills, contaminated drinking water and even increased risk of earthquakes.

Some environmental groups have demanded an all-out ban or moratorium on fracking in B.C., which the Liberals say would cost thousands of jobs and billions in investment.

So where does the NDP stand on it? It all depends who you talk to.

John Horgan, the NDP energy critic, said the New Democrats support an expanded natural-gas industry. But he also said an NDP government would set up an independent scientific panel to study the risks.

Could that scientific review lead to a moratorium on fracking in B.C., like the one just imposed in Quebec?

“You can’t rule out anything,” Horgan told me.

“I wouldn’t rule it out if the evidence is we need to do that [a moratorium]. But I haven’t seen that evidence yet, and that’s why we need to have a scientific assessment.”

But while Horgan tells me a fracking moratorium is possible, NDP leader Adrian Dix tells the industry a moratorium won’t happen.

Dix told oil-and-gas executives at a private meeting last month that an NDP government would not introduce a moratorium on frack-ing, leaving them “pleasantly surprised,” government-relations consultant David Heyman reported in a recent newsletter.

When I sought clarification from the NDP, I was referred to environment critic Rob Fleming, who at first assured me there would be no moratorium.

“You’d have to wind the clock back – there’s activity already going on all over,” he said.

But when I inform him that Horgan told me a moratorium is possible, Fleming changed his mind.

“The review comes first, and if it identifies risk from fracking activity that’s not known now, then he [Horgan] is correct,” Fleming said.

For those of you scoring along at home: that’s the NDP leader saying one thing, the energy critic saying another, and the environment critic saying both.

Read more: http://www2.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=48ea4881-04b3-4516-8dd5-361f42fe19f6&p=1

A fracking rig in northeast BC's Horn River Basin (Damien Gillis photo)

Time the NDP Came Clean on Dirty Fracking, Gas-Powered LNG Plants


My colleague, Damien Gillis, has been doing some superb work on “fracking” and I enter the discussion with considerable temerity. He is, after all, the brains and filmmaker of the organization and I the mere mouth.

It has seemed to me that we are moving – indeed may have already moved – away from the time when we were all opposed to fossil fuels in any form. The provincial government, for example, supported the so-called “run of river” (better described as “ruin of river”) projects by dumping all over using natural gas for power, even for the Burrard Thermal Plant, which is occasionally used by BC Hydro to shore up power in low water and extreme demand conditions.

In a breathtaking turnaround, Premier Clark has decided that when natural gas power is used to concentrate natural gas into a liquefied form it is no longer a nasty old fossil fuel.

Now, as if a magic wand had been waved, gas from fracking – extracting it from shale rock by using highly powered water pumps, laced with highly toxic chemicals –  is a wonderful idea.

To the utter disbelief of many, NDP energy critic John Horgan agrees!

This seems to me to be the classic way we do things – accept big business policy, let them get it firmly in place, organizing delivery to export sites to deliver to offshore customers, then hesitantly ask questions.

The Liberals I can understand. They run all policy by the Fraser Institute then its huckelty buck and away they go!

The environment only matters if it costs votes and it’s here the Clark government are acting on the correct assumption that the NDP doesn’t ask questions for they fear the taunt, “are you against everything?” This causes an immediate retreat into the coward’s corner such that they abandon their duty to hold government’s feet to the fire.

Let me pose two questions to the NDP.

Given the abundance of shale gas all around the world, is there not a real risk that the price of gas won’t permit us to export at a profit? Largely due to this recent glut of shale gas, natural gas prices are down and predicted to go lower. Under this regime, how can any government support such idiocy?

I’ll give you a hint, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, of what you’ll see in the 2013 BC budget – hundreds of millions of dollars counted as tax receipts from thus enhanced gas industry. That will get Premier Photo–Op just what she needs for the election – the promise of huge revenues permitting them to balance their budget. Money on the come that will never come, just like the 2009 Liberal Budget which came in a little short…like $2 BILLION short.

To put it bluntly, they will project income that won’t materialize and like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football – you never learn – you’re about to play the same game again! Moreover, you’re scared to ask the important questions for fear of being cast as “anti-business” or “anti-progress”.

Now don’t tell us that industry isn’t dumb enough to make huge investments when faced by huge losses. They can be and often are damned fools, pushed on by the momentum of old decisions they dare not abandon but, like Mr. Micawber, hope that “something will turn up”…Just like it did for the auto industry in 2011 when the government bailed them out.

Unfashionable though it seems to be in NDP circles these days, shouldn’t the Opposition be worried about environmental and safety concerns?

LNG has a good safety record except that when they have a problem it’s a huge one! Shouldn’t the good burghers of Prince Rupert and Kitimat have the NDP (forget the governments) and the Green Party be able to assure them that LNG plants in their midst is a safe plan? Can the NDP and Greens give that support? If they can, how come they were so against the proposed LNG plant in Texada Island a few years ago? Have things changed? Is it possible that the only thing that has changed is that the NDP might become government as long as they play their cards very carefully?

On the question of natural gas pipelines, is the NDP saying that no concerns should be raised, even though some local First Nations are starting to raise hell?

Rather than look at fracking not just as an environmental matter, what about safety?

Is there an increased chance of earthquakes? Obviously, if you dig a tunnel, you can be pretty sure it will eventually collapse – the casing for these bore holes can’t last forever. What impacts can this have?

And what about the water, contaminated with chemicals? Where does it go? Into the water table? Into our drinking water? Tell us, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, again (I won’t trouble governments since they couldn’t care less), are you satisfied with corporate assurances on this matter? Why would they be any more caring on this issue than they are on others?

Now the environment.

How much fossil fuel will be burned as the energy to capture the fossil fuel from the fracking process? Yes, we will use energy to extract energy which we will then use more energy for to send it to customers! If we are afraid of the impact on the environment of the Burrard Thermal Plant, surely we must be very worried indeed about burning gas to mine gas and process.

Is Site C not now going to be used to create power so that industry can use that at a very cheap price to get at the fracked gas? Doesn’t this mean that we will flood more land to sell power cheaply to those who will use this cheap energy to turn into profits from the fossil fuels extracted by fracking?

Come to think of it, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, let me pose the following propositions, not saying they are accurate but putting the onus on you and your corporate friends to show me I’m wrong. Let’s use the precautionary principle here:

1. Liquified natural gas (LNG) is very dangerous in the liquification process, the moving process and simply in storage. Your comments?

2. There is relatively little revenue to the province under the very best of circumstances – If you agree, why are you supporting LNG and if you disagree, let’s have your figures.

3. The likelihood is that the worldwide price for natural gas is dropping and will continue to drop, which will bring pressure on governments to subsidize and indeed bail out gas companies as happened with the automobile industry. If you disagree, why? If you agree, are you prepared to spend BC taxes one more time to bail out industry?

4. There is evidence of fracking leads to gas and other chemicals getting into groundwater thence into domestic water. What evidence do you have to deny this?

5. There is clear evidence of fracking causing earthquakes – what do you say to this?

6. Cheap power from Site C will subsidize gas companies in the fracking process – what say you to that?

7 Because of Site C, millions of hectares of farmland and grazing land will be lost – why should the people of BC make this sacrifice so that you can mine gas?

Then, gentlemen, this question: If BC has this huge capacity to make money, why are we liquefying it and sending it abroad when we could have all this cheap power for here at home? To keep our domestic energy costs low and make our industries more competitive?

I and the readers of The Common Sense Canadian – indeed all British Columbians await in the hopes that as an opposition party hoping to win government, you will favour us with an early reply.

Or is it, God forbid, that winning the next election is more important than an informed citizenry?


Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben to Talk Oil and Gas Pipelines in Burnaby


Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow and 350.org founder Bill McKibben will lead a discussion about oil and gas pipelines and tankers in Burnaby this Thursday evening. The event is the second stop in a seven-city tour discussing a range of oil and gas pipeline proposals and associated tanker traffic, the Alberta Tar Sands, natural gas fracking in northeast BC and proposed Liquified Natural Gas terminals on BC’s coast.

Barlow raised these same, interconnected issues in her speech at the Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria earlier this week, arguing the public and First Nations need to think beyond the proposed Enbridge pipeline and focus on the bigger picture of emerging “Carbon Corridor” through northern BC and Alberta, which encompasses plans for multiple oil, gas and condensate pipelines, refineries and tankers.

Bill McKibben is the founder of the global climate change activist organization, 350.org and a leading voice against Trans Canada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

According to organizers, the event aims, “to raise awareness and build community solidarity and support in the fights to stop pipeline expansions in BC…The tour will help educate about the devastating environmental impacts of these massive pipeline projects, which will move tar sands crude to BC’s coastline where it will be loaded into supertankers and shipped through precarious waters to new markets.”

The tour continues on to Nanaimo for the Council of Canadians’ AGM and speeches by McKibben, financial author Linda McQuaig and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

The final two events will take place in Smithers on Oct. 29 and Prince George on Oct. 30. Caleb Behn, an aboriginal law student from northeast BC and the subject of the film in production Fractured Land, will join Barlow on the stage for the these two northern BC events to discuss fracking in his territories.

Thursday night’s event in Burnaby takes place Alpha Secondary School, 4600 Parker Street. Doors open at 6 PM, program starts at 6:30. More info on the tour available here.


Anti-Fracking Candidate George Heyman Wins NDP Riding Nomination


Read this column from Vaughn Palmer in The Vancouver Sun on former BCGEU president and current Sierra Club BC leader George Heyman’s victory in Sunday’s Vancouver-Fairview NDP riding nomination. (Oct. 22, 2012)

VICTORIA — B.C. New Democrats have nominated a leading critic of expanded natural gas production as a candidate for the next election, setting the stage for a showdown over the practice known as fracking.

George Heyman, who won the party nomination in Vancouver-Fairview Sunday, has been one of the leaders in the fight against hydraulic fracturing, the growing practice of extracting natural gas from shale deposits by injecting the rock with water at high pressure.

Fracking accounts for about half of the natural gas production in B.C. and is the key to future expansion and hopes of exporting the product in liquefied form to markets in Asia.

But as executive director of Sierra Club BC, Heyman has challenged the “rapid expansion of fracking, without sufficient oversight and scientific review to address the long list of threats and risks.”

During his tenure, the club toured the province with Gasland, a U.S.-made anti-fracking documentary that illustrates concerns about gas contamination of groundwater with sensational footage of tap water being set on fire as it flows from a faucet in somebody’s home.

“Fracking is referred to by some as ‘the Tar Sands of Natural Gas’ in terms of the water and energy resources needed to extract the hard-to-reach shale deposits,” declared the club in calling for a moratorium on the practice.

“The B.C. government needs to take a huge step back from their aggressive pursuit of unconventional gas and fracking to allow time to better understand the impacts, keep B.C.’s northeast from becoming a fragmented wasteland of gas wells, respect indigenous rights and protect the health of northern residents.”

Heyman reiterated the call on the eve of the NDP nomination meeting in Fairview.

“I’m not proposing that we don’t sell any gas,” he told reporter Carlito Pablo from the Georgia Straight. “I am proposing that we stop the expansion of new frack wells until we have an appropriate public study on the health impacts, the community impacts, the water impacts, and the climate, greenhouse-gas-emissions impact.”