Fracking is a controversial word appearing in the news more often lately, and it’s becoming apparent that environmental protection regulations are not keeping pace with this relatively new procedure.
Shoal Point Energy, a Toronto-based company, have applied to undertake hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil along a number of locations on the west coast of Newfoundland in 2013.
The locations of interest for exploration and drilling include Sally’s Cove, Shoal Point and Lark Harbour, among many others.
The company has discovered evidence of oil in shale at Shoal Point in the shallow offshore of Port au Port Bay. According to their project description, the 137,000 acre area can be developed almost entirely by land-based drilling.
The company wants to stimulate oil flow by fracking. Fracking is a controversial method of oil exploration and field development which can have disastrous consequences on the local environment where the drilling is taking place.
As of yet, Shoal Point Energy has not been approved for any fracking or drilling operations in the Gros Morne region, but they are applying for a new production license that would give them permission to proceed.
To this date, no fracking has ever been approved in Newfoundland. Nova Scotia placed a moratorium on the procedure, until more research is done on its effects.
After drilling a well, sand, water and chemicals are pumped into the ground to crack rock deep underneath using explosions. This process releases trapped shale gas and oil for capture.
Risks and Concerns
Fracking has implications for both the purity and quantity of freshwater:
- Water volume: The extraction of groundwater for fracking causes a drawdown in surface waters.
- Water quality: Chemicals contained in fracking fluid has the potential to enter the water table, which can contaminate groundwater and surface water. The mixture contains 55,000 and 200,000 litres of chemical.
- Air quality: Diesel trucks transport equipment, millions of litres of water, and thousands of litres of chemicals to the fracking site. The diesel fumes reduce the overall air quality of the region. The fracking rigs release large amounts of greenhouse gases from methane.
There may very well be economic benefits involved, but people are highly concerned about the potential for air pollution and contamination, and risks to public health in the Gros Morne region.
I follow this Facebook page for updates on the situation: Save Gros Morne and Our West Coast.
Topic related BREAKING NEWS for further reading:
- Gros Morne Official Cites Fracking Concerns (Feb. 6, 2013)
- Environmental Watchdog Worried About Rise of Fracking (Feb. 5, 2013)