What the Frack? An intro to fracking.

February 7, 2013

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.

Fracking Lead


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.

Sally's Cove
Sally’s Cove is in close proximity to Gros Morne National Park.

I follow this Facebook page for updates on the situation: Save Gros Morne and Our West Coast.

Topic related BREAKING NEWS for further reading:

  • yalrity

    The economic benefits will be short term. The environmental repercussions will last for years. The company is proposing to do 100′s of wells along the coast. Is that 900? Each will create vast quantities of contaminated water that will be returned to the surface. Are we seriously considering creating a coast line of contaminated tailings ponds?

  • yalrity

    The economic benefits are short term. The environmental repercussions will last years. The company is proposing 100′s of wells. Is that 900? With each a vast quantity of contaminated water will be returned to the surface. Are we really suggesting creating a coastline of contaminated tailings ponds?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mseaward Melanie Seaward

    I am glad people are starting to talk about this more. It is really scary to me that this might go ahead, and that environmental laws in Canada are changing to allow for more oil exploration. We are one of the last untouched places on this planet with fresh spring water actually running down from the mountains, why would we allow big oil companies, who produce few profits for the area, to ruin that? Even if there are profits to be had, we can’t buy back the environment.

  • Alex White

    Look at The Nature of Things examination of fracking…we should not allow this here.
    It pollutes the air and disturbs the balance of the hydrologic cycle.

  • Justin

    Fracking is not a new method. It has been around for many years. What is being proposed for western NL should not be compared to what is going on in the US. Areas being proposed for drilling in NL are coastal, shoreline areas. Our groundwater will not be affected by chemicals and drilling will take place many kilometres too far under the ocean floor to cause damage to aquatic life. It will not cause any more air pollution than any other oil exploration or mining project. People should consider the potential for great economic benefit for western NL and the factual information on any adverse effects of any operations such as this before we automatically assume this should be banned from our province. If monitored effectively and implemented in the appropriate areas, this method of fracking can be extremely safe and effective.

  • SpeculationGame

    Penny stock companies have been playing the same game of selling dreams for decades. The names of the newest plays and methods change, but the game remains the same. Any politicians and regulators that sell out their people and province for such a short-term hustle, don’t deserve their jobs.