Breaking news from a leaked Canadian report on fracking reveal serious concerns underpinned by scientific investigation. The report commissioned in 2012 by former Canadian environment minister Peter Kent, has been developed by the Council of Canadian Academies, ‘an arm’s-length scientific body‘ to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.
Many of the impacts, risks and conclusions drawn in the report have since 2011, been hi-lighted by TKAG and other South African stakeholders in formal communication to the South African public and various departments of the South African government as well as the Cabinet of South Africa.
Despite these caveats, now convincingly echoed from afar, the ANC has made it clear that they will be pursuing shale gas mining in SA – ““The development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences.” [President Jacob Zuma in his State of The Nation Address in Cape Town http://bit.ly/1o5LGRo]
Among the risks and concerns mentioned in a pre-release of the report, are the following excerpts:
[…publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate...]
[… Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development …]
[… Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts…]
[… Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive…]
[… While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts…]
[…The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable …]
[… Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution …]
This report – soon to be available in an unabridged version is a vindication of the position that those opposed to shale gas mining have held in SA since 2011. Scientific documents of this nature, readily available to the ANC and its heads of Department will greet the organisation in Court when it has to justify its position and action in pushing this technology into South Africa in the manner in which it has stated it will do.
“The ANC and its ministers still have an opportunity to avoid a blunder on a global scale – or they can pugnaciously forge ahead with their stated intention to let fracking loose in South Africa.” – Jonathan Deal
Here is an abridged version of the report and a link:http://bit.ly/1iBPISf
FURTHER COMMENT / ADDITIONAL DATA : Jonathan Deal 023-358-9903 firstname.lastname@example.org or Jeanie Le Roux – 072-959-1818 email@example.com
A landmark report commissioned by Environment Canada has found water contamination to be the greatest threat posed by the shale gas extraction method known as fracking.
The “Expert Panel on Harnessing Science & Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction” report finds publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate while pointing to a long list of potential negative environmental effects — of which water contamination is the most worrisome.
“Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development,” says the report’s executive summary, a copy of which was obtained by iPolitics Wednesday.
Increased greenhouse gas emissions, seismic activity, socioeconomic disruption and poor scientific monitoring also pose a problem for shale gas extraction, an established industry in British Columbia and Alberta but with potential in eastern provinces, the report says.
Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts, says the report’s conclusion.
“Well-targeted science is required to ensure a better understanding of the environmental impacts of shale gas development,” it says. “Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive.”
The report focuses specifically on shale gas extraction, which has been made possible thanks to advancements in two technologies: horizontal drilling along shale rock formations and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Shale deposits have been identified around the world, but North America is ground zero for the so-called ‘shale boom’.
Adequate regulation of shale gas fracking has been a pressing question for the industry, which has been the target of documentaries and environmentalist campaigns in the U.S. over the past several years.
The anxiety over shale gas fracking eventually led former environment minister Peter Kent to commission the report in 2012. He asked the Council of Canadian Academies, an arm’s-length scientific body Ottawa occasionally turns to for advice, to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.
The council encountered a scientific field riddled with unknowns.
“While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts,” the report says.
A lot of information isn’t known, and a lot that is isn’t public, says the report. “As a result, many pertinent questions are hard to answer objectively and scientifically.”
Despite the knowledge gaps, the consensus among the panelists is that water contamination is the greatest threat. The report says a gas leak into groundwater poses the highest risk, which could happen if the gas travelled around the well or if it leaked through an improperly installed casing.
“The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable,” the report says.
There’s a second potential route for contamination, the report says. Fracking takes place inside rock about 1,000 meters below the surface and involves the breaking up of shale to release pockets of natural gas. The region where fracking occurs is much deeper than the groundwater level, but if there are pathways in the shale rock there’s a risk that natural gas — along with the fluids and chemicals used in fracking — could leak into groundwater, says the report.
“The migration of gases and saline fluids through these pathways over the long term could result in potentially substantial cumulative impacts on water quality,” it says. But, “There is no known case of hydraulic fracturing fluid migration from deep shale gas zones to groundwater level directly through the rock.”
The climate change impacts of fracking could be positive if fracking leads to natural gas displacing more carbon-intensive fuels like coal, the report says.
But if the shale boom takes investment away from renewable power, it could make things worse, it says.
Potential seismic effects are minimal, but a greater threat comes from the storage of wastewater in emptied-out gas pockets, it says. The council says seismic monitoring can reduce impacts.
Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution, the report says. A general lack of social acceptance and trust is also undermining the public’s understanding of shale gas, it says.
“Psychosocial impacts have also been reported,” it says. “Lack of transparency and conflicting messages can lead to the perception that industry or authorities are not forthcoming, which can augment concern about individual quality of life and contribute to feelings of anxiety about the future.”
The provinces, which have varying degrees of regulation when it comes to fracking, are ultimately responsible for making sure the industry operates responsibly, the report says. There will be governance challenges, however, given the disparate impacts of the industry on those near the operations and those who benefit, it says.
B.C. is nurturing the exploration of its shale gas with the aim of becoming a hub for the export of liquified natural gas. Quebec and Nova Scotia currently have moratoriums on fracking while New Brunswick is updating regulations for the divisive shale gas operations happening there.
The federal government — which has some jurisdiction over the shale gas boom through its regulation of toxic chemicals, emissions and fish habitat — has been sponsoring research programs on fracking’s impact while waiting for the Council of Canadian Academies report.
The report will be released officially in full tomorrow.