Fracking Across Canada

Susan MacVittie

Watershed Sentinel

Community opposition to fracking was spurred by an application submitted by the Chinese company, Northern Cross, in 2010. There is currently no fracking underway in the Yukon, but Northern Cross has been conducting 3D seismic testing. The Council of Yukon First Nations passed a resolution in July 2013 declaring traditional territories “frack-free.” A Standing Committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly is accepting public comments about fracking, and will report on its findings and recommendations on a policy approach to hydraulic fracturing in the Yukon during the 2014 spring sitting.

The Northwest Territories
The Canol shale formation of the Sahtu area in the central Mackenzie Valley is believed to be one of the largest potential sources of oil shale on the continent, with estimates of between three and five billion barrels of recoverable oil. Oil and gas corporations Imperial Oil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, MGM Energy, and Husky have invested $628 million since 2011 leasing parcels of land in the central Mackenzie region for exploration. In October, for the first time, the National Energy Board has permitted horizontal fracking in the North. A coalition of NWT environmental and social action groups have launched a petition to call on the NWT government to use its authority under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to refer any further horizontal hydraulic fracturing applications to a full environmental assessment that includes public hearings.

British Columbia
British Columbia is home to the world’s largest frack, with shale gas reserves in the Horn River, Montney, Liard, and Cordova basins located in the province’s northeastern corner. There have been more than 1,062 wells fracked in BC. In 2010, over the course of 111 days, a gigantic frack took place at Two Island Lake in the Horn River Basin, with an average of 17 fracks per well, which used 5.6 million barrels of water, 111 million pounds of sand and massive quantities of unknown chemicals. The National Energy Board has approved seven LNG export applications for BC, which leads the way for more fracking. Various community groups and provincial organizations are working on the issue.

The Alberta Energy regulator says that 171,000 wells have been fracked in Alberta since the 1950s. There are 15 prospective shale gas formations in the province and five of these formations (Duvernay, Muskwa, Basal Banff/Exshaw, North Nordegg, and the Wilrich) may contain up to 1,291 trillion cubic feet (TcF) of shale gas. The province could contain an additional 500 TcF of coalbed methane (CBM). While CBM typically uses less fracking fluid than shale gas, the wells are not as deep, so fracking happens closer to the surface.
Urban fracking has appeared for the first time, sparking opposition from Lethbridge citizens who are involved with No Drilling Lethbridge and KLEW [see Page 10].

Fracking in Saskatchewan began in the 1950s and is almost exclusively for the extraction of the province’s oil reserves. Most fracking is concentrated in the Bakken oil play, which straddles the Canada-US border. The area is estimated to hold 200-300 billion barrels of oil, with potentially 1.3 billion barrels in Saskatchewan alone.

Fracking for oil occurs in a small corner in southwestern Manitoba. Since 2006, a total of 1,978 horizontal wells have been drilled. There is little public information on the chemicals and the amount of water used in the fracking process. The Manitoba government is working on new regulations for the fracking industry and a “FracFocus” website where fracking companies can “volunteer” information about their chemicals and water.

While there is presently no fracking underway in Ontario, the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) has highlighted the shale gas potential in the Ordovician Shale formations located in southern Ontario. The OGS drilled in 11 locations. Ontario borders four of the five Great Lakes. Developing these shale formations could have serious implications for the Lakes, Georgian Bay, and local watersheds. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation, near Sarnia, have been visited by industry reps talking about fracking and are opposed to it.

In 2008 there was a lot of exploration activity in the St. Lawrence River Lowlands for the Utica shale formation, with 31 wells fracked. This sparked significant local opposition and prompted dozens of municipalities to pass resolutions banning fracking. In 2011, the Quebec government placed a moratorium on new fracking permits in parts of the St. Lawrence River basin. Less than one per cent of licenses in this area were revoked. Lone Pine Resources, a company that held one of the revoked licenses, is suing the Canadian government for $250 million under the North America Free Trade Agreement claiming that they have been deprived of their right to make a profit from fracking for gas.
In May 2013, Quebec’s Environment Minister tabled Bill 37 which, if passed, would impose a moratorium on fracking in the Lowlands of the St. Lawrence River for up to five years. The proposed legislation would revoke all drilling licences and prohibit new ones. In February, a Quebec court struck down a Gaspe municipal bylaw that tried to prevent exploratory oil wells being drilled and fracked  close to its drinking water supply. The bylaw was deemed invalid because it prevented Petrolia Inc. from carrying out drilling specifically authorized by the province.

New Brunswick
The provincial government is moving forward with fracking despite growing public opposition. Most gas resources in the province are trapped in shale formations. There are currently 49 fracked wells in the province. People from across the Atlantic region have gathered in support of the Mi’kmaq in Elsipogtog as the community continues to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada.

Nova Scotia
In September 2012, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society and other indigenous communities set up a partial blockade on the Canso Causeway to highlight the dangers of oil and gas drilling. Kennetcook is home to two holding ponds containing millions of litres of fracking wastewater from the Denver-based Triangle Petroleum’s search for shale gas in the area in 2009-10. The holding ponds overflowed this winter due to snow and rain, but Nova Scotia Environment staff say the impact on the environment was minimal. The provincial government has issued a moratorium on fracking and commissioned an independent review with public participation. The Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition represents environmental and community organizations.

Prince Edward Island
A few exploratory leases were granted to oil and gas companies, but currently there are no active leases or fracking operations underway. Some experts believe there is a potential of 7.6 TcF of coalbed methane in the ground on PEI. Local residents have joined together to form a diverse coalition under the banner, Don’t Frack PEI. In November 2013, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry recommended a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing on PEI.

Newfoundland and Labrador
Shoal Point Energy submitted a proposal to perform onshore-to-offshore fracking for oil exploration in several sites along the west coast of Newfoundland. Black Spruce Energy negotiated a farm-in agreement for exploration with Shoal Point. Public concern has focused on Rocky Harbour, which is fully encircled by Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newfoundland and Labrador placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracking in November 2013.


With information from the Council of Canadian’s Fall 2013 Canadian Perspectives. The Council has published A Fracktivist’s Toolkit, available for download:

Watershed Sentinel Original Content

Can we ask for a little of your time, and some money?

We can’t do this without you. Support independent media and donate a little or a lot – every bit makes a difference. And when you give those precious extra dollars, we treat them as the honour it is and use them carefully to pay for more stories, more distribution of information, and bonus copies to colleges and libraries. Donate $50 or more, and we will publicly thank you in our magazine. And we always thank you from the bottom of our hearts.