CALGARY—Decisions on hydraulic fracturing should be based on realistic appraisals of risk, so Canadians are not unnecessarily denied the benefits of their natural resources, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
The study, Managing the Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing, examines the economic potential of energy resource development via hydraulic fracturing (sometimes referred to as “fracking”) in Canada, and the often-repeated claims made by fracking opponents.
“While there are risks associated with any type of oil and gas extraction, or any large-scale human endeavor, there’s no evidence of unmanageable risk associated with hydraulic fracturing that justifies a ban or moratorium,” said Kenneth Green, senior director with the Centre for Natural Resources at the Fraser Institute.
And yet, there have been anti-fracking protests across Canada, and temporary fracking bans and moratoriums in Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
What does Canada stand to lose?
Canada controls large “unconventional natural gas formations and reserves,” notes the study, which could be developed in part by hydraulic fracturing. These reserves have an estimated market value of up to $4.6 trillion. In Quebec alone, shale gas deposits (which can be accessed via fracking) are worth between $70 billion and $140 billion at current natural gas prices.
“By all measures, Canada’s shale gas and oil potential is significant, and the development of those resources could generate significant wealth for Canadians and their families,” Green said.
The study finds that the risks of increased air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and earthquakes associated with hydraulic fracturing are real, but manageable with currently available technologies and existing regulation.
Regarding fracking-related water pollution, a favourite issue of anti-fracking activists, the study quotes the well-known journal Science, which reports that worldwide “more than 1 million hydraulic fracturing treatments have been conducted, with perhaps only one documented case of direct groundwater pollution resulting from injection of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, used for shale gas extraction.”
“Governments in Canada are faced with a choice—they can ban hydraulic fracturing despite the fact that expert panels have shown the risks are manageable, or they can work with industry to manage any risks in a pragmatic way while allowing Canadians to reap the benefits of their natural resources,” Green said.