Fracking backgrounder

[This information was gathered up and edited for a display board. Some of the points are about Ontario, specifically.]

What is fracking?

“As conventional natural gas supplies diminish, energy corporations are looking for new ways to get at trapped reserves. Hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as ‘fracking’ – is a process where sand, water and chemicals are blasted into rock formations such as shale, coal beds and ‘tight’ sands to gain access to trapped natural gas deposits. This injection process creates cracks in the rock formations and allows the gas to flow up the well.” This shale gas extraction is a problem because of “its high carbon emissions, its high water use, and the dangers it poses to polluting groundwater and local drinking water. People living in communities where fracking projects are underway have reported water pollution, ‘burning water,’ where water from household taps catches fire due to residual methane gas from fracking operations, and health concerns.”
The Council of Canadians

What is wrong with fracking?

– Water contamination threats around extraction operations
– Frack waste dumping, and waste tailings pond leakage
– Wasted water supplies, for fracking wells: several millions of litres per well
– Methane greenhouse gas releases (which are over 20 times more potent than CO2)
– Wasted energy supplies, for fracking operations
– Air pollution
– Possible radon contamination in extracted shale gas
– Increased truck traffic
– Explosion and earthquake risks
– Deforestation around frack wells
– Industrialization of rural areas
– These impacts will cross property lines
– Any monitoring would be very expensive, but inadequate
– We will lose opportunities to invest in alternatives

Fracking facts

– ProPublica has identified more than 1,000 cases of water contamination near drilling sites documented by courts, U.S. states and local governments around the United States prior to 2009
– One study found average methane concentrations in shallow drinking water in active gas drilling areas that were 17 times higher than those in non-active areas
– In Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 gas fracking wells and permitted well sites are located within two miles of 320 day care centers, 67 schools and nine hospitals
– Methanol, formaldehyde and carbon disulfide are known hazardous air pollutants found near fracking sites
(Source: Food and Water Watch)

– 25 percent of fracking chemicals can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system; 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular system; and more than 75 percent could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system, resulting in problems like skin and eye irritation or flu-like symptoms
– The amount of benzene from a single fracked well may contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water
– U.S. congressional investigations found that fracking fluids contained 750 chemicals
(Source: Food and Water Watch)

“Oil giants such as BP, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron now dominate the gas industry. The industry’s chief front group, Energy In Depth (EID), goes to great lengths to maintain the “mom and pop” image of the industry, claiming it represents small and independent gas producers.”

Energy industry facts
– Between 2005 and 2010, the 10 largest natural gas producers and two trade associations spent more than $370 million lobbying for their agendas, in the United States
– In 2010, natural gas and energy companies spent $1,204,567 lobbying against moratorium bills in New York state
(Source: Food and Water Watch)

The Canadian Society for Unconventional Gas has said that they hope that “unconventional gas, particularly shale gas and tight gas, will be a major contributor to Canadian markets.”

Food and Water Watch is calling for fracking to be banned:
“Even if the laws on the books were strengthened, fracking poses too severe a risk to public health and the environment to entrust effective and rigorous regulatory oversight to these officials. Both state and federal regulators have a poor track record of protecting the public from the impacts of fracking. [United States] congress, state legislators and local governmental bodies need to ban shale gas fracking.”

By June 2011, at least 58 U.S. municipalities had passed resolutions or ordinances against fracking.

ICF International’s predictions for Ontario and North America (in a report prepared for the Ontario Energy Board in 2010)
– Unconventional gas resources, including shale gas, are expected to make up over 50 percent of total gas supply by 2020.
– Shale gas is expected to be the principle source of growth in North American gas supplies.
– Many shale resources, such as the Marcellus Shale, are located in geographically different regions than historic supplies. These shifts in supply sources will impact pipeline flows and new pipeline capacity.
– Conventional gas production in Western Canada is expected to continue declining, and gas demand in Alberta for tar sands projects is expected to continue increasing, while the TransCanada Pipeline’s flows from the west continue decreasing.

However, the ICF also notes that the demand for fossil fuels could increase, while environmental regulations could at least slow shale gas extraction.


Ontario energy supply facts

Ontario makes up about 30 percent of all Canadian natural gas consumption. In 2010, the industrial sector made up 27 percent of the province’s demand. The majority of increased natural gas demand is expected to come from increased gas consumption in the power sector. Since 2004, the province has added approximately 4,700 MW of gas-fired generation to the system. Ontario’s power sector gas use is expected to climb to nearly one-third of total demand by 2020.

(Source: ICF International)

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