Hydraulic Fracturing for the Production of Shale Gas

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Hydraulic fracturing (also termed “fracking”) is the process used, along with horizontal drilling, to extract unconventional natural gas (shale gas, tight gas or coalbed methane) and tight oil from reserves deep in the earth. Fractures are created in relatively impermeable rock (such as shale) by injecting large amounts of fracturing fluid (a mixture of water and chemicals) deep into the earth under high pressure.

  • In Canada, shale production in highest in British Columbia and Alberta. (Council of Canadians, 2014)
  • There are current moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick*, Newfoundland and Laborador, Nova Scotia and Quebec. (*added since publication of: Council of Canadians, 2014)
  • Public health concerns include water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes and community impacts. (Ward et al., 2016)
  • Surface water and groundwater may become contaminated from accidental spills, leaks, storage and disposal of wastewater and from poor well integrity. (Canadian Water Network, 2015)
  • Air quality concerns are related to venting and flaring of methane and flowback fluid (returned fracturing fluid), diesel emissions and fugitive methane gas emissions. (Werner et al., 2015)
  • Some earthquakes have been caused by hydraulic fracturing including a 4.8 magnitude earthquake in January 2016 in Fox Creek Alberta. (Alberta Energy Regulator, 2016)
  • Communities are affected by the many large trucks used for hydraulic fracturing and transport of water, supplies and products, which are sources of noise, dust and exhaust emissions. (Rivard et al., 2014)

NCCEH Resources

Selected External Resources

Government Documents

Peer-Reviewed Articles


This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updated Dec 15, 2016