Hydraulic Fracturing for the Production of Shale Gas
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)
- Addressing uncertainty in public health risks due to hydraulic fracturing (2016)
This paper is an NCCEH Update, published in the Environmental Health Review.
- On shaky ground: Evidence of public health impacts from shale gas production and hydraulic fracturing (2016)
A seminar presented by Anne-Marie Nicol, providing an overview of public health concerns with emphasis on potential earthquake hazards, given at the BCCDC Environmental Health Seminar series.
- Understanding the Public Health Implications Concerning Shale Gas Production and Hydraulic Fracturing (2016)
A review of what is known about the potential for public health consequences relating to air and water contamination and induced seismicity among residents in nearby communities.
- Public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing: seismic activity and potential risks (2015)
This content was presented at the CPHA conference, Vancouver BC, and describes the occurrence of earthquake activity associated with hydraulic fracturing and deep-well disposal of fracturing fluids.
- Overview of Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing in Canada (2014)
A brief document providing information on shale gas production and hydraulic fracturing.
- Hydraulic fracturing and public health: What we know, what we can infer, and how we can move forward (2014)
A panel presentation organized by the NCCEH for the Canadian Public Health Association Conference in Toronto. Presenters were from Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick.
Selected External Resources
- Study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016)
This document summarizes the US EPA's recent assessment of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources.
- Unconventional Opportunities & Challenges: Results of the Public Review of the Implications of Hydraulic Fracturing Operations in Western Newfoundland (Gosine et al., 2016)
Newfoundland & Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel.
- Shale and Tight Resources in Canada (Natural Resources Canada, 2016)
Descriptions concerning unconventional gas development across Canada covering geography, geology, production, regulation, environment, economy and research.
- New Brunswick Commission on hydraulic fracturing (Government of New Brunswick, 2016)
Three volumes that cover the economic, health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturig for shale gas development.
- Background paper (Library of Parliament, 2015)
Provides an overview of current Canadian regulations and environmental issues surrounding shale gas development.
- Review of British Columbia’s hydraulic fracturing framework (EY, 2015)
The BC Oil and Gas Commission requested a focussed assessment with the goal to identify opportunities for improvement.
- Report of the Nova Scotia independent panel on hydraulic fracturing (Atherton et al., 2014)
Submitted to the Province of Nova Scotia Department of Energy. This comprehensive 387-page report covers the risks and protection of public health, socioeconomic impacts on communities, regulatory issues and consideration of aboriginal rights.
- This paper summarizes findings from 7 recent epidemiological studies which suggest proximity to unconventional natural gas (shale gas) development may be associated with some adverse health outcomes.
- Fault activation by hydraulic fracturing in western Canada (Bao and Eaton, 2016)
This technical article reports on research conducted in Western Alberta exploring the relationship between fluid injection in hydraulic fracturing and the timing of induced events.
- Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: a review of the current strength of evidence (Werner et al., 2015)
This paper undertook a systematic review to determine the strength of evidence in scientific reporting of environmental hazards from unconventional natural gas development activities associated with adverse human health outcomes.
- Hydraulic fracturing – Integrating public participation with an independent review of the risks and benefits (Wheeler et al., 2015)
This paper describes the approach taken to maximize public engagement in the public participation and review process on the environmental, economic, health and social risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia.
- Environmental impacts of shale gas extraction in Canada (Council of Canadians, 2014)
The Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction, Council of Canadian Academies. To understand the risks associated with shale gas development in Canada, the Minister of Environment on behalf of Environment Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies to assemble a panel of experts to answer: What is the state of knowledge of potential environmental impacts from the exploration, extraction, and development of Canada’s shale gas resources, and what is the state of knowledge of associated mitigation options?
- An overview of Canadian shale gas production and environmental concerns (Rivard et al., 2014)
This paper assesses the status of shale gas exploration and production in Canada, including issues of hydraulic fracturing and public concerns.
- Environmental public health dimensions of shale and tight gas development (Shonkoff et al., 2014)
The potential environmental public health impacts of shale gas development in the U.S. were assessed, with considerations of exposure pathways, toxicity, and air and water quality.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.