Companies searching for commercial deposits of shale gas in eastern Canada are faced with mixed messages from provincial governments about the use of hydraulic fracturing.
At about the same time, the Nova Scotia government said it would extend by another two years to summer 2014 a moratorium on fracking, while the neighboring New Brunswick government granted a five-year license to Calgary-based Windsor Energy to explore and drill for gas in that province.
Earlier in April, the Quebec government added another year to its freeze on fracking imposed a year ago, pending results from a report now expected in 2013. That study is focused on the Utica formation, which has 50 trillion cubic feet of estimated recoverable gas.
The Central Maritimes region, which straddles the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia border, has no commercial shale production, but has an estimated 130 trillion cubic feet of potential gas in place, according to the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources.
A number of smaller companies are at various stages of gathering seismic data and conducting geochemical testing and are able to seek permission to stimulate conventional oil and gas wells, Angie Leonard, senior advisor in the Maritimes office of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
She said “a handful of fracking procedures have been done, mostly in the exploration phase.”
Leonard said that although the industry is disappointed with the Nova Scotia delay it would sooner the government “get the regulations right rather than rush into anything.
“It would be good to know where the province stands with regard to hydraulic fracturing so that as companies continue with exploration they know what regulatory environment they are heading into if they do happen to make a commercial discovery,” she said.
More study time neededNova Scotia Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau said his government, like Quebec and New York State, needs more time to study fracking methods and deal with public concerns over possible contamination of drinking water.
Energy Minister Charlie Parker said the review will take into consideration findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, as well as the provincial and state jurisdictions.
Peter Hill, chairman of Elmworth Energy, a subsidiary of Triangle Petroleum, said in a statement he was “very disappointed” that his firm will lose two years of its 10-year lease in Nova Scotia.
“Nova Scotia has as much gas resource potential onshore as offshore and to lose two years or more of time is a sad loss for the economic development of the province,” he said.
New Brunswick Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup extended Windsor Energy’s exploration license to five years from three years, citing his government’s desire to create jobs and reduce a budget deficit, despite heated opposition to fracking.