Hydraulic Fracturing Review
In August 2013, the government of Nova Scotia commissioned an independent review of the socio-economic impacts of hydraulic fracturing, led by Dr. David Wheeler, President of Cape Breton University.
Government released the final report on August 28, 2014 and provided its response on September 3, 2014.
Read the news release on government’s response to Dr. Wheeler’s report
Read the news release on Dr. Wheeler’s report
Read the final report
Visit the independent review website: http://www.cbu.ca/hfstudy
Questions & Answers
Q: What is your decision on the future of hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia?
Q: Does your decision follow the Wheeler panel recommendations?
Q: Aren’t you foregoing onshore oil and gas opportunities?
Q: Aren’t you foregoing potential revenue and lots of jobs?
Q: Is hydraulic fracturing required to access all shale deposits?
Q: Are you shutting down an active industry?
Q: Won't this hurt investment in Nova Scotia?
Q: Isn't this against Ivany's report?
Q: Do you think hydraulic fracturing can be done safely?
Nova Scotians have overwhelmingly told us in letters, through public meetings held by the Wheeler panel, in public opinion polling, calls and conversations across the province that more information is needed before high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction should proceed in our province.
To make our decision, we considered many sources of information over the past 11 months such as the Wheeler report for Nova Scotia along with other studies like the Council of Canadian Academies’ (COC) and the UK Royal Academy of Engineers. The main conclusion of these reports is that more research and information is required to better understand the potential impacts of high volume hydraulic fracturing.
According to Wheeler,
“Based on the analysis described in this report, a significant period of learning and dialogue is now required at both the provincial and community levels, and thus hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of unconventional oil and gas development should not proceed at the present time in Nova Scotia.”
For all these reasons, the government of Nova Scotia is prohibiting the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction.
Yes. The major conclusion of the Wheeler panel is that Nova Scotians are not yet ready for high volume hydraulic fracturing as part of onshore shale development. They did not recommend which method of putting a hold on this process would be appropriate. They noted that trust is lacking in governments generally and suggested community support is necessary if hydraulic fracturing is to proceed. Our legislation provides assurance to Nova Scotians that high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas will not be permitted without a public, open, and transparent debate in the legislature.
There are opportunities to develop onshore oil and gas which do not require high volume hydraulic fracturing to access the resource. One example is the coal gas exploration project which is currently underway in Stellarton. This exploration has been supported in the community. We’re very excited about the potential for more local sources of natural gas in our province. In fact, our government continues to invest in onshore geoscience work to better understand our oil and gas resource potential through an onshore petroleum atlas. This type of research has been done in our offshore through the Play Fairway Analysis, successfully attracting billions of dollars of work commitments in offshore Nova Scotia.
Moreover, it is important to note that this decision does not affect any current projects in the province. As knowledge, science and understanding develop, new opportunities with other technologies are highly likely, and our understanding of the geology will continue to progress. As well, government has not shut the door without any possibility to revisit it. We are simply stating a public decision by the legislature will be required so the public can have input.
In addition to opportunities in our onshore, we have two active offshore projects generating royalties for our province – Sable Offshore Energy Project and Deep Panuke. Shell and BP Canada each have $1 billion work commitments to explore in our offshore. Shell will drill exploration wells starting in 2015 and BP just completed one of the largest seismic programs in the world offshore Nova Scotia.
This is highly speculative. The Wheeler report noted estimates of shale reserves that could range from 10 TCF to 40 TCF and if developed over many decades could result in revenues and jobs. By contrast, offshore the estimates are 120 TCF of gas and 8 billion barrels of oil. Wheeler’s report makes no suggestion this revenue or jobs would begin in the short term. In fact, their recommendation for not proceeding right now with hydraulic fracturing would specifically suggest such potential revenues would be years out. These are our natural resources; they aren’t going anywhere. We have time to ensure they are harnessed responsibly.
While many shale deposits are hydraulically fractured using high volumes of water, there are other different and more modern techniques being used and new ones being developed.
No. There were no hydraulic fracturing operations or applications prior to the moratorium that were brought in by the previous government over two years ago. Our decision only prohibits the use of a single technique for accessing petroleum deposits. In fact, coal gas exploration which does not use high volume hydraulic fracturing is underway today in Stellarton with community support.
Investment in Nova Scotia energy projects has been increasing and these investments will not be affected by this decision. BP and Shell have committed to spend just over $2 billion in exploration over the next six years in our offshore. Shell will drill its first well next year and BP has just completed the largest seismic program conducted this year in the world.
There are proposals to build three LNG plants in Nova Scotia to export natural gas from Nova Scotia in liquefied form. The total proposed investment of these three projects could be in excess of $15 billion. The South Canoe wind project is currently under construction and we expect a tidal turbine to be built and installed next year. These are just a few of the investments resulting in revenue and jobs in the province right now in our energy industry. Wheeler says the potential benefits from high volume hydraulic fracturing are many years away.
Ivany says we must develop our natural resources and that’s exactly what we’re doing. By not permitting high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas our government is ensuring the responsible development of our onshore oil and gas resources in a manner that is supported by communities across Nova Scotia. Ivany’s report also referenced the importance of tourism and agriculture (such as the wine industry), which the Wheeler report notes could have a negative impact in some areas if hydraulic fracturing is permitted due to land conflicts.
While hydraulic fracturing has been done safely at many sites, there have been incidents where regulations haven’t been followed or there was insufficient monitoring. Canada's western provinces have experience which is important for us to learn from. At the same time, we have to consider the differences in Nova Scotia such as our geology and population density near shale deposits. Perhaps, most important is many Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia communities do not support hydraulic fracturing at this time.