Most of the "conventional" natural gas in BC, accessed by drilling straight down into gas pockets, is gone. From here on, BC's methane will come from "tight gas," trapped deep within shale beds. This gas is accessed by horizontal directional drilling from a vertical shaft. The methane (and other substances) are released from the shale beds by means of hydraulic fracturing - the injection, under pressure, of water, chemicals, and sand - to crack open the shale. Each fracking well requires between 4 million and 30 million litres of water per frack. One frack in BC required 77 million litres of water. Wells have been fracked up to 18 times.
More than 600 additives have been identified in fracking fluids. Many of these substances are toxic. They do not naturally occur in freshwater. Some of the fracking fluid is extracted from wells and is captured for re-use. The rest of it is lost in the process or is pumped into pits where the volatile organic compounds evaporate, posing an immediate risk to wildlife and human health, and a longterm risk to the environment. When a well is abandoned, any remaining fracking fluid is pumped back under. The only things preventing its escape into aquifers are the durability of the welds and the concrete seals employed. In BC, no baseline data is required to compare the before-and-after effects of fracking on freshwater. Fracking companies are only required to disclose the amounts and the names of the chemicals used after the completion of each well. This is considered "transparent" reporting. The BC Oil and Gas Commission, the agency that regulates fracking is also the agency that issues water permits to the industry.
Fracking requires sand in huge quantities. Because of the relative remoteness of the Horn River, Montney, and Liard gas fields in BC, the trucking cost of frac sand makes up about 80 percent of its cost at the well head. One company has already staked multiple sand mine claims in northeastern BC, with the aim of creating open pit mines closer to the action. One of these mines is proposed for near Bear Lake, just north of Prince George. Sand mines create 6 tonnes of tailings for each 4 tonnes of sand produced, and are a major source of airborne silica - a carcinogen that creates a risk to human health, downwind.
Fracking is an industry heavily reliant on trucking. Each frack of each well requires, at a minimum, 900 round trips of eighteen-wheelers just for the water needs. The diesel inputs required to produce fracked gas must be included when appraising the environmental footprint of the industry.
Fracking is a highly industrial process, fraught with the perils of massive freshwater use and contamination, large blow-offs of carbon dioxide and volatile gases, induced seismic activity (earthquakes), and the storage and handling of large quantities of toxic liquids. It leaves the environment in a much worse condition than beforehand, and poses longterm environmental and human health risks. It is not a "natural" process that produces a "natural" product, and it is not sustainable.
It's time to call the product of this industry what it truly is:
BC's methane is not "natural" gas; it's fracked gas.