Fracking promises prosperity, but what if it happens in your front yard?
When Kevin McCleary and his wife cleared 160 acres of land to build their home in Pouce Coupe, B.C., two decades ago, they didn’t expect a fracking gas well to be built less than half a mile from their front door.
Now McCleary says her family is bombarded with bright lights, foul smells and high-decibel industrial noise from the construction site near the community, which is a few miles southeast of Dawson Creek in the northeast. of the province.
“It’s an incredible roaring sound, building to a crescendo,” McCleary said. “The lights illuminate our front yard. There always seems to be something in the wind, an oily substance, chemical or diesel exhaust.
“It’s disturbing our sleep. We were trying to watch TV last night and we can hear at the site of the pad the clicking and a kind of rumbling and roaring.”
Hydraulic fracturing or hydraulic fracturingis a process that shoots water, sand and chemicals at high pressure more than two kilometers underground to release natural gas trapped in rock formations.
This gas is then transported through pipelines, such as the 670 kilometer Coastal GasLink pipeline that is under construction in northern British Columbia, to processing facilities such as the plant LNG Canada is building in Kitimat for shipment to export markets.
But fracking remains controversial and has already been banned in some jurisdictions.
While the industry is key to the BC government’s economic plans and jobs forecast, those who have seen fracking sites set up near their homes feel they are being made to pay the price of energy development.
“Anger and Sorrow”
In Farmington, about 25 kilometers northwest of Dawson Creek, Vicky Simlik said she felt beleaguered.
The 80-acre property where she lived for three decades, raising horses and growing hay, was once idyllic. But since a frac pit has been built less than a mile away, she avoids going out because of the noise and industrial smells.
“I feel anger and grief,” she said. “It feels like a train right in front of you that just keeps coming and going. It’s so overwhelming it can break you in half.
“Hydraulic fracturing is just creeping its way across the country.”
Wayne Sawchuk grew up in the area and now lives in Rolla, BC, where he can see flares from a nearby gasworks.
Sawchuk describes northeast British Columbia as a “sacrifice zone” where well pads, pipelines and resource access roads “cut the land”.
“In my lifetime, all areas have been consulted, almost without exception,” he said.
“To go from a pristine landscape to…essentially an industrialized landscape…this oil and gas [development] is not benign. And I lived it. I saw it.”
The BC government and scientists are still study the impact of hydraulic fracturing on human health, the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and water supply, as well as its link to induced earthquakes.
But while that sounds like a threat to some, to others it’s a major opportunity.
“It brings new life”
Thousands of people are currently working on the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and LNG Canada’s processing and export facility.
The combined project is also a boon for companies serving the oil and gas sector, such as family-owned Lindberg Construction in Dawson Creek.
Owner Gerald Lindberg says natural gas development has brought stability to the boom and bust cycle.
“It really brings new life to the area. Now that everyone is working, a lot of our guys can afford homes and start families, so it’s hugely beneficial for us,” he said.
Of course, it’s also good for companies like Shell and Petronas, two of the LNG Canada joint venture partners, and some of the biggest gas producers in the region.
The new pipeline and export facility will bring more natural gas to Asian markets.
“There haven’t been enough pipelines to transport all that gas,” said Tommy Chu, an engineer and energy analyst.
“So what LNG Canada is going to provide is some much-needed relief to access additional markets. Companies have kind of been waiting in the wings. Now we’ll see a lot more activity.”
At current prices, Chu estimates that $10 million of gas per day will flow through the Coastal GasLink pipeline once the LNG project is operational.
Revenue from gas extraction is vital, said Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
“These revenues fund health care, social services, education and infrastructure. Shut the door because we see obstacles…everything you do will have an impact. From a fracking perspective, technologies and processes are continually evolving,” she told CBC News. .
Further growth potential
In 2021, BC’s energy regulator counted just over 8,200 gas wells and 39,000 kilometers of pipelines in operation in the province.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) said the drilling of new wells increased by 24% last year.
LNG Canada is still considering doubling the project’s future capacity as part of a possible Phase 2 expansion.
Petronas, one of LNG Canada’s joint venture partners, said there were “over 15,000 identified drilling locations” in northern British Columbia – although it specified in an email to CBC News that the number of actual well pads “will be significantly lower and spread out.” over the life of our operations.”
A Shell spokesperson told CBC that any increase in production will depend on “future market conditions”.
Back in Pouce Coupe, McCleary worries that the growth of fracking in the area “will drive us out of our homes.”
He said when he complained about the constant noise, he was advised to try earplugs.
The BCOGC said the province’s regulations “ensure oil and gas companies develop energy resources responsibly, while protecting public safety, protecting the environment and respecting those affected.”