Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | Categories: The As It Happens Blog
- by jeff douglas
This came up in our story meeting this morning.
Jessica Ernst is seeking a total of $33 million from Encana, the Alberta government, and the province's energy regulator for damages she claims come from coal bed methane in her well water.
She says that she can actually ignite her tap water.
I had to see this.
It's another chapter in the saga of natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing - better known by the impolite sounding name, fracking.
For argument's sake, let's say that the natural gas you want to get at is in shale. Basically you blast a high-pressure cocktail of water,sand and chemicals down into the earth, where said cocktail creates fractures in the shale, thus freeing the gas which bubbles out of the rock and into a well where it is captured.
Simple. Yet, oh, so contentious.
In November of 2010, the New York State Legislature declared a moratorium on fracking pending an investigation into its effects. France also said "Non, merci," and here in Canada, Quebec has banned the process until more research is conducted.
Along with concerns for seismic repercussions, and the depletion of local water supplies, no one outside the industry seems to know for certain what the chemical part of the fracking cocktail includes. Those who frack are secretive with their recipes.
As stated in The Guardian, there are reports indicating you'd likely find the following chemicals in a Fracktini: methanol, napthalene, benzene, lead, and - to lube the tubes - hydrochloric acid. These have a pesky habit of eventually making their way back up to the surface thus spurring fears of ground water and land contamination.
These wells typically pass through the water table. The actual fracking takes place way below that, but all that freed-up methane has to come back up the pipe, and there are concerns that methane can get into the water.
Thus, I finally come to the point of my morning's fascination.
Residents living near fracking sites have reported weird changes in their drinking water, including a greasy darkening of the water, sediment and floating debris.
Any of these may put you off, but this takes the cake. I'll point out here that this is not Ms. Ernst's flaming tap, but it is from Gem, also in southern Alberta.
I don't know if that is caused by fracking or black magic, but I'd get it checked out. I also probably wouldn't be laughing.
*Oil, hardly a model of ideal return on energy inputs, yields 15 units of energy for every unit required to extract and refine it. The ratio for natural gas derived from fracking is a miserable 2:1. Toronto Star, April 12, 2011