Husky Oil 2015 silica prospect map

Husky's proposed drilling project would take place 50 km west of Yellowknife, in the Chedabucto Lake area on the north arm of Great Slave Lake. (Husky Energy)

Husky Oil Operations Ltd. wants to drill west of Yellowknife for a material used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. 

On Monday, the company applied for a five-year land use permit from the Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board, which issues permits for work in the Tlicho region. Husky's proposed drilling project would take place 50 kilometres west of Yellowknife, in the Chedabucto Lake area on the north arm of Great Slave Lake.

The company intends to drill for silica, a hard mineral substance, often occurring in sand, that is one of several substances used to prop open underground fractures created during the process of fracking. By keeping the fractures open, silica helps release trapped oil or natural gas that is then pumped back to the surface.

No one from Husky was available for an interview. But in an email, Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said, "in terms of the application, we are in the very early stages of evaluating potential sources of silica sand to support our exploration activities. This is one of several potential sites we are considering."

In its application, Husky says the N.W.T. drilling program, called the Chedabucto Silica Project, would take place in March and April of next year. In addition to drilling staff, the project will require "local environmental/wildlife monitors." 

Husky says it wants to develop "a high quality silica source in the Northwest Territories that could be used to support ongoing oil and gas operations in Western Canada." The company's website lists its Canol shale oil prospect, south of Norman Wells, under its Western Canada division.

Earlier this year, Husky announced it would defer its plans to drill and frack up to four wells south of Norman Wells to the winter of 2016-17. It had originally planned that work for this winter.