British Columbia

Impact of fracking on water, air and land in B.C. to be reviewed by scientific panel

A team of scientists will review the impact hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — has on water and air safety in B.C., as well as the industry's connection to earthquakes.

Energy minister says she expects report by year's end

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well bore to fracture the surrounding rock and release the trapped hydrocarbons, usually natural gas, coalbed methane or crude oil. (Reuters)

A team of scientists will review the impact hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — has on water and air safety in B.C., as well as the industry's connection to earthquakes in the northeast of the province.

Fracking involves injecting high pressure water and other materials deep into the earth in order to release natural gas.

A 2016 study found fracking was responsible for roughly 90 per cent of earthquakes of more than magnitude 3.0 in northeast B.C. and northern Alberta, where the activity takes place. 

But with so many wells in operation, the same study found that less than one per cent of fracking activity caused earthquakes.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Alberta said they believed they had discovered the reasons why fracking causes earthquakes in some areas but not others, which may make it easier to prevent future problems.

There are also questions around fracking's impact on air safety and water quality. 

During the 2017 election, the B.C. NDP promised a scientific panel on fracking would be appointed should the party form government, and Thursday's announcement follows up on that promise, said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall.

She also said she believes industry is just as interested in environmental safety as anyone else.

The three-person panel consists of Diana M. Allen, a professor in the department of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University, Erik Eberhardt, the director of UBC's geological engineering program, and Amanda Bustin, a research associate at UBC and president of Bustin Earth Science Consultants.

The panel will receive advice on Indigenous knowledge from Nalaine Morin, a member of the Tahltan First Nation and principal of ArrowBlade Consulting, and will collect information from academics, industry, environmental groups and communities in northeast B.C.

A report is due by year's end, Mungall said.


  • This story originally contained an image of Seven Generations Energy operations with a caption indicating the company was located in B.C. In fact, Seven Generations has no operations in the province.
    Mar 26, 2018 4:16 PM PT