Montreal

Gaspé citizens concerned fracking could be on the table for Petrolia's Haldimand oil project

The energy firm Petrolia appears to be at a crossroads with its Haldimand oil project, located next to residential area in Gaspé, after tests confirmed the existence of what it calls a "functional" oil reservoir at the site.

Petrolia says it may have to 'artificially stimulate' reservoir follow tests

A Petrolia well at the Haldimand site in the Gaspé. (Radio-Canada)

The energy firm Petrolia appears to be at a crossroads with its Haldimand oil project, located next to a residential area in Gaspé, after tests confirmed the existence of what it calls a "functional" oil reservoir at the site.

Those same tests also indicated the rock isn't as permeable or porous as hoped.

That means that in order to improve production, Petrolia says it might have to "artificially stimulate" the reservoir, leaving the door open to the possibility of fracking. 

The latest production tests produced close to 1,200 barrels of "high quality" oil without artificial aid. 

But in a statement, Petrolia said it and its partner, Québénergie "are working on a stimulation program that would allow for optimal production of the Haldimand reservoir."

Fracking one possibility pneumatic

There are many ways to artificially stimulate oil production such as using heat, chemical and mechanical means as well as hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking.

Since Petrolia drilled its first test well on the site in 2004, and a second in 2009, it has said it would not need to frack. 

Quebec's Environment Minister David Heurtel told CBC News if Petrolia decides it wants to go that route this time, the company would have to go through a new approval process.

"Right now, I haven't seen any request from Petrolia to do any fracking. But if there would be, that would mean a whole new series of authorizations and also public consultation," he said.

Gaspé Mayor Daniel Côté says town council cannot accept fracking near homes. (Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, Gaspé town council has asked again for a full environmental evaluation of the project, which is located within city limits.

"Town council cannot accept fracking near homes, near water wells," Mayor Daniel Côté said in an interview on CBC's Quebec AM.

Cô said he's asked the government to mandate the Quebec environmental review board, known as the BAPE, to hold specific hearings on the Haldimand project.

"It's been 16 months since we first asked the minister for this. We're asking again. We need the BAPE right now," he said.

Heurtel rebuffed the idea, saying the process of authorization does not require a BAPE review.

Citizens group worried

That's not good enough for the citizens' group, Ensemble pour l'avenir durable du Grand Gaspé, which represents residents who live within several hundred metres of the Haldimand site and who draw their water from underground wells.

"It wouldn't be the first time there have been consultations," said Lise Chartrand, the organization's president. "And we've always participated. But this project simply has no place so close to homes. We're against fracking, but we're also against chemical stimulation."

Petrolia has not responded to repeated requests for an interview from CBC.

The company's statement notes the stimulation program will be presented to the Gaspé citizens' committee as well as representatives from the municipality.

With files from CBC's Quebec AM