New Brunswick

Shale gas industry frustrated by moratorium uncertainty

Oil and gas industry representatives are growing frustrated by the mixed messages being sent by Premier Brian Gallant’s new government on its proposed shale gas moratorium.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says companies want clarity on the shale gas moratorium

Oil and gas industry representatives are growing frustrated by the mixed messages being sent by Premier Brian Gallant’s new government on its proposed shale gas moratorium.

Sheri Somerville, a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said more information is needed on the New Brunswick government's shale gas policy. (CBC)
Officials attending an industry trade show in Fredericton on Monday said they would like a clear answer on what form the shale gas moratorium will take in New Brunswick.

Tom Hoyt, a local sales representative for a Texas company that sells lubricants to exploration companies, pointed out one shale gas company, SWN Resources, was a no-show at the conference.

"Maybe there's going to be a pulling back of investment in the province unless we get a clear directive of which direction we're going to go in,” he said.

SWN Resources Canada has been conducting tests in eastern New Brunswick to see if there is a viable shale gas industry in the province. That testing program has prompted a series of high-profile protests.

Earlier this year, a SWN Resources Canada manager said the company would pour several million dollars into the New Brunswick economy when it starts to establish its four test wells next year.

It does make it a little more challenging when you are looking to make an investment.- Sheri Somerville, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Sheri Somerville, a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry wants clear answers from the Gallant government on its shale gas policy.

"There is some uncertainty of course and we're looking for more certainty in terms of what the moratorium will mean and what it will look like at the end of the day,” she said.

"We are uncertain in terms of what the moratorium will be."

She said companies may be reluctant to invest in the province, given the mixed messages.

"It does make it a little more challenging when you are looking to make an investment," she said.

Energy Minister Donald Arseneault did not mention the New Brunswick government's shale gas moratorium during a speech to a mining conference on Monday in Fredericton. (CBC)
Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault spoke to the conference on Monday but he didn't even mention the issue during his speech.

The energy minister praised a range of energy and mining projects at the conference but he skipped any mention of the shale gas sector.

"There's a lot of exciting projects in the province right now that I think it's important to talk about,” he said.

Gallant’s Liberals campaigned on imposing a shale gas moratorium in this year’s election.

The new premier did not back away from the moratorium in the days following the election.

“There will be a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and those businesses, I’m sure, are not surprised,” Gallant said on Sept. 24.

But the political waters have become muddied in recent weeks.

Last week, Arseneault mused about a "regional" moratorium that would exempt existing wells.

Meanwhile, Gallant suggested maybe fracking with water would be treated differently than fracking with propane.

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