Oil industry looks to fracking in N.W.T.

The oil industry is looking at hydro-fracking to tap into some big natural gas reserves near Norman Wells, N.W.T.

Dene Nation opposed to controversial natural gas extraction

A natural gas well operated by Northeast Natural Energy on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Industry is now looking into using the controversial fracking method, also known as hydraulic fracturing, to extract oil near Norman Wells, N.W.T. (David Smith/Associated Press)

The oil industry is looking at using the fracking method to tap into some big oil reserves near Norman Wells, N.W.T.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial petroleum and natural gas extraction method. It involves blasting large amounts of pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to release these substances from shale deposits.

It's a method the Dene Nation, the political organization for the Dene of the Northwest Territories, has condemned because of pollution concerns.

But industry says the process will be a massive economic opportunity and will create jobs for the next 30 years.

John Hogg represents MGM Energy Corp., one of five companies with an interest in oil near Norman Wells.

"If we're successful with the fracking program, which has yet to be established, there could be more than a billion barrels of oil recovered from the Canol shale over the next 15 to 30 years," said Hogg.

The oil reserve has been known about for years. But it can only be accessed now through the relatively new method of fracking.

Daniel T'seleie, who speaks on behalf of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, is concerned about the method.

"All the water they use essentially ends up being contaminated after you’ve used it, and where does it go?" said T'seleie.

Ed Kallio, an industry analyst, and the director of Ziff Energy, said the industry is watching what happens in Norman Wells. If things work there, he says it might create a wave of northern development.