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Quebec Panel: Use Labs, Not Wells, to Test Fracking

A committee appointed by Quebec's environment minister to study hydraulic fracturing (fracking) said the practice requires further study and recommended against authorizing any test wells that would conduct fracking for research purposes.

Last March, Pierre Arcand said fracking could be conducted for exploration purposes only (see Shale Daily, March 10, 2011). He also released a report by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) on fracking and said the provincial government would launch a two-year environmental assessment of shale gas.

According to media reports, committee chairman Robert Joly said Tuesday Quebec should be able to rely on laboratory experiments and existing data to determine whether fracking is safe. He said the committee would authorize about 70 additional studies on fracking by next spring, and would incorporate those findings into a final report, which would be issued sometime in 2013.

Les Affaires, a Morningstar Research publication, said Joly's committee has a budget of C$7 million, with about C$4 million earmarked for the additional studies.

The Montreal Gazette said Joly believes that having the committee rely on lab experiments and existing data instead of actual test wells would not be inadequate. He added that committee members plan to not only visit shale gas wells in Alberta and British Columbia, but will also travel to Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Media reports quoted Joly as saying the committee had learned a lot from public hearings held on fracking from last November to January. He said additional hearings were planned this year and would address specific issues, such as the potential impact on agriculture, including livestock and organic farming.

BAPE conducted its own public hearings on fracking from September to November 2010, and received more than 200 briefs both supporting and opposing drilling (see Shale Daily, Dec. 23, 2010; Oct. 6, 2010).

Last June the Canadian federal government in Ottawa said it was keeping a close eye on how the provinces regulate fracking, and would intervene if it thought laws covering the practice weren't adequate (see Shale Daily, June 22, 2011).

Interest in drilling in the province began in 2008 after Denver-based Forest Oil Corp. said it had discovered gas on its nearly 270,000 net acres in Quebec. Talisman holds 770,000 acres of leasehold in Quebec and has drilled two horizontal wells there. Talisman also partners with Questerre, which has more than one million acres gross in the region. And TransAmerican Energy Inc. acquired 136,000 net acres in Quebec in March 2010.

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