A petroleum geosciences professor said hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be performed safely in New Brunswick, and believes that Canadian province and others will eventually establish appropriate regulations to govern the practice.

In an interview Monday, Dalhousie University’s Grant Wach — who also serves as president of the Atlantic Geoscience Society (AGS) — said the oil and natural gas industry in Canada was “evolving,” but added that a consensus of panelists from an AGS forum in Halifax on Friday and Saturday said there needs to be a better regulatory framework for fracking.

“There wasn’t a problem that anybody could see with fracking, it was with well completions,” Wach told Hance Colburne of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). “Some of the concerns are that you get leakage up through the wellbore, [but] if that’s done properly there shouldn’t be any issues.”

“Fracking is done at such a depth that there shouldn’t be any problems geologically with leakage, because the cracks really don’t propagate that far. It’s after the well is completed and cemented in that leakage can occur along the wellbore.”

The provincial government of New Brunswick, home to the emerging Frederick Brook Shale, is expected to release a blueprint for oil and natural gas regulations this spring (see Shale Daily, Nov. 30, 2012). The blueprint is to focus on five areas: environmental responsibility, effective regulation and enforcement, community engagement stability of supply, and sustainable economic development.

Wach told the CBC that although New Brunswick and the neighboring province of Nova Scotia had taken different strategies on fracking — the latter with a total ban (see Shale Daily, April 23, 2012) — he believed both provinces would eventually allow the practice.

“They’re all trying to build on each others’ experiences,” Wach said. “Both jurisdictions are trying to reach the same endpoint in terms of understanding what a proper regulatory framework could be. But each jurisdiction needs to consider the unique geology that they are faced with.”

Wach added that he believes the public will eventually accept fracking.

“It requires education,” Wach said. “That’s one of the things we wanted to bring forth [at the AGS forum], to bring together experts from all different disciplines to discuss the issues facing us. The more people understand the issues, there will be less misconception about the outcomes.

“I think we’re probably further ahead [in the Maritimes] than, for example, Alberta, because we don’t have a lot of old drill holes that have been abandoned. I’m talking about tens of thousands [of old drill holes]. We’re just starting out in this area; we have a relatively clean slate to work with.

“We’ll put in a proper framework and keep looking at that framework to see if it’s working. And that’s what industry would like. They would like to know the rules they have to play by, and [they don’t want us] to change the rules afterward.”

New Brunswick is also to address a royalty regime in early 2013.