Shale gas as polluting as coal and oil? Be serious!


A study conducted by Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New York State tries to demonstrate that shale gas generates as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as coal, oil, or conventional gas.

Unfortunately, this study is based on a false premise, as the author does not use generally accepted parameters, including by the United Nations, to determine global warming potential (GWP). This comparison index quantifies the marginal contribution of GHGs to global warming, compared to that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The author of the study draws conclusions based on analysis of the effect of methane over 20 years, while recognized scientific experts believe that assessments should rather be determined over a 100 year horizon. In addition, the author and his team recognize having used preliminary data that are incomplete and whose reliability could be questionable.

The latter also commit the sin of oversimplification in asserting that between 3.6 and 7.9% of total well production escapes into the atmosphere. To arrive at this figure, they subtract the volume of gas delivered from the volume of gas produced and argue that the difference is a loss. However, this conclusion is wrong because it ignores certain known practices, for example: 1) some gases are liquefied (butane, propane) and sold separately; and 2) some compressors along a pipeline are connected directly to the latter due to the lack of electrical power sources.

An American scientist sets the record straight about hydraulic fracturing


In a recent article, the daily Times Union reports that one of New York state’s top scientific experts has found no case of hydraulic fracturing leading to groundwater contamination. As a specialist on the underground features of New York, Taury Smith has been studying hydro-fracking practices for the past three years.

“Those are exaggerated problems; each incident wasn’t the result of hydro-fracking. There were incidents of groundwater contamination near frack sites, but they were unrelated,” Mr Smith said.

Former New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis said he agrees with Smith that the dangers of fracking are overblown.

Taury Smith said that allowing fracking would result in a huge boost for New York job creation and for income and business tax revenues.

Tests indicate that fracking water taken from a shale gas well is easy to treat


In a February 19 article in Le Soleil, Jean-François Cliche reports on tests carried out by the City of Trois-Rivières on fracking water from a shale gas well owned by gas company Talisman near Fortierville. The results indicate that the water “was not particularly difficult to treat.”

The tests, which involved some 30 parameters, were carried out in January. According to the article, as is often done to test water toxicity, trout and daphnia were placed for 10 days in untreated fracking water taken from one of 22 cisterns containing fracking water. The trout, which are known to be highly sensitive to pollution, survived, but the daphnia did not. The water processing technician from the City of Trois-Rivières stated that he didn’t know what exactly affected the daphnia more than the trout, but that the matter had to be looked into.

Cliche also reports that even before treatment, the levels of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol found in the fracking water tested in Trois-Rivières met the standards for disposal into the environment. With regard to sulfates, nitrites/nitrates, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, and barium, it even met the standards for potable water.”

The concentrations of oil and grease were high, however. Yet, as Cliche’s report points out, although the water contained a lot of grease, it was obviously clean enough, even before treatment, for trout to survive in it.

Cliche also posted an article on his blog providing further information on the subject. The blog follows scientific news and issues.

Shale Gas: “Yes” in B.C., “Yes” in New Brunswick. Why “No” in Quebec?


In a February 22 open letter posted on, Gerry Angevine, Senior Economist at the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Energy Studies, argues that shale gas development and mining can be carried out safely and responsibly in a manner that respects the environment.

Angevine adds that shale gas mining has been accepted by governments and communities elsewhere in North America, including in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas. He urges Quebec not to declare a moratorium, but rather to take immediate action by adopting regulations that protect the environment and ensure property owners receive fair royalties for giving oil and gas companies access to their land.

He also points out that New Brunswick is going forward with the development of its own shale gas deposits according to detailed regulations established at the outset that protect the environment. The government of that province monitors shale gas extraction using a detailed plan, strict regulations, and monitoring mechanisms.

The full article describes the New Brunswick plan and the steps involved in its development.

Shale gas: According to The Financial Post it’s Uncle Sam’s saviour. And what about Quebec?


An article published by The Financial Post on January 13th 2011 outlines the remarkable benefits the United States could gain through an increase of that country’s production of shale gas:

  • reduced dependency on foreign gas imports
  • deficit reduction
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Christopher Swann, journalist for the Reuters news agency and author of this article published by The Financial Post states that shale gas is a veritable lifesaver and lists the advantages the country of Uncle Sam could gain from increased local production and use of the resource. He compares reserves in the U.S. to Iran’s oil potential. Swann asks why the United States shouldn’t profit from the wealth it’s literally sitting on:

“America’s natural gas bonanza is too good an opportunity to miss. The new Congress needs to embrace the bounty beneath its feet.”

We’re reminded of the situation here in Quebec, a province that also possesses huge shale gas potential. The local development of this resource would bring the same kind of irrefutable benefits to both the United States and Quebec. Consult the Advantages for Quebec section of our website to learn more.

Christopher  Swann is an economic columnist specialising in the energy sector. He has worked for The Financial Times and Bloomberg.

We invite you to consult Christopher Swann’s full article on The Financial Post website.

You can read other articles by the same author below:

N. America’s gas drilling frenzy won’t end in 2011

U.S. Nuclear hopes choked by low emission costs

"Shale gas water easier to treat than sewage": technical director of Trois-Rivières water plant


In this recent interview with Le Nouvelliste, Steve Hamel, technical director of the Trois-Rivières municipal water plant, says that the fracking water is much easier to treat than municipal sewage water and contains less chemicals than regular sewage water. The solid waste on the bottom of the waste treatment lagoons in Trois-Rivières is certified by the environment ministry for agricultural use as fertilizer. Even if the city has been treating fracking water for the past two years, the The Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) maintains its certification. We see this as yet another indication that fracking water is not as toxic as opponents say.

The full Le Nouvelliste December 7th article is available online.

BAPE: QOGA has submitted its brief outlining the advantages of shale gas development


The BAPE hearings continued last week with the presentation of briefs by the industry, by municipalities, by scientific experts and by community groups. QOGA and its members were on hand to speak to the advantages of shale gas development in Quebec. Our goal at these hearings was to show that shale gas development in Quebec is not only sound from an economic point of view, but from an environmental and public security point of view as well.

We’d invite you to consult our QOGA brief available online and through our links page.

The report which will be produced by the BAPE within 4 months of the hearings will inform the Minister’s recommendation to Cabinet, who will decide whether or not to authorize shale gas exploration in the province. Once that is done, we’re hoping to be able to continue our testing in order to confirm the feasibility of shale gas development in Quebec. We respect and understand the importance of the BAPE hearings, and look forward to its report.