Your Questions

What is shale gas ?

Shale gas is natural gas – the cleanest burning fossil fuel. In order to recover the gas from the rock, operators must drill down approximately 2000 meters and fracture the rock using water and sand. For more information visit Shale Gas.

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Why do we need it?

  • Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels - reliable, safe and highly efficient. The Utica formation represents a tremendous opportunity to produce natural gas in Quebec. Through advancements in technology, Quebec has an opportunity to develop this new source of energy, diversifying Quebec’s wealth of clean energy supplies.
  • Natural gas is recognized as part of the solution along with hydro-electricity and other renewable energy sources. Natural gas demand in Quebec has increased by 20% since 2006. Quebec consumes approximately 200 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year (worth approx $2 billion) which is transported from Western Canada. Avoiding the transport from Western Canada will reduce natural gas rates for Quebeckers and will reduce Quebec’s trade deficit making the province even more self-sufficient.
  • An abundant, local source of natural gas could be used to heat homes, businesses and be used as a cleaner fuel by the trucking industry. This would lower Quebec’s greenhouse gas footprint. Having energy produced locally reduces the cost as well as the energy used and the emissions from transportation.
  • The economic advantages of a local industry will result in increased revenue for the Province through royalties, corporate and municipal taxes and significant job opportunities in a wide range of support, technical and professional roles.
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Why now?

Given that there are only five to ten wells drilled per year, the existing regulations are appropriate for the current level of exploration activity in Quebec.

Exploration activities are regulated under the Mining Act by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF), the Quality of the Environment Act by the Ministère du Développement Durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) and the Protection of Agricultural Lands Act by the Commission de protection de territoire agricole.

  • Shale gas exploration activities need to continue in order to:
    • Determine the economic viability of the resource – Industry needs to understand whether natural gas can be produced economically. This will also provide the Government of Quebec with valuable information about its geology and resources
    • Develop a skilled services sector to support shale gas - Success of the industry will depend on availability of a skilled services sector in Quebec. Hundreds of Quebeckers are already working in exploration activities; continuing with exploration will keep people employed and allow Quebec businesses to evolve and grow alongside the industry
    • Provide valuable science and innovation, which can also be used as input into a modernized regulatory framework
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But … is it safe?

The first large-scale, commercial shale development was the Barnett Shale in Texas in the 1990s. The potential impacts and risks are well-known. The industry has adopted best practices to avoid potential impacts, such as water contamination. These practices are tried, tested and enforced by strong regulation. For more information visit Environment and Safety.
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Why not take an extra few years to examine all impacts and evaluate shale gas?

  • Shale gas is not new, its potential impacts are well known and so are the best practices to address these issues. Waiting will not provide more answers.
  • Exploration activities are regulated under the Mining Act by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF), the Quality of the Environment Act by the Ministère du Développement Durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) and the Protection of Agricultural Lands Act by the Commission de protection de territoire agricole.
  • Given that there are only five to ten wells drilled per year, the existing regulations are appropriate for the current level of exploration activity in Quebec
  • The industry is committed to working with government and communities to develop a robust regulatory regime for the sustainable development of Quebec’s shale gas in anticipation of favourable results from the ongoing exploration activities
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Will shale gas development increase Quebec’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint?

  • Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. By adding another source of clean energy in Quebec, it would help to balance energy supply and demand across the province.
  • Natural gas can be used in transport trucks instead of diesel. Trucking accounts for a significant part of Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions currently.
  • For North America as a whole, Quebec’s natural gas could replace less environmentally-friendly energy sources like coal, fuel oil, or heating oil, and lead to major environmental benefits.
  • Given that air pollution doesn’t respect provincial or international boundaries, any reduction in emissions from coal fired power generation facilities in neighbouring areas would help improve air quality for all. For example, electric power plants using natural gas emit 60% less carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced than those using coal.
  • Developing the natural gas industry here in Quebec will lead to an immediate 3% to 5% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to the transportation of gas from Western Canada to Quebec.
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What do citizens of Quebec get out of shale gas development?

Shale gas is an important new industry that has led to hundreds of thousands of new jobs across North America and is quickly becoming a global industry.

The creation of a new gas industry in Quebec will significantly contribute to the economic wealth of the Province; it will create a specialized / qualified work force, strengthening the competitiveness of Quebec, and ensuring the sustainable development of all of Quebec’s regions:

Creating a new industry:

  • Investments associated with shale gas exploration and development will generate significant local benefits by providing another source of clean, affordable and reliable energy, diversifying the economic base, developing local businesses to supply goods and services as well as creating jobs and training opportunities.

Job creation:

  • The “upstream” natural gas industry, involved in the exploration, development and production of natural gas, is a new sector in Quebec requiring the creation of a specialized workforce. It is a highly technical industry with a significant need for specialized trades, engineering and computer skills. We are in discussions with the Cégep de Thetford Mines to establish a program that would allow more Quebeckers to have the training required by the oil and gas industry.
  • The goal of the industry is to create local expertise in the natural gas field so that we can employ a larger number of Quebec’s population in our operations. We believe this is both practical and realistic.
  • A range of products and services are required by the shale gas industry (steel fabrication and pipe, trucking, pumps & compressors). These products and services could be produced in Quebec if there was sufficient shale gas activity over a number of years to warrant the investment
  • Of the 50 people needed at a drilling site, it is estimated that at least 30 people will be local workers. We also anticipate that 40 % of the service companies that will be engaged, will be local firms.
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How do you consult local communities?

  • The industry accepts the responsibility to be a good neighbour, partnering with local communities in the development of Quebec’s shale gas.
  • Before working in an area, we meet with municipal authorities to discuss the project, planned activities and proposed scheduled.
  • The industry will also consult directly with individuals and organizations that may have an interest in order to provide them with accurate information and understand their concerns. To date QOGA has held a number of open houses and plans to continue to meet with community members in the future.
  • There will be some noticeable changes in local activity related to development of Quebec’s shale gas. By working together with the community in an open and transparent manner, we are confident that concerns can be addressed and that the community will enjoy a lasting benefit.
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Why should we support shale gas without any indication of scope?

  • It is early days as Quebec’s shale gas industry is still in the exploration phase. We are working with stakeholders to build understanding of the project
  • Until the potential of the Utica shale gas is evaluated through further exploration, we don’t know what the scale of the project will be or the number of wells that may need to be drilled. As we learn more through our exploration activities, we will continue to keep everyone up-to-date and to explain what is being considered.
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How many wells do you expect to drill if gas is found in commercial quantities?

  • It’s too early to say – we are still exploring the potential of Quebec’s shale gas.
  • Currently, there are very low levels of activity, essentially less than 5 - 10 wells per year throughout the lowlands by industry. This ‘pilot’ phase will continue into 2011.
  • It takes time to move towards development phase
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Will shale gas contaminate groundwater?

  • We understand there is a lot of concern on water safety. The risk of water contamination is low, but we take it very seriously.
  • The Utica Shale is located at an average depth of 2 km (2000 m) below the earth’s surface. Aquifers and groundwater are located near the surface of the earth (less than 200 m). With more than a kilometre of rock between the shale gas and the groundwater, the risk of water contamination through the rock is remote.
  • Steel pipe, called casing, and cement are used to prevent well bore materials from coming into contact with groundwater (to isolate aquifers from our wellbore). This surface casing is typically set hundreds of meters below the surface, far below the base of groundwater.
  • In order to re-assure people who use well water within one kilometer of a shale gas well, groundwater monitoring programs are carried out to confirm there is no sign of any contamination related to the shale gas well.
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Can seismic operations cause earthquakes or trigger landslides?

Earthquakes and landslides can’t be triggered by seismic operations

  • Shooting seismic involves small dynamite charges at shallow depths. The faults causing earthquakes in Quebec are very deep.
  • Seismic operations do not cause landslides.
  • To ensure worker safety, and also to avoid environmental damage, we do not perform seismic drilling operations on steep slopes or on unstable slopes.
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What kind of incident can happen on a shale gas site? Can explosions, fire or contamination occur? What are you doing to prevent explosions?

  • We can’t guarantee that accidents will never happen, but catastrophic incidents are extremely rare despite a large number of oil and gas wells drilled annually worldwide
  • We manage risks by relying on our expertise in the industry, by using robust, safe drilling and completions techniques and by abiding by regulations set out by the government.
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Isn’t it essential to prove to the communities that your operations are totally safe for them and the environment?

  • As a company we have experience developing shale gas safely. We are focused on minimizing our environmental footprint and are continuously looking for ways to improve operating practices to minimize impact.
  • The process of hydraulic fracturing was developed in the 1940′s, since that time over 1 millon hydraulic fracs have been completed. Incidents are very rare.
  • As an industry we meet with communities and government representatives to explain the process and address concerns.
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How does the industry plan to raise shale gas project’s social acceptability in Quebec?

  • We will pursue an open and transparent dialogue with impacted communities and authorities.
  • We will ensure that our projects are implemented in strict compliance with provincial regulations and the principles of sustainable development; that the environmental and social impacts will be kept as minimal as possible, as well as ensure that economic benefits from these projects are optimized.
  • We are committed to openly and honestly updating communities on our activities, performance and industry’s progress in environmental protection measures (transparent and open dialogue). Increased transparency ensures that citizen’s expectations for the project are realistic.
  • We are working closely with municipal & local authorities to raise awareness in local communities that may be less familiar with our operations, about the extensive precautions taken to ensure that we perform our work safely and responsibly.
  • We are continually evolving the extraction process (hydraulic fracturing) for shale gas to allow for safe and efficient operations, while protecting the air, water, land and health of the communities where we work.
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Can well sites be restored to their original condition?

If a deposit cannot be developed or has been depleted we abandon the well below the surface. We dismantle the equipment. We clean up the site, so it can be reclaimed.

We hold a meeting with the owner or occupant to determine the specifics of the reclamation plan. A site inspection is performed in order to determine the extent of the work to be done.

Our “bio-restoration” approach has us, among other things, replacing displaced earth and restoring the site’s plant cover.

Specialists will also visit sites at least twice a year to monitor and assess the condition of their vegetation.

In agricultural areas, reclamation will be supervised by independent agronomy engineers who keep in touch with landowners to monitor crop conditions.

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Is the water used to fracture shale potable?

The water we use to fracture shale is not potable. It is taken directly from the St. Lawrence River or other watercourses, subject to approval by Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP). Current regulations stipulate that the amount of water taken be limited to 20% or less of average summer low flow to avoid water level fluctuations and protect aquatic ecosystems and other uses.

Fracturing a shale formation requires around 12 000 m³ of water—less than is needed to maintain a golf course for one month. The amount of water used to drill 200 horizontal wells adds up to just 1% of the 500 million cubic meters of water used annually by the pulp and paper industry. That’s 100 times less.

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Is shale water recycled or reused?

Because we take our environmental responsibilties seriously, we recover about 50% of the frac’ing fluid at the wellhead and reuse 80% of that liquid. We expect to reach 90 to 100% in future operations.

Fracturing a shale formation requires between around 12,000 m³ of water per well — less than is needed to maintain a golf course for one month. The amount of water used to drill 200 horizontal wells adds up to just 1% of the 500 million cubic meters of water used annually by the pulp and paper industry. That’s 100 times less. During operations approximately 50% of the water is recovered or “flows back”. The rest of the fracturing fluid wets the rock deep in the reservoir and cannot flow back because of the low permeability of the dense shale rock.

The water we use to fracture shale is not potable. It is taken directly from watercourses, subject to approval from Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP). We respect current regulations and water advisories which stipulate that the amount of water taken be limited to 20% or less of average summer low flow to avoid water level fluctuations and protect aquatic ecosystems and other uses.

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What happens if the Quebec government sets the royalty rate at 10% ?

The firm SECOR conducted a study to gauge these economic benefits. SECOR examined two scenarios, a 150 wells per year scenario and a 600 well/year scenario. The study calculated the creation of 5,000 to 19,000 jobs/year.

These numbers look very conservative when compared to the study performed by PennState University which estimated that more than 44,000 jobs were created by the drilling of 710 wells in the Marcellus shale in 2009. The study also predicts that in 2020, more than 200,000 jobs will be created by the Marcellus shale development.

Government revenues,¸royalties and taxes, will become significant in the production phase. The SECOR study found for 150 well scenario, government revenue would be $1.4 billion/year or $5.4 billion/year for the 600 well scenario.

The full SECOR study is available online.

What’s more, our members made a commitment to maximize the economic benefits for the communities where they operate. Work would not only generate benefits at a provincial level, but at a community level too.

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How is it that natural gas can be said to be the cleanest of all fossil fuels?

Natural gas emits far fewer greenhouse gases than any other fossil fuel and hardly any air pollutants at all. Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels.

The advantages of using natural gas as a source of energy are undeniable. Its greenhouse gas emissions are 30% lower than fuel oil and 45% lower than coal. What’s more, because natural gas burns so completely, it releases very few pollutants and contaminants.

The Kyoto Accord identifies natural gas as a solution to help reduce North America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Quebec has the potential to become a major supplier on the North American market, first by serving its own domestic market, and later by exporting gas to neighbouring states. This will replace other less environmentally friendly sources of energy like coal, fuel oil, and heating oil, and generate a significant environmental benefit for the entire continent. Another potential avenue for development could be the use of natural gas to power transport vehicles, which account for a significant portion of Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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How important is natural gas for Quebec?

Natural gas accounts for nearly 11% of all energy consumed in Quebec, making it a key resource when it comes to meeting the province’s energy demands. Demand has increased by 20% over the last 3 years. In Quebec, industrial use represents 55% of total consumption, while commercial, residential and transport use 31%, 11% and 3% respectively.

Several key industries such as pulp and paper, aluminum, steel, and cement manufacturing all use energy from natural gas in their processes. In residential applications, natural gas is used to heat homes and for cooking in natural gas stoves and barbeques.

The Quebec Energy Strategy 2006-2015 noted that “Natural gas plays a strategic role in every field that requires precisely-controlled heat … for many firms, the availability of natural gas is an important factor when selecting a location.”

What’s more, according to Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec data from 2008, 42% of the energy used in Quebec is from refined petroleum products derived from oil imported from outside the province. This is more energy than is provided by hydro-electricity which accounts for 32% of the energy used. There is the potential to displace some refined petroleum products with natural gas strengthening Quebec’s position as the leading North American producer of clean energy.

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