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Shale gas ‘fracking’ in Ontario brings water concerns

The Toronto Star reports that Calgary-based Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. has been buying land rights in southwestern Ontario for shale gas drilling.

Mooncor intends to drill in the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale in Lambton and Kent counties, and the Collingwood/Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale.

“It has already locked up nearly 23,000 acres (9.30776 hecatres) of land in Lambton and Kent counties…”

“Shale gas is called an unconventional natural gas because extracting it isn’t as easy as drilling a deep hole into a reservoir and simply pumping its contents to the surface. Instead, the gas is trapped in cracks, pores and organic material within a sedimentary rock called shale, which is made mostly of clay minerals. The resource may be widely dispersed, but getting at it is tricky. It must often be coaxed out using a horizontal drilling technique that hydraulically fractures (‘fracking’) the rock and causes the gas to flow toward a vertical collection well.”

As described by Environmental Leader news, “the hydraulic fracturing process involves taking water from the ground, pumping fracturing fluids and sands into the wells under pressure, then separating and managing the leftover water after withdrawing the gas.”

The Toronto Star report continues, “As the rest of the industry rushes to develop shale-gas projects in the prolific Marcellus shale deposits of the U.S. northeast (from New York State and Pennsylvania to West Virginia) and the Utica shales of Quebec, Mooncor is gaining a solid foothold in Ontario.”

The article notes that the gas can presently cause an “egg smell’ in well water, but also that “the rush to develop the Marcellus Shale has led to widespread concern about the hydraulic fracturing process and how the use of toxic chemicals in that process could affect the local watershed and make residents who rely on well water sick.”

“New York State has banned high-volume drilling of horizontal wells until it can thoroughly study the concerns. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also weighed in and could soon have more industry oversight as a result of a congressional investigation of the practice.”

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that this past Thursday the EPA “launched a study to determine whether (hydraulic fracturing) is contaminating water supplies.”

The WSJ notes, “Last month, Steve Heare, director of EPA’s Drinking Water Protection Division, said at a conference he hadn’t seen any documented cases that the fracking process was contaminating water supplies. Bill Kappel, a US Geological Survey official, said at the same conference that contamination of water supplies is more likely to happen as companies process the waste water from hydrofracking. In some instances, municipal water systems that treat the water have reported higher levels of heavy metals and radioactivity.”

The Toronto Star article notes that, “A green light from regulators, however, could unleash a wave of shale-gas development in Ontario.” In fact, Natural Resources Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources promote shale gas drilling in Ontario.

Mooncor is also “preparing to spin off a separate company called DRGN Resources that will focus its efforts on both conventional and unconventional gas drilling.”

The full article – which largely presents this drilling as a good opportunity for the province – is at http://www.thestar.com/business/article/782552–alberta-firm-eyes-ontario-s-untapped-shale-gas.