Ben Parfitt and David Hughes: Where will all the water come from for LNG?

The Province | Ben Parfitt & David Hughes | February 24 2014

One glaring problem with the provincial government’s strategy to turn B.C. into a LNG-exporting juggernaut is that it scuttles any chance B.C. has to be a climate-change leader.

But equally problematic is how our government’s economically dubious fixation with liquefied natural gas exports jeopardizes our irreplaceable water resources.

In Alberta as well as numerous U.S. states where natural gas companies operate, there is a growing public backlash against industry operations. Gas-drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” — a process where immense quantities of water, chemicals and sand are pumped down gas wells to break up rock and unleash trapped gas — has contaminated water supplies.

Documented problems include poisoned water wells, “containment” ponds that leaked their deadly post-fracking contents into rivers, killing fish, and municipal waste water plants damaged by the industry’s corrosive waste water.

With nearly 90 per cent of all new gas wells in B.C. fracked, how much water might be used and contaminated as natural gas drilling escalates? Between them, multinationals Shell, Chevron, Exxon and British Gas and Malaysian state-owned Petronas each have plans for LNG plants in Kitimat or Prince Rupert and have been granted export approvals by the National Energy Board.

With combined investments of $70 billion, this group will need years to recoup investments and generate profits. So let’s assume they build the plants by 2020 and operate them through 2040. How many new gas wells would need to be drilled between now and then and how much water would have to be sucked out of our rivers, lakes or from wells and rendered toxic?

One underappreciated aspect of fracked gas wells is that gas production can be spectacular initially but declines rapidly. To maintain gas flows, then, it’s drill baby drill.


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