Water, emissions figure prominently in IEA gas rules
Five guidelines for shale gas development
Hydraulic fracturing is unlocking vast quantities of shale and tight gas across North America. But how long that will continue is up for debate. The amount of water and chemicals required to frack tight rock and free up the gas has caught the attention of the public.
In Quebec, public outcry over the potential impacts of fracking caused the government to put a halt to the activity until an environmental review is done.
The backlash has not gone unnoticed by the International Energy Agency (IEA). This spring the IEA released its Golden Rules For a Golden Age of Gas report. The agency is bullish on the role the cleanest burning fossil fuel will play in the world’s energy mix. However, that view is based on unconventional gas taking a 32 per cent share of total gas output by 2035.
“In our judgement, a key constraint is that unconventional gas does not yet enjoy, in most places, the degree of societal acceptance that it will require in order to flourish,” the report states. What follows are some of issues the Paris-based agency says government and industry must address to gain that acceptance.
Unconventional gas proponents must ease the public’s concerns about water usage. To do so, the IEA calls for the measuring and disclosing of “operational data on water use, on the volumes and characteristics of waste water, alongside full, mandatory disclosure of fracturing fluid additives and volumes.”
Making smart decisions about where to drill and frack can help get the public onside with unconventional oil and gas activity, the IEA says. “Properly survey the geology of the area …. and assess the risk that deep faults or other geological features could generate earthquakes or permit fluids to pass between geological strata.”
The Paris-based agency says zero venting and minimal flaring of natural gas during well completion must be targeted. The industry must also reduce fugitive and vented greenhouse-gas emissions during the entire productive life of a well.
Concerns about fracking contaminating water supplies could be eased if minimum-depth limitations on hydraulic fracturing were put in place “to underpin public confidence that this operation takes place only well away from the water table,” IEA notes.
The IEA says governments can aid industry in gaining their social licence to operate by providing enough resources for regulatory oversight. “Ensure that anticipated levels of unconventional gas output are matched by commensurate resources and political backing for robust regulatory regimes, sufficient permitting and compliance staff, and reliable public information.”