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Canada considering ban on shale gas development

23 Jan 2011

The Quebec government warned Friday that it might not allow natural gas development to proceed in the province. The statement from Sustainable Development Minister Pierre Arcand during a Quebec Liberal caucus meeting at Lac-Beauport caught observers by surprise, since the government had spent months expressing support for the potential jobs and tax revenue that could come from exploration.

Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand raised concerns about the shale gas industry during the Quebec Liberal caucus meeting Friday at Lac-Beauport, north of Quebec City. Premier Jean Charest echoed Arcand's comments outside the meeting. 'The exploitation of shale gas will be done correctly on our territory — or it won't happen,' Charest told reporters.

The comments came after another report of leaks from an exploration well. On Wednesday, Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources said it had found leaks of natural gas in 19 of 31 shale gas wells it inspected. Arcand said he has concerns that the industry can't control its wells.

But Quebec hasn't quite declared a moratorium yet. The government said it will wait to see the results from a study by the provincial impact-assessment agency in February before deciding how to proceed.

Quebec is sitting on vast natural gas deposits, with potentially billions in royalties and billions of cubic feet in untapped resources. They are located in three main regions targeted by the oil and gas industry for exploration, including the regional county municipalities of Lotbiniere and Becancour southwest of Quebec City, and Les Maskoutains northeast of Montreal.

Proposed shale gas development has sparked a storm of opposition in the province, with fears voiced over the controversial extraction technology – known as fraccing – involving the fracturing of a thick layer of gas-bearing shale with high-pressure blasts of chemicals and water.

Opponents cite alleged incidents of contaminated drinking water, damage to farmland and other fallout from fracking operations in the U.S. They have called for a moratorium on all activity until the environmental and health consequences are fully studied and known.

A key player in the development of shale gas extraction in Quebec is holding off on two major projects in the province’s St. Lawrence lowlands, citing uncertainty over environmental and regulatory issues. Calgary-based Questerre Energy says it has decided to delay plans for seismic work and construction of a natural gas pipeline in the St-Édouard region southwest of Quebec City until the provincial environmental public review agency releases its report on shale gas and the Quebec government introduces updated oil and gas legislation.

Source: Newswires / energy-pedia

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