Since the mid-1900s, hydraulic fracturing has been used to improve well productivity and gain access to additional resources. For more than a decade, hydraulic fracturing in North America has resulted in the development of significant natural gas resources that would have otherwise been inaccessible.
Recent advances in hydraulic fracturing methods and its access to shale gas resources have prompted public concern about the environmental impacts of using this technology. Concerns about fracking out of the pay zone, the upward migration of methane gas, and contamination of water resources from deeper formation waters, flowback and produced waters, and fracturing fluids are documented. These affect a corporation’s social license to develop unconventional resources.
This manuscript summarizes the potential sources for increased risk to water resources resulting from hydraulic fracturing of shale gas developments. Also provided is a description of some of the hydraulic fracturing operations of natural gas plays that have or believed to have impacted groundwater resources in Western Canada.
A literature review about the groundwater flow systems at the shale gas, unconventional resource plays in Northeast British Columbia is provided. Also summarized is some of the water management strategies used and/or are proposed for shale gas development.
A discussion of social responsibility for exploiting shale gas using hydraulic fracturing is provided. The author indicates that results from continued and additional hydrogeologic investigations should be disclosed in a timely manner as this affects the perception of industry transparency, and can assist with maintaining a social license for resource development.