The British Columbia government is moving forward with an independent scientific review of hydraulic fracturing to ensure it is meeting the highest safety and environmental standards, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall announced today.
The review will be carried out by a three-member independent panel consisting of a professor of hydrogeology, a geological engineering professor and a geological engineer/geophysicist.
“Protecting our air, land and water is central to our government’s direction of sustainably developing the province’s resources and creating jobs for British Columbians,” said Mungall. “We know British Columbians have questions about hydraulic fracturing. It’s our job to make sure that natural gas operations continue to meet world-class standards and best practices for environmental protection.”
The appointment of the panel follows through on the government’s commitment to conduct a science-based review of the hydraulic fracturing process. Specifically, the panel will look at the role of hydraulic fracturing as it relates to induced seismicity and its impacts on water quantity and quality. It will also look into fugitive methane emissions that may occur in the process of hydraulic fracturing.
“The scientific panel will look at the process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract B.C.’s natural gas, review our regulations and provide recommendations to minimize risks to the environment,” said Mungall.
The scientific review panel is responsible for hearing presentations and collecting scientific evidence from organizations and experts, as well as traditional Indigenous knowledge from First Nations. Information and evidence will be collected from academics, industry associations, northeast B.C. communities, Treaty 8 First Nations and environmental organizations.
Nalaine Morin will provide advice to the panel on traditional Indigenous knowledge.
The panel will compile all information obtained, and provide findings and advice to the minister before the end of the year.
The terms of reference for the scientific review panel can be found at https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Hydraulic_fracturing_scientific_review_panel_TOR.pdf
A backgrounder follows.
Suntanu DalalMedia Relations
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Diana M. Allen, P. Geo
Allen (PhD, 1996, Carleton University) is a professor in the department of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses broadly on water security, spanning the development of risk-assessment methodologies to understanding and projecting the potential impacts of climate change on water resources. As a hydrogeologist, Allen conducts field- and numerical modelling-based research that aims to link hydrological and hydrogeological processes in diverse, geological settings. She has conducted research in different regions of British Columbia, including the Gulf Islands, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, south-central B.C., and Northeast B.C., as well as in other countries. Allen has led several projects in Northeast B.C. that encompass the assessment of risk to shallow groundwater, the groundwater potential of buried valley aquifers, the migration of saline wastewater during deep disposal, and the sustainability of surface water under scenarios of increased demand and climate change.
Allen was the 2013 winner of the C.J. Westerman Award by Engineers and Geoscientists B.C., and the 2015 winner of the Robert N. Farvolden Award by the Canadian National Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists. Allen also served as co-editor of the Canadian Water Resources Journal for six years, and was a member of the Province of B.C. Ground Water Advisory Board from 2002 to 2010. She is currently the president of the Canadian National Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists, and the group chair for Geosciences for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Erik Eberhardt, P. Eng
Eberhardt is a professor of rock mechanics and rock engineering, and the director of the geological engineering program at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the integration and advancement of field geology, innovative monitoring, experimental rock mechanics, and state-of-the-art numerical modelling applied to geological hazard problems encountered in deep mining, unconventional gas and rock-slope engineering projects. His research is driven by a recognition that the tools frequently used in assessing risk are often descriptive and qualitative, and that there is a need to better understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for complex rock-mass responses to engineering activities. Eberhardt is a registered professional engineer in British Columbia and consults on international projects in North and South America, Europe and Asia. He has published over 200 technical papers, was the 2013 recipient of the John A. Franklin Award for outstanding technical contributions to rock mechanics and rock engineering, and the 2017 recipient of the Thomas Roy Award for outstanding contributions to the field of engineering geology in Canada.
Amanda Bustin, PhD
Bustin is a research associate at the University of British Columbia and the president of Bustin Earth Science Consultants. Bustin holds degrees in geological engineering (BASc, 2001) from the University of British Columbia and a PhD (2006) in geophysics from the University of Victoria. She is currently working as a researcher and professional consultant on a variety of unconventional gas projects, with a main focus on induced seismicity and reservoir development. Bustin has broad experience in reservoir fluid evaluation, including extraction, injection, storage and disposal.
Bustin’s expertise comprises induced and natural seismicity, unconventional reservoir modelling, geophysical analyses and interpretation, geomechanics, petrophysics, field work and laboratory analysis, reservoir completion and production engineering, and hydro-geomechanical modelling. She has worked on a diverse range of projects, including plate tectonics and natural seismicity; reservoir assessment; complex reservoir modelling, including detailed parametric analyses, comingled production, impact of hydraulic fracturing, multi-lateral well pads and field-scale simulations; CO2 capture and storage; nitrogen enhanced coalbed methane production; methane clathrate hydrates; and quantification of slip due to fluid injection from hydro-geomechanical modelling. Her current research at the University of British Columbia is focused on monitoring, risk assessment, management and mitigation of induced seismicity due to fluid injection related to natural resource activities in Western Canada. This research involves the integration of field studies, laboratory analysis and numerical simulations. She has currently deployed a seismic sensor network in Western Canada that monitors hydraulic fracturing, fluid disposal, and storage.
Over the last 15 years, Bustin’s professional experience has included working with a variety of small and large petroleum and environmental companies as a technical advisor, providing engineering and geophysics oversight and analysis on fluid extraction, storage and disposal projects. She has experience in most major basins in North American and has worked internationally on diverse projects. Bustin has been responsible for or worked as a team member on all phases of reservoir development, including drilling, completion, production, economics and environmental assessment, as well as the optimization of production and disposal.
Adviser to the panel: Nalaine Morin
Morin is nationally recognized for her work in environmental assessment. She has led and managed the environmental reviews of several large resource development projects on behalf of First Nations. Her deep, technical background in both mining and environmental assessment processes, combined with being of Tahltan descent, has enabled her to understand and identify methods for the connection and support of both First Nation traditional knowledge and western science in a way that bridges cultural understanding on both sides. Morin provides services in technical review, regulatory support, negotiations, community consultation and environmental resource management.
In 2006, Morin helped establish the Tahltan Heritage Resources Environmental Assessment Team (THREAT) on behalf of the Tahltan Nation. THREAT is an innovative team that incorporates the expertise of the Tahltan people with western science. As the lead manager of THREAT, Morin has supported the Tahltan Nation to navigate the environmental assessment processes of several large-scale resource projects, including mines, run-of-river hydro projects and transmission lines. Morin has gained a national reputation for effectively managing complicated resource-project issues in a cross-cultural setting. Many of the innovative processes she has helped develop have been subsequently adopted for use at the provincial level.
Morin works with First Nations across Canada on projects as varied as mining, pipelines and highway infrastructure. In 2009, Morin’s expertise was recognized by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency when she was selected as a panel member for the review of a major mining project in B.C. Morin has been asked to speak at several conferences, both provincially and nationally. In 2013, she shared a keynote address discussing impact assessment at the International Association of Impact Assessment conference, and was a featured speaker at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference.
Morin holds a bachelor of applied science from the University of British Columbia and a mechanical engineering technology diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Morin also holds certification as an environmental professional, certified by the Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board.