Fate of hydraulic fracturing uncertain in Nova Scotia

Tayvis Dunnahoe,
Exploration Editor, OGJ

The government of Nova Scotia, Canada, was preparing in December to consider legislation that would ban the importation of hydraulic fracturing wastewater into the province.

Environment Minister Randy Delorey explained the rationale for the Importation of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act in a statement, saying, "Nova Scotians are deeply concerned about the risks posed by fracing wastewater."

Only one Nova Scotia-based company had treated frac wastewater in New Brunswick, NS, prior to the announcement.

Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS), a subsidiary of Dartmouth-based Envirosystems, operates a facility in Debert, NS, with the capacity to hold more than 9 million gal of wastewater. AIS has the largest wastewater processing capabilities in Atlantic Canada.

Before Nova Scotia enacted a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in 2011, AIS had treated wastewater from some fracing operations carried out in the province and in neighboring New Brunswick.

The company no longer treats frac wastewater but continues to treat wastewater from other industries.

Wastewater management

Nova Scotia currently has about 7 million gal of frac wastewater in surface ponds in Debert and Kennetcook. The province allowed shale gas exploration activity as late as 2008, but widescale development never took hold.

The province is now addressing public concerns about the safety of the frac wastewater generated by these operations, in particular, concerning the level of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) contained by the fluid.

Nova Scotia government spokesperson Lori Errington told UOGR, "We are trying to address remaining fracing wastewater from activity by Triangle Petroleum in 2008-09."

Moratorium

A hydraulic fracturing moratorium is in place for shale gas development in Nova Scotia pending the results of an independent review of the process being led by Cape Breton University President David Wheeler.

The study will consider the safety of hydraulic fracturing for Nova Scotia's geology. It is expected to be released in the spring.

In the meantime, Errington said, the Environmental Department is preparing to announce soon what will become of the more than 7 million gal of existing frac wastewater contained in surface ponds in Debert and Kennetcook.

"The next steps on fluids in Debert and Kennetcook will be announced soon," Errington said.

She added that Bill 5, the Importation of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act, was expected to go through a third reading and be passed on to the Royal Assent by the end of 2013.

"The current government was elected on Oct. 9, 2013, and this represents a campaign commitment during the 2013 election," Errington said.

Reuse proposal

Lafarge North America, a major cement manufacturer and supply company, has proposed a pilot project to treat and reuse some of the frac wastewater in Nova Scotia surface ponds.

Lafarge is seeking to use the fluid for cooling industrial kilns used in cement manufacturing .

The spent frac water is being stored in surface ponds until the government comes to an agreement regarding disposal plan guidelines.

Lafarge's Brookfield, NS, facility applied for permission to reuse a portion of the wastewater that is free of NORMs.

For now, the company's proposal hangs in the balance as Nova Scotia regulators determine how best to manage existing frac wastewater and grapple with the larger question of whether hydraulic fracturing will be permitted in the province at all.

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