Shale gas is found in very fine-grained sedimentary rock tightly locked in very small spaces and requires advanced technologies to drill and extract.
What is shale gas?
Shale gas is natural gas found in very fine-grained sedimentary rock. The gas is tightly locked in very small spaces within the reservoir rock requiring advanced technologies to drill and stimulate (fracture) the gas bearing zones. The creation of fractures within the reservoir is critical in allowing the natural gas to flow to the well. Once stimulated, the shale gas reservoirs are produced in the same way as conventional gas wells. The application of these technologies has led to a rapid rise in shale gas production, especially in the United States.
Is shale gas produced in Canada?
While large-scale commercial production of shale gas has not yet been achieved in Canada, many companies are now exploring for and developing shale gas resources in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Development of shale gas, and other unconventional resources, will help ensure supplies of natural gas are available to the growing North American natural gas market for many decades.
How is water used in the production of natural gas?
Water is an important resource that Canada’s natural gas companies pay close attention to, following provincial regulations, securing appropriate permits and applying industry best practices. The interface between water and natural gas development occurs in four main ways: surface water used during drilling; water pumped into tight and shale gas formations for reservoir stimulation; water produced from reservoirs where it is naturally occurring but not drinkable; and the penetration of ground water aquifers by wells drilled for natural gas production. In every case, drinking water is protected and water is recycled for use again and again wherever possible.
What measures are in place to ensure that drinking water is protected?
Regulation of the Canadian oil and gas sector is designed to protect drinking water and water quality in our lakes and streams. The specific regulations vary between jurisdictions but in all cases, Canadian natural gas production always isolates and protects drinking water (groundwater) from natural gas operations.
In Alberta for example, regulation requires that natural gas development provide an extensive barrier (both vertically and laterally) between any shallow stimulation interval and existing water wells, in addition to isolating the aquifer and the fractured zone. Alberta has also increased the focus on water well education and standards in oil and gas producing areas.
What is Fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing (also called “fracking”) is the process of pumping a fluid or a gas down a well, many hundreds or thousands of metres below ground, to a depth considered appropriate for natural gas production. The pressure this creates causes the surrounding rock to crack, or fracture. A fluid (usually water with some additives) holding a suspended proppant (usually sand) then flows into the cracks. When the pumping pressure is relieved, the water disperses leaving a thin layer of the sand to prop open the cracks. This layer acts as a conduit to allow the natural gas to escape from tight (low permeability) formations and flow to the well so that it can be recovered. The technology is carefully used and managed to minimize any environmental impact, particularly on groundwater.
Fact -> Horizontal drilling reduces the land footprint required to produce natural gas.
Wellbores are carefully constructed to efficiently recover gas while protecting the surrounding environment, particularly underground drinking water. A well bore is drilled to allow a narrow pipe to be sunk deep into the ground. This pipe is surrounded in the bore hole with cement to ensure that both the pipe and the underground area it travels through are completely separated. At the production site, deep underground and several hundred meters below the water table, the production pipe is perforated to allow the natural gas to flow into the pipe and rise up to the surface.
Hydraulic Fracturing animation
3yZUmHjCPyYWatch "Digging Deeper: Get the Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing" on YouTube
Hydraulic Fracturing brochure
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How can natural gas be used to address climate change?
Broader use of natural gas to meet end use demand is part of the solution to climate change. Using natural gas in the right place at the right time offers cost-effective GHG reduction possibilities. Natural gas is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon and a lower greenhouse gas emission energy option which make it a foundational element in the future energy supply mix. CAPP advocates for a diverse energy supply mix and the use of the right fuel in the right place at the right time and natural gas has a very important role to play in this equation.
North America’s natural gas resources have been increasing over the past decade, mainly due to technological advances in the recovery of natural gas from unconventional sources. These new technologies have meant that economical recovery of previously undeveloped resources has become a reality.
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