Shale Gas 

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?

Fraccing 3-D cutaway illustrationHydraulic 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. 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



Watch "Digging Deeper: Get the Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing" on YouTube


Hydraulic Fracturing brochure


CAPP’s Guiding Principles and Operating Practices for
Hydraulic Fracturing

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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.

North America Shale Gas Basins

More about Hydraulic Fracturing

Natural gas is a safe, abundant and economical source of energy for the planet.

Understanding Hydraulic Fracturing
The Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR)
( | PDF | 3.1 MB)

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CAPP’s Guiding Principles and Operating Practices for Hydraulic Fracturing

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Fact Book

The Facts on Natural Gas To order a printed copy of this publication, please contact

Guide for Determining Hydrometric, Climate and Water Quality Monitoring Standards for Oil and Gas Operators

This Guide provides a comprehensive review of existing provincial and federal protocols for hydrometric, climate and water quality monitoring; and provides guidance and recommendations for a best management practice approach to the design of scientifically rigourous and defensible monitoring programs for shale gas operators and practitioners that are required to, or are implementing surface water quantity, water quality and climatological monitoring programs.

View the guide
(PDF | 951KB | Feb 2013)

View the guidance document
(PDF | 311KB | Feb 2013)

A Review of Environmental Flow Assessment Methods for Application to Northeastern British Columbia

This report provides a recommendation and supporting rationale for a method to determine environmental flows for streams in northeastern British Columbia. Shale gas production in the region is projected to increase substantially over the next few years, thus increasing industry’s water requirements.

View the report
(PDF | 5.7MB | Jan 2013)

View Appendix F
(PDF | 1.9MB | Jan 2013)

Report: The Modern Practices of Hydraulic Fracturing

A report undertaken by undertaken by the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the BC Science and Community Environmental Knowledge (SCEK) Fund to review factual information on the practice of hydraulic fracturing and its importance to the development of Canadian shale oil and natural gas resource plays.

View the report
(PDF | 9.3MB | Nov 2012)

View the media release
(PDF | 110KB | July 2012)

View the fact sheet
(PDF | 800KB | July 2012)

Fracturing Fluid Flowback Reuse Feasibility Study and Decision Tool

This project created a methodology in the form of a Decision Tree with a Guidance Manual so that producers can work with service companies to determine the limiting factors and mitigation or control scenarios for reusing flowback and produced water with high salinity for making up fracturing fluid.

View the guidance manual
(PDF | 11.6MB | 2011)

View the decision tree
(PDF | 325KB | 2011)

View the project summary


National Energy Board (NEB)

The NEB is a key Canadian regulator in the energy sector. The NEB also provides information about natural gas, oil and electricity. Its site contains regional and national information about the natural gas industry, including the 2009 document, A Primer for Understanding Canadian Shale Gas.

Visit the website

Canada's Natural Gas

Canada needs a smart energy mix to meet the demands of its growing population and economy. At the same time, Canadians want energy solutions that will help us ensure a lower carbon future.

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Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR)

The Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources is a not-for-profit society. The organization is active in promoting responsible development of our country's unconventional hydrocarbon resources, focusing on: Natural Gas from Coal; Tight Gas Sands and Carbonates; Shale Gas; and Gas Hydrates; and more recently Light Tight Oil.
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Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)

The IOGCC represents the oil and gas governments and regulators in the U.S. Five Canadian provinces and one territory are affiliate members.

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Energy in Depth

Energy in Depth is a U.S. industry-sponsored website which provides information on hydraulic fracturing, as well as links to government reports and websites that discuss the process and environmental considerations. Visit the website

Groundwater Protection Council

The GWPC is an organization of U.S. state groundwater regulatory agencies. The site’s library provides links to a number of reports, papers, and submissions which address environmental and groundwater risks associated with oil and gas development.

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Safeguarding the Public

Our industry's top priority is the health and safety of the public and employees.

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