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Energy companies work on fracking standards

A group representing more than two dozen oil and gas companies in the Sundre area plans to release a list of best practices for fracking operations early next year.

Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG) has been working with industry players, landowners, government agencies and industry organizations since February on the project.

The goal is to create voluntary standards that go “above and beyond” existing regulations, said Tracey McCrimmon, SPOG executive director.

Hydraulic fracturing — often called “fracking” — involves injecting under-pressure water, sand and chemicals into shale rock formations deep under the surface of the earth in order to unleash oil and natural gas.

The best practices will look at water use, fracking fluids, consultation and notification with landowners, among other topics.

“We’ve gone through quite a list. We’ve tried to address everything that was raised,” said McCrimmon.

During consultation, landowners pointed out that while there have been dramatic changes in fracking technology below the ground, there has been little change to companies’ above-ground footprint.

“So it’s something that we’re going to get together with industry and community and work our way through and that will kind of be the last piece of our package.”

Water well testing is another area raised by landowners.

“There is really no regulation for water well testing,” she said.

SPOG companies have already committed to testing all water wells within 250 metres of a fracking operation. Outside that distance, wells will be tested by special request.

Updating fracking regulations and best practices has been popular this year.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) released its guiding principles in January and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) is updating its regulations and is seeking public input before Jan. 18.

McCrimmon doesn’t anticipate problems from overlapping regulations and practices with CAPP. SPOG worked closely with both the ERCB and CAPP in crafting its best practices.

“What CAPP has adopted, we have recognized and acknowledged in ours,” she said. “We have a lot of other issues that CAPP didn’t address in there so it shouldn’t cause any confusion.”

She has yet to see ERCB’s proposed regulations, but isn’t expecting conflicts there either.

“They participated very heavily in ours and they have a copy of what our draft looks like so when we read (the new regulations), they should be very similar.”

Other synergy groups are looking at what SPOG is doing and expect to adopt many of the same practices.

Fracking isn’t done in the same fashion across the province, so there may be regional variations on best practices required.

SPOG represents 27 companies, but it is hoped all companies fracking within its coverage area follow the principles.

“It’s kind of what the expectation of the community is,” she said.



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