Fracking image boost sought

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada is conducting a series of community meetings — including one that was held in Red Deer last week — in an effort to improve the image of fracking.

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada is conducting a series of community meetings — including one that was held in Red Deer last week — in an effort to improve the image of fracking.

PSAC, which represents more than 250 companies in the service, supply and manufacturing sectors of the upstream petroleum industry, is providing information about hydraulic fracturing and collecting feedback that it plans to use in developing a fracking code of conduct.

“There is a lot of misinformation and almost fear mongering going on out there by people who I honestly believe don’t really know what they’re talking about,” said Mark Salkeld, PSAC’s president and CEO.

“We’re motivated by the fact that we need to get out there and tell the truth.”

Salkeld said the meetings have included industry players and government regulators, but also landowners, representatives of business and environmental groups, and First Nations people.

“We want all opinions,” he said. “At every session, we’ve had folks who have held up articles and reports and are complaining about the industry. We need to hear from them.”

The Red Deer meeting, which took place last Tuesday and involved more than 50 people, included municipal councillors from the area, representatives from the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group and water groups, property owners and energy producers, said Salkeld.

Earlier gatherings were held at Lethbridge, Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek, with more planned for communities in other provinces.

The most common themes to emerge have been an appreciation of PSAC undertaking this process, and concerns about water usage, said Salkeld.

PSAC has had the opportunity to address the concerns raised, he said, pointing out that the industry is closely regulated and that fracking has been performed for decades.

“We’ve been doing it for over 60 years; there have been over 175,000 wells in Canada hydraulically fractured. It’s not new by any stretch.

“That’s the message that we’re trying to get out to folks. We’re good at it, we’re safe, we’re efficient.”

Some community meetings, like Red Deer’s, have been by invitation only. But Salkeld is comfortable a good cross-section of interests have been represented.

“In Lethbridge we held an open house,” he said. “We just put an advertisement in the newspaper.”

The feedback PSAC collects will be used to help create a fracking code of conduct.

Starting with PSAC’s own statement of principles — which includes such guidelines as the need to operate safely and responsibly, meet or exceed environmental standards and treat community members with respect and trust — the code of conduct will contain specific expectations of how PSAC members involved in fracking will govern themselves.

“It’s how we will conduct ourselves in and around these communities as we go about our business,” said Salkeld, offering as examples efforts to keep landowners informed and drive slowly on gravel roads.

Environmental protection, and health and safety, are among the other areas that will be addressed in the code, he said.

Spearheading the initiative are about a dozen pressure pumping companies But the code will be shared with all PSAC members, with the final document expected to be released at PSAC’s annual general meeting on Oct. 30.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com