Wolfville geologist questioning Hants County shale gas projections

Ashley Thompson
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UPDATED: June 6

This sign is posted near one of the Triangle Petroleum Corporation’s former fracking sites in Kennetcook. The roadway to the site is blocked by a lock gate.

A geologist from the Wolfville area feels projections suggesting the Windsor and Kennetcook areas are rich with shale gas are largely exaggerated.

Dr. Duncan Keppie, a retired geologist, believes a recent report released by the Wheeler panel, a group completing an independent review of fracking within the province, “grossly over-estimated” the amount of shale gas available in the Windsor-Kennetcook basins.

Keppie, author of Geological Maps of Nova Scotia, came to this conclusion while compiling a report that likens Horton Shale rock formation in the Windsor-Kennetcook development block to the geologically similar Monterey Shale layer of rock found in California.

In a press release issued by the Ecology Action Centre June 4, Keppie states that the US Energy Information Agency recently reduced shale gas resource estimates for Monterey Shale by 95 per cent.

Based on the similarities between the Windsor-Kennetcook basin and Monterey Shale, Keppie feels it’s time to rework the shale gas estimates in Nova Scotia.

He is concerned the future of fracking in Nova Scotia may be determined before those with sway have the proper facts to truly consider the risks of allowing the controversial natural gas extraction method to occur within the province.

“From an objective point of view, the geology and the size of the resource is the foundation for it and if you don’t have a good basis for that to begin with than any other spinoff is irrelevant,” he said.

Keppie questions the findings of a report released by the Wheeler panel that estimates the shale gas resource in the Windsor Kennetcook sub-basin to be up to 69 trillion cubic feet (TCF).

“I estimate that it is less than 0.15 cubic feet and it may be less because a lot of the gas may have escaped in the factures and faults that transect that whole basin,” he said.

Keppie cited the Denver-based Triangle Petroleum Corporation’s past use of hydraulic fracturing in the Kennetcook area as another example of why he feels the shale gas projections pertinent to Hants County should be called into question. 

“The company that drilled the five holes and fracked three of them got no return, so I think they’re actually proving the point,” he said.  

Keppie, who recently spoke at a public forum on fracking hosted in Centre Burlington, said he submitted a report on his area of expertise, completed free of charge, to the Wheeler panel in mid-March, but it has not been referenced to date.

“I spent a month getting the data together — and it’s just the sort of thing they need — and they ignored it.”

Dr. David Wheeler, chairman of the panel conducting the provincial review of hydraulic fracturing, is confident in the numbers Keppie is contesting.

“We have a nationally-leading petroleum geologist who has looked at the latest mapping and evidence on potential resources in unconventional gas in the province,” he said.

Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, stressed that the report, written by petroleum exploration consultant Brad Hayes and former Heritage Gas Ltd. head Ray Ritcey, does not claim to indicate how much of the gas can actually be retrieved.

“Dr. Hayes made very clear in his paper that he was talking about potential resources. He was not saying that those resources were at this stage provable or even exploitable,” Wheeler said.

“If anyone wanted to absolutely prove resources then obviously wells would need to be drilled to do that.”

Wheeler said it takes years to determine how much gas is exploitable in an area, and Triangle Petroleum’s drilling activity in the Kennetcook area hasn’t led the review panel to any conclusions about how much gas could potentially be retrieved.

“People drill dry wells all the time in that industry.” 

Organizations: Ecology Action Centre, US Energy Information Agency

Geographic location: California, Wolfville, Hants County Nova Scotia Kennetcook

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