Profs Lent Expertise to Panel, Report on Shale Gas Extraction

May 01, 2014 - Campus Bulletin

A 16-member expert panel that included two University of Guelph professors released a report today on the environmental and health impacts of shale gas extraction in Canada.

The report from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) concludes that monitoring, management and oversight is critical for responsible shale gas development. It also offers insights about public engagement and trust.

Beth Parker, a U of G Engineering Professor and holder of an NSERC Industrial Research Chair in fractured rock contaminant hydrology, and John Cherry, a U of G Adjunct Engineering Professor and groundwater specialist, served as water experts on the panel. Cherry also served as panel Chair, and was quoted in a story on the subject in the May 1 Globe and Mail.

The panel was assembled by CCA following a request by Environment Canada. The group spent two years assessing potential environmental impacts of exploration, extraction and development of Canada’s shale gas resources.

“This report indicates the need for research concerning many aspects of shale gas development, including groundwater and surface water protection,” said Parker, who is the director of the G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research on the Guelph campus. U of G has recently initiated shale gas research in collaboration with other Canadian Universities, she added.

The G360 fractured rock field facility is becoming one of the most advanced facilities for studying sedimentary bedrock aquifers in North America. Parker leads field research projects in Canada, the United States and Brazil in examining the migration and fate of contaminants in groundwater and their remediation, which is especially relevant to shale gas.

Cherry studies groundwater monitoring systems and ground flow system tracers. He is the director of G360’s University Consortium and is a professor emeritus from the University of Waterloo.

Today’s report discusses potential environmental impacts associated with well integrity; groundwater and surface water; greenhouse gas emissions; land impacts and seismic events; and human health. The report addresses the importance of baseline and ongoing monitoring, and the need for research and data-gathering.

Shale gas is leading an energy boom with profound economic, environmental and social impacts across much of North America. As the world’s third-largest producer and fourth-largest exporter of natural gas -- and with vast shale gas resources of its own -- Canada has a major stake in this new source of energy, the report said.

“A one-size-fits-all approach will not work to address the various potential environmental impacts that may exist across Canada’s diverse regions,” said CCA president Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

The CCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports independent and evidence-based expert assessments to inform public policy development. Assessments are conducted by multidisciplinary panels of experts from across Canada and abroad who volunteer their time.

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