Sunday, July 3, 2011

NB Shale Gas Update

For those following the developments in relation to shale gas exploration in New Brunswick, several factors are worth noting.

1) More than $350 million in exploration funding for shale gas has poured into a tiny (population about 800,000) province with a relatively high unemployment rate (6.9 % in April), a concern about out-migration, a humongous hole in the provincial budget, and a provincial debt of approximately $10 billion.

2) The Quebec government just placed a moratorium on shale gas exploration, and the opposition Liberals, have called for a similar moratorium in NB. But there is little indication that the government is interested in a moratorium.

3) The New Brunswick Energy Commission recently recommended expanding unconventional gas development.

4) There has been substantial public opposition, organized in part by the NB Conservation Council (which produced this primer on the topic).

5) Much of the interest is the result of claims stemming from a Geological Survey of Canada estimate made several years ago that touted the amount of gas present in NB shale (67 trillion cubic feet, more than left in western Canada)

6) The New York Times has published a bunch of internal emails and oil industry documents showing that the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying. On the whole, the documents suggest that shale gas may be a Ponzi scheme investment bubble -- where estimates of large amounts of gas are used to generate investment opportunities and more money is made flipping leases than by producing gas.

7) As a result of all this, natural gas reserve estimates are under attack in the US.

8) Comments from a local industry executive (SWN General Manager Tom Alexander) on the implications of the NY Times documents are here.

8) Apache, one of the bigger players in the province (and, perhaps significantly, a US company), recently announced it was withdrawing from NB following disappointing drilling results.

Interesting times .... indeed.


  1. Was the Apache withdrawal on supposed reserves in Sackville? because all the proposed drilling that I saw at the last SWN 'info session' in Durham Bridge was sited in the Nashwaak River valley, a swath that goes from Mirimachi to McAdam, right through Fredericton. And according to the Cons Con, those mining rights belong mainly to the Irving Company, of course.

  2. My understanding is that the Apache drilling was in southeast NB (around Elgin, which is directly north of Fundy National Park) in the Frederick Brook shale.