Ontario’s shale-gas: The next ‘fracking’ frontier?

These shale deposits were highlighted in a 2010-2011 report from the Ontario Environmental Commissioner.

With the consciousness of people in Canada taken up a notch on the issue of “fracking” by the Mi’kmaq-led resistance in New Brunswick, it’s only a matter of time before people’s sights and struggles shift to the next major shale-gas frontier: Ontario. The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013 that there were 573 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in Canada.

“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil is withdrawn from harder to access sources by blasting water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations.

High gas prices have opened the way for the oil industry to push fossil fuel exploitation into the realm of more difficult to reach fossils fuels, what are known as “the unconventionals”: tar sands, shale-gas, and deep-water oil wells.

Most people in Ontario are unaware that a Canadian oil firm out of Alberta has for years been acquiring land rights across southwestern Ontario, in order to explore and drill the extensive shale-gas deposits in the province. Although up-to-date information on its operations are scarce, by 2011 Mooncor Oil and Gas Corp. already owned some 20,000 acres of land in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario.

In Ontario, geologists have broken down shale-gas deposits into three major zones: the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale; the Collingwood-Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale; and the northernmost limit of the Marcellus Shale that extends up from Pennsylvania and New York State.

While Ontario shale-gas exploration is reported to have not yet used the fracking method, the even greater danger of tapping shale-gas is the planetary danger posed by carbon emissions through new fossil fuel exploitation. Although natural gas emits half the greenhouse gas that coal gives off, most of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be exploited without initiating irreversible levels of climate change.

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