Fears rise in Canada over coalbed methane drilling

Coal Bed Methane Coming to our Neighbours Yard?

What Does Coalbed Methane Development Mean For You?

Just as we have put the possibility of a of a coal powered electrical generating plant in Princeton to rest, Petro Bank returns and is resuming exploration for coal bed methane. As the Similkameen Aquifer is common to all communities in the Similkameen valley, we need to understand what exploration and implementation of CBM may mean to this valley and its water supply.

What is Coalbed Methane (CBM)

Coalbed methane is gas trapped in coal deposits. It is the same type of gas you might burn in your kitchen range. However, unlike conventional natural gas, getting coalbed methane out of the ground is a risky business and can have a negative impacts on land and water.

There is currently no coalbed methane production in B.C. In 2003, the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on CBM development.

CBM extraction

To extract coalbed methane, numerous wells must be drilled into the coal deposit. Because coalbed methane is usually spread out over a large area, more wells are typically required than for conventional gas development. British Columbia law does not limit the density of coalbed methane wells. A network of roads, pipelines and compressor stations are necessary to connect the wells.

“Produced water”

When a developer drills a well to extract the gas, a lot of water comes is extracted. This water, called “produced water” by the industry, often contains high salt levels and occasionally heavy metals. It is considered wastewater under federal law. Disposal of this wastewater can have disastrous consequences for agricultural land, drinking water supply, and fish and wildlife.

In B.C., the disposal of produced water is governed by the Produced Water Code of Practice, which is enforced by the Oil and Gas Commission.

Methane in drinking water

Drilling and “fraccing” (a process used to increase the flow of gas underground) can lead to methane seeping into drinking water aquifers.

Methane in drinking water

Drilling and “fraccing” (a process used to increase the flow of gas underground) can lead to methane seeping into drinking water aquifers.

CBM and your private land

If a company wants to drill for coalbed methane on your private land, there is nothing you can do to stop them. This is because as a landowner, you own the surface rights, not the rights to sub-surface minerals and gases.

CBM and private land

Because under law private land owners hold only the surface rights to their properties, there is nothing to stop coalbed methane companies such as Petro Bank from drilling for gas on your private land. While land owners can negotiate compensation, such payments are often minimal when considering the land degradation associated with CBM development

Studies have shown CBM development causes private land values to drop. A study in La Plata Colorado showed a 20 percent drop in value for property with wells on it, while an Alberta study showed a 10 percent drop in property values in the vicitinity of CBM development.

CBM and fish

Little is known about the impact of CBM development on fish such as salmon. However, a study conducted in B.C.’s Elk Valley showed that treated wastewater from a CBM test well was fatal to rainbow trout.

CBM in other places

The coalbed methane industry has a poor track record elsewhere in North America.

In Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, where there are now some 14,000 wells, coalbed methane development has contaminated ranchers’ water supplies, degraded agricultural land, and industrialized a previously rural landscape.

When the industry moved into Alberta, residents were promised the Wyoming experience would not be repeated. However, Alberta landowners are now having many of the same problems.

To learn more about Coalbed Methane check these websites. If you do not have a computer, visit a friend with one and check them together.


www.pembina.org follow the links to CBM

We are planning a public meeting with a presentaion by Karen Cambell from the Pembina Institute for May 27 or 29. Karen will be giving the same presentation in Princeton on May 29, 7PM at the Legion Hall. Karen will be accompanied by Gilles Wendling, Hydrologist to discuss the effects CBM may have on aquifers.

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