The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter


Fracking in Manitoba

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on August 31, 2013 at 2:55 AM


Sand and chemicals, mixed with fresh water, are injected with enough pressure to fracture the oil and gas bearing rock.


Most of Manitoba’s over 3,600 active oil wells have been fracked.(1) The fracking that is taking place in Manitoba hasn't yet caused the infamous flaming water taps that have been seen in the US and Alberta. Natural gas released by fracking is very mobile (2) and has been correlated with methane contamination of well water from fracking of the Marcellus shales (3) in the US that are deeper than the exploited shales here. Contamination of groundwater from fracking has not yet been observed in Manitoba, (4) but the water is pushed underground together with sand and chemicals, to fracture the earth and release oil and gas. The oil and gas is pumped out, and the permanently poisoned water is left there, deep within the fractured earth. It won’t stay contained and separate from groundwater forever. The oil from fracking (when consumed), the flaring and venting adds to global burden of greenhouse gas.(5) The world's known hydrocarbon reserves, if used at current rates, are predicted to cause runaway climate change.(6)

Regulations in Manitoba do not require that the amount of fresh water used for fracking be reported.(7) In the Bakken Formation in North Dakota just to the south of us, the US Energy Policy Research Foundation estimates the fresh water usage per well to be more than 10,000 cubic meters.(8 )

That’s equal to 3,000,000 gallons, or over 10,000,000 litres.

Fresh water must be used to ensure clean and conducive fractures...”(8 ) In Manitoba, there are 500 wells drilled each year, and with an average residential water use of 274 litres per person per day in Manitoba (2009 stats)(8.1), or 100,010 per year, water used in fracking is enough for the water needs of 50,000 people per year.

Drilling-mud from the oil wells is sprayed on the land at rates designed to protect against salinization and chemical contamination, as self declared by the oil companies. Consumers have no way of identifying which crops or livestock come from sprayed land.(9)

Solids from the oil storage tanks are disposed of in landfills. (10)

Manitoba currently has no regulations that would require oil companies to report the type and amount of fracking chemicals used.(11)


About 25 litres of sour natural gas is produced with every litre of oil.(12)

“Sour gas is a natural gas that contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). It is extremely poisonous to humans and animals even in small quantities, corrosive, flammable and smells like rotten eggs.” (12.1)

Some gas fields are sour, some are not, and some become sour as a result of fluid injection and microbial action.(13)

The sour natural gas contains hydrogen sulphide (H2S) that is a deadly neuro-toxin.In Manitoba both gas and oil are released from the fracking.(14)

Not all of it will be sucked up by the wells. Some of the sour gas will be released into the formations and naturally move upwards.(15) In all probability some will get to surface water aquifers.

The glaring question that to our knowledge has gone without scientific study is, "how long will it take the sour gas (containing the deadly neuro-toxic H2S) to reach the surface water aquifers, and how much of it will get there?"  Almost all the sour natural gas is flared or vented.(16)

The flaring produces greenhouse gases and sulphur dioxide that falls as acid rain. (17)

“The precursors, or chemical forerunners, of acid rain formation result from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man-made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from fossil fuel combustion. In the United States, roughly 2/3 of all SO2 and 1/4 of all NOx come from electric power generation that relies on burning fossil fuels...  Acid rain occurs when these gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds. The result is a mild solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. When sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released from power plants and other sources, prevailing winds blow these compounds across state and national borders, sometimes over hundreds of miles.”(6.1)

“Large amounts of freshwater are being used to develop oil wells in a drought prone region.”(7)

The flare fires from the Bakken in North Dakota are visible from space and outshine the city of Minneapolis.(18 )



(1) Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines, Petroleum Branch, 2012

(2) Etiope, G. and Martinelli, G., Migration of carrier and trace gases in the geosphere: an overview, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 129 (2002) 185–204

(2) Robertson, J.O,Chilingar, G.V. Khilyuk, and Endres, B., Migration of Gas from Oil/Gas Fields, Energy Sources, Part A, 34:1436–1447, 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1556-7036

(3) Jackson,R.B., Vengosh A., Darrah, T.H. , Warner, N.R. , Down,A., Poreda, R.J., Osborn, S.G., Zhao,K., and Karr, J.D., Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013, Vol. 110, no. 28 pages 11250–11255

(4) Fox, J.N. and Nicolas, M.P.B., Oil in Manitoba: Exploration, production, reserves and revenues presented at AEPGM Professional Development Seminar, Winnipeg Manitoba, December 5, 2012

(5)(6) Leaton, J., Unburnable Carbon – Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble? Carbon Tracker Initiative

(6.1) “What is Acid Rain?”

(7) West Souris River Watershed Planning Authority, West Souris River Integrated Watershed Management Plan, Prepared and published by West Souris River Watershed Planning Authority in Partnership with West Souris River Conservation District, 2012,

(8) The U. S. Energy policy Research Foundation Report, The Bakken Boom. An Introduction to North Dakota’s Shale Oil, August 3, 2011, Energy Policy Research Foundation Inc.,1031 31th Street NW Washington DC 2007


(9) Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines, Petroleum Branch, Drilling and Product Regulation, Landspraying while drilling (LWD) guidelines

(10) Need to resolve

(11) Welch, M.A. Fracking on the Rise in Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press, July 2, 2013

(11) Manitoba Wildlands Reality Check Is Fracking Happening in Manitoba March 9, 2012

(12) Regulators Workshop on Flaring Reduction, Manitoba Report on Flaring and Venting, Calgary Alberta September 15, 2006 and June 15, 2007,


(13) Yevhen I. Holubnyak, Jordan M. Bremer, Blaise A.F. Mibeck, John A. Hamling, Benjamin W. Huffman, Ryan J. Klapperich, Steven A. Smith, James A. Sorensen, and John A. Harju, Energy & Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota, Understanding the Souring at Bakken Oil Reservoirs, Society of Petroleum Engineers, SPE International Symposium on Oilfield Chemistry, 11-13 April 2011, The Woodlands, Texas, USA

(13) DiLallo, Matt, Is teh Bakken Turning Sour, The Motley Fool, June 4, 2013

(14) Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines, Petroleum Branch, 2012

(14) Krant, A., Health Assessment of Residents Residing Near Oil Batteries in the Tilston, Manitoba Area, Manitoba Public Health Documents, Manitoba Health 4th Floor - 300 Carlton St., Winnipeg MB R3B 3M9, May 2000,

(15) Anna Karion, Colm Sweeney, Gabrielle Pétron, Gregory Frost, R. Michael Hardesty, Jonathan Kofler, Ben R. Miller, Tim Newberger, Sonja Wolter, Robert Banta, Alan Brewer, Ed Dlugokencky, Patricia Lang, Stephen A. Montzka, Schnell,R., Pieter Tans, P., Michael Trainer,M., Robert Zamora, R., and Conley, S. Methane emissions estimate from airborne measurements over a western United States natural gas field, Geophysical Research Letters Aug 3, 2013,

(16) Regulators Workshop on Flaring Reduction, Manitoba Report on Flaring and Venting, Calgary Alberta September 15, 2006 and June 15, 2007

(17) EPA, Frequent Routine Flaring May Cause Excessive, Uncontrolled Sulphur Dioxide Releases, Enforcement Alert, Volume 3, No. 9, October 2000, Unioted States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Compliance Assurance, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC20460

(17) Environment Canada, Acid Rain, 2013, Environment Canada. Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3,

(18) Salmon, R. and Logan, A, Flaring up: North Dakota Natural Gas Flaring More than Doubles in Two Years, Ceres Report, July 2013 Ceres, 99 Chauncy Street, 6th Floor Boston, MA 02111,

Thanks to Dennis Leniveau for his many hours of research, fact checking and editing.



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