Fracking Would Send Nova Scotia’s Emissions Through the Roof

30 07 2014

David Wheeler’s final report on hydraulic fracturing will be issued just days before world leaders gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the urgent need for action on climate change.

In the first meeting of its kind, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders to bring bold pledges to kick-start international negotiations that will conclude in Paris in 2015, launching a new global climate agreement.

The government of Nova Scotia has initiated a meaningful transition away from fossil fuels, highlighted by efforts such as the COMFIT, renewable energy targets, the Marine Renewable Energy Strategy and Efficiency Nova Scotia.

These efforts are generating new employment, reducing energy consumption, stimulating innovation and attracting positive attention for Nova Scotia.

In 2012, the province achieved a reduction of one per cent below 1990 levels, on track for its legal target of a 10 per cent reduction by 2020. This 2020 target is, however, a baby step towards the 80 per cent reductions that scientists call for by 2050.

None of Mr. Wheeler’s 10 discussion papers meaningfully address the implications of hydraulic fracturing for climate change.

Natural gas, when combusted, produces the least GHG emissions of the fossil fuels, but still more than any form of renewable energy. The significant GHG emissions from natural gas are not the result of combustion but of leakage.

Natural gas leaks are found throughout the process including drilling, production, and distribution. Researchers have found leakage ranging from 1.4 per cent to 17.3 per cent of the gas collected, with recent papers finding higher rates of leakage.

Natural gas consists primarily of methane, which is 28 to 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. At a leakage rate of between 3.2 per cent and six per cent, natural gas becomes worse for the climate than coal. One natural gas well could therefore result in the equivalent of between 19,000 tonnes and 720,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Depending on the leakage rates, between 26 and 1,002 wells would generate equivalent to Nova Scotia’s total GHG emissions in 2012.

Mr. Wheeler’s scenarios for Nova Scotia range from 4,000 to 12,000 wells, which would multiply Nova Scotia’s total emissions by a minimum of four times and potentially many more.

There are many social, economic and environmental reasons why hydraulic fracturing is problematic, but the desperate need to address climate change is the nail in the coffin.

Two years ago, Mr. Ki-moon gave a speech on redefining sustainable development, stating, “we have mined our way to growth. We burned our prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. Those days are gone …. Climate change is showing us that the old model is more than obsolete. It has rendered it extremely dangerous.”


Yuill Herbert is director and founder of Sustainability Solutions Group, a leading consultancy on GHG emissions modelling for communities in Canada. He lives in Tatamagouche. The detailed analysis behind these numbers is available from the author.


We now have 3 LNG export proposals on the go in Nova Scotia. Two of them already have their approvals from the Minister of Environment, and the third can expect that too. There is vague language of reducing the GHG emissions…. requirements to be negotiated before the plants can be built.
But even with ‘best practice’ reduction requirements- over which proponents threaten to walk away…. just ONE of those projects being built will put Nova Scotia’s GHG emissions through the roof, even without any Nova Scotia fracking at all.
Ken Summers

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30 07 2014

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