Fracking fracas unfounded

Northern Cross Yukon has no plans to use hydraulic fracturing at Eagle Plain or anywhere else in the Yukon, says company president Richard Wyman.

Northern Cross Yukon has no plans to use hydraulic fracturing at Eagle Plain or anywhere else in the Yukon, says company president Richard Wyman.

The sight on Friday of Halliburton Elite trucks rumbling past Whitehorse en route to Eagle Plain sparked speculation that Northern Cross could be preparing to perform hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the area, off the Dempster Highway.

“We have never made any application to any regulatory authority or reviewed anything through YESAB (the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board) that would involve hydraulic fracturing stimulation. We just have no plans to conduct that kind of activity at this point,” said Wyman.

The trucks in question were likely cementing trailers that Northern Cross had at the Eagle Plain site over the weekend to complete the first portion of a new exploratory gas well, said Wyman.

Cementing trucks are used at “every single well that gets drilled,” he said.

“It’s like concrete, but it’s used when you put casing (pipe) into the well, to fix the casing to the well drill bore and lock it into place,” said Wyman.

The company plans to sink six natural gas wells by April in the Eagle Plain region as it continues exploration for oil and natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground to split rock and release oil and gas deposits that would otherwise be difficult to reach. It has gained widespread use in the United States, but it is highly controversial. The technology has been shown in some cases to cause water contamination and earthquakes.

In August, YESAB manager Shelby Jordan said that fracking had been included in two of Northern Cross’s well applications for Eagle Plain.

Two applications that Northern Cross made to the assessment board in August mentioned fracking. But Wyman said it was assessors who first raised the question about fracking, and that the company never asked for approval of that specific technology because they don’t yet know if it might be needed.

“We didn’t bring the fracking thing up, (YESAB) did. We don’t have a plan (for fracking), we never did have a plan, and can’t have a plan until we know more about the rocks. This discussion about YESAB and Northern Cross and Eagle Plain at this point is a tempest in a teapot. There is no plan. There never was a plan. We don’t have information to make a plan, so forget about it,” said Wyman.

But Wyman wouldn’t rule out the possibility of fracking being used in the future, once more is known about the geology of Eagle Plain and the resources that are actually in the ground.

“We’re talking about hypothetical scenarios right now and it’s impossible to give details on hypothetical things … there’s just as much chance, probably a greater chance – because this is exploration – that we’re going to do nothing because we won’t find anything,” said Wyman.

A 2005 report by the Geological Survey of Canada estimated that Eagle Plain has 6,000 billion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas and 426 million barrels of undiscovered oil.

So far, Northern Cross has drilled about one and a half wells in the Eagle Plain basin, said Wyman.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com