Northern Cross has removed hydraulic fracturing from its proposed exploration work at two oil and gas wells in the Eagle Plains region.
The company dropped the method, better known as fracking, from its proposal after the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board asked it for more information.
Fracking involves pumping pressurized water and chemicals into the ground. It helped trigger a boom in natural gas exploration in the United States. It has also been linked to water contamination and earthquakes.
Northern Cross needs to gather more information before it can decide if it will use fracking in the future, said president and CEO Richard Wyman.
Until then, commenting on future activities is “a complete waste of time,” he said.
“We’re not fracking,” he said. “We have no plans to frack. We may never frack.”
The company’s decision does not relieve conservationists’ concerns.
“It does not mean that they won’t do fracking,” said Don Roberts, chair of Yukoners Concerned about Oil and Gas. “It just means that they’ll go about it another way.”
The company is on a tight deadline to finish drilling the wells by winter, said Wyman. If its current schedule holds, drilling should be done within nine to 12 months. They are still 18 months to two years away from deciding what the next steps will be for the project.
In April, the Yukon government banned oil and gas exploration in the Whitehorse Trough for the next five years. Public opposition to the technique was the greatest factor in the decision, Resources Minister Brad Cathers said at the time.
The assessment board has twice extended the deadline for public comments on the project. It will finish its evaluation and recommendations shortly.