The story calls it an effort to defuse the growing Northeast B.C. conflict over the huge amounts of fresh water needed to extract shale gas. It says buried as deep as one kilometre below the surface, the companies have discovered an aquifer in which the water is utterly undrinkable, as salty as the Pacific Ocean, and laced with highly corrosive hydrogen sulphide.
An Encana spokesman is quoted as saying it's believed this is a global first for the industry, but now energy companies are working with Geoscience BC to explore other salty aquifers in the Montney Shale Gas Play here in the Peace. To date in the Horn River Basin, they've already pumped more than 25 million barrels of water out of the Debolt formation – a layer of porous rock, 70 metres thick, far below the surface.
However, critics remain suspicious, saying the Debolt water project is so new and untested, it is impossible to gauge the long-term impact. George Heyman of the Sierra Club of B.C. concedes, "it has the potential to partially address concerns around water usage, but the government is still pushing a massive ramp-up of fracking without us knowing the cumulative impacts on water or health."