I am spending a few days in the Dallas-Forth Worth area on vacation with a side objective to check out the development of Barnett shale gas down here. I wasn’t interested in plowing through all the literature on this. My only goal was to drive around and see for myself – at least at a superficial level – how this type of development can impact a local community.
Dallas itself is an interesting place. The US customs officer expressed surprise that we were going to Dallas on ‘vacation’ – of all the places we could visit. I have been travelling to the U.S. for more than 25 years and have visited every single state in the Union except Hawaii. Dallas is no New York, San Francisco or even San Diego but it has very nice features. The food here is excellent and the cultural attributes are quite unique relative to other parts of the States.
As for shale gas, we spent time driving around a community in the metro area with a rapidly developing industry. I had met with the City Planner a few months ago and knew all the back story but I wanted to see for myself. Obviously I didn’t visit every nook and cranny but from what we could there isn’t much visual impact except the ‘construction’ phase when new wells have the look of a new house or building while it is being construction. Once the well is in place and the land around it has grassed in, it just looks a bit like a small radio tower or a hydro line. We did see pipeline and other above ground infrastructure in a couple of places too.
We watched the TV the first night we were here (tired from the trip) and saw an advertisiment by gas companies assuring folks that protecting water was their number one priority. If you Google it, you will find there are shale gas protests down here and come communities are changing their by-laws to reflect concerns.
Ultimately I didn’t really learn much other than it is unlikely shale gas in New Brunswick will lead to the kind of visual carnage some people have been warning of (bleak, industrial landscape was my favourite). Unless you define bleak industrial landscape as having a gas well every kilometre or so down the road as bleak.
As I have said before the environmental and geological debate is one for others. But I continue to come back to my premise. New Brunswick has a lot of natural gas under the ground – way down well below the water table – but it is there and it could be extractable. It is our resource. We are going to need new sources of natural gas to provide energy to industries and homes in New Brunswick soon – as Sable winds down. We can either bring up shale gas from the U.S. or we can try and develop our own.