Hydraulic Fracturing

Where we are today

Alberta has used hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas recovery since the 1950s. Since then, approximately 174,000 wells have been drilled using the technology.

The Alberta government is committed to the responsible development of our unconventional energy resources. Hydraulic fracturing operations must comply with strict environmental standards. They are regulated, approved and licenced under the same regulatory framework as other oil and gas projects.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) places additional restrictions on fracturing operations to ensure they do not interfere with aquifers or water wells.

Given technological advancements, it is expected we’ll see hydraulic fracturing used even more in the years ahead. This raises some water-related issues:

  • Hydraulic fracturing uses more water than traditional technologies.
  • Water supplies must be protected through proper storage and disposal of fracturing fluids, as well as strict wastewater storage and treatment methods.
  • Surface water and groundwater contamination avoided through a strong regulatory framework and effective oversight.

Preparing for tomorrow

Proper regulatory oversight must ensure water sourcing, transportation, recycling, storage and disposal are managed effectively to mitigate risks to surface water and non-saline groundwater sources.

Augmenting our province’s current regulatory approach can help provide this assurance by:

  • Promoting water conservation: update the Oilfield Injection policy to conserve the allocation of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • Safeguarding water quality: update and expand the Baseline Water Well Testing for Coalbed Methane program.
  • Monitoring and knowledge building: add more wells to the Groundwater Observation Well Network to monitor groundwater quality and quantity.
  • Providing transparency: access to understanding information on fracturing operations including fracturing fluid composition and water quantity.
  • Ensuring policies keep pace: work with the AER to develop a new regulatory framework which aligns with Alberta’s water management approach and desired outcomes.

Learn more

Digging Deeper, a hydraulic fracturing animation (via CAPP)

Next Steps

Discussion guide

The consultation phase is now over.

Ideas shared during the community sessions, through emails and online workbook submissions are compiled into a Summary of Discussions report and led to the creation of the Water Conversation Action Plan. To review these documents, see:

Thank you for taking the time to join the Water Conversation.


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Updated: Jul 12, 2018