British Columbia’s experience with fracking may provide helpful information to Colombians

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo from the British Columbia-based Wilderness Committee.

Fracking began in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the late 1990s. There are now more than 20,000 wells in northeastern British Columbia.

Are there lessons from these wells in British Columbia for Colombia?


1– the wells draw half a million trucks worth of water each year from rivers and lakes

2– the average frack uses between five million and 100 million litres of water

Radioactive wastewater

3– radioactive material has been found to accumulate in the tanks and pits that store the wastewater generated by fracking operations

Methane pollution

4– natural gas fracked in British Columbia is composed mostly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with a climate warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide on a 100-year timescale

5– wells in the Montney region release more than 11,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually, the equivalent of burning 4.5 million tonnes of coal

Human health

6– a toxicologist found traces of the carcinogen benzene were 3.5 times higher in pregnant women in northeastern British Columbia than the national average

7– human health issues related to fracking have been flagged by doctors in Dawson Creek, British Columbia as a potential cause for concern after they saw patients with respiratory illnesses and rare cancers

Orphan wells

8– there were 346 orphan wells in British Columbia in 2019, a number expected to double in 2020, and significantly increase with more fracking


9– 439 earthquakes up to 4.6 magnitude were associated with fracking in parts of the Montney field in northeastern British Columbia between 2013 and 2019


10– research done in the neighboring province of Alberta has found that fluids released from fracked oil and gas wells can harm fish even at low concentrations.

These concerns may be of interest to Colombians as two fracking pilot projects move forward in the environmentally-sensitive Magdalena Medio region.

Last month, the Chief Executive Officer of the Calgary-based Canacol Energy commented: “The objectives of these [fracking pilot projects] are to demonstrate that this important resource can be developed in an environmentally safe way, similar to how the same unconventional resources have been implemented in the United States and Canada.”

Peace Brigades International accompanies environmental human rights defenders who have been threatened for their opposition to fracking in Colombia.

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