NB research to reach beyond shale gas2/4/2013
FREDERICTON – Energy Minister Craig Leonard says a newly announced energy institute will create a credible alternative to government and industry in both conducting research and monitoring the shale gas industry.
In his State of the Province address on Thursday night, Premier David Alward said government is moving ahead with a recommendation to establish an energy institute as recommended in a shale gas report by Louis LaPierre, a professor emeritus in biology at the Université de Moncton.
In doing so, Alward named LaPierre the institute’s first chairman.
“It has become quite apparent in the natural gas file that there is a lot of information out there, and it is difficult to determine if it is credible or not,” Leonard said Friday. “As a result of that, what we feel is needed is a set of facts that everyone can agree on.
“If it comes from academia, from researchers with a balanced point of view that just want to get the facts, then that is exactly what we are looking for, and you can then take that information and make proper policy decisions.”
Leonard said the institute, which will be independent of government, will focus all facets of the energy industry, including renewables.
“The concept is that it is going to be a body that is developing research and information on the wide range of energy issues that New Brunswick is facing,” Leonard said.
LaPierre called for the creation of an institute in his shale gas report released last year.
The institute, as pitched by LaPierre, is to provide independent, statistical verification of data and conduct objective peer reviews of existing science and technical reports on the industry.
It will also create a comprehensive database of all chemicals used in natural gas extraction and production and could conduct environmental and health risk assessments.
It will ultimately give scientific advice to the minister of energy.
LaPierre stated that the institute will “work to ensure credible research and monitoring in support of shale gas exploration and production in the province leading up to a decision about the industry and its future in New Brunswick.”
LaPierre also pitched that the institute would set up an “Independent Effects Research Program” using the research capacity within the four provincial universities: Mount Allison University, Université de Moncton, University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.
“These universities possess highly qualified, independent researchers within their centres of excellence and funded chairs,” reads LaPierre’s report. “An effects research program would also provide an excellent opportunity to train graduate students.”
The institute could also conduct risk assessments on issues associated with the production of shale gas.
Leonard said he agreed with the wide-ranging parameters LaPierre called for in his report.
“We don’t want to put any restrictions on it,” Leonard said. “I think Dr. LaPierre did an excellent job of highlighting the key issues that people in New Brunswick were having in regards to natural gas.
“The reality is that there are so many issues that we want to parlay this energy institute into a world-class entity that is dealing with a relatively unique model.”
LaPierre estimated that the institute would require an annual budget for a limited staff costing $2 million – with funding provided in part from the Environmental Trust Fund and eventually from shale gas royalties.
Leonard said he didn’t have an estimated cost associated with the institute yet but noted that funds will not restrict the tests and studies necessary to ensure the safety of development.
Leonard said the startup of the institute will likely coincide with the release of a natural gas blueprint, slated to be released in the spring.