We have heard for a long time that modern natural gas development in the St. Lawrence Valley is different because this is one of the most populated areas in Quebec. We heard it again as bill 37 was introduced for a new moratorium. But if that’s true where are they all?
I have met with 9 Regional Municipality Districts (‘MRC’) and travelled a lot in the Lowlands. I haven’t seen much in the way of dense populations. I decided to do a small research project on the Regional Municipality Districts to find out where all the people are. I discovered the area to be covered includes some of Canada’s most but also some of its least populated areas. I attached a file on population density for your reference.
The City of Montreal is to be included where there is no shale at all. The population density there is about 4,000 people per square kilometer. Pretty dense given Hong Kong is 6,500 people per square kilometer.
At the other end, La Cote de Beaupre is included with a density of only 5.2 people per square kilometer. This is even slightly less than for the whole Province of Quebec which has some pretty big empty places.
Pennsylvania, with the largest shale gas development in the world, has a density of 107 people per square kilometer. Alberta has a slightly higher population density at 5.5 people per square kilometer than Quebec at 5.25. Only 8 out of 33 MRC’s in Bill 37 have a density higher than Pennsylvania. Most of them are in the Montreal region.
On the other hand 13 of the 33 have population densities less than Red Deer, Alberta (26.9) or Jefferson County, Pennsylvania (26.7). Both areas are at the center of oil and gas development.
Contrary to natural gas opponents’ rhetoric, the vast majority of the MRC’s are not very populated at all. The average density of all MRC’s to be included in the moratorium is only 46.3 people per square kilometer even with the districts in the Montreal region included. Even better, the oil and gas industry isn’t very interested in the Montreal region. As I mentioned, there isn’t even any reservoir rock in that area. Take them out and the density is about the same as Red Deer and Jefferson County.
From a surface topography and population density point of view, the vast majority of the St. Lawrence Lowlands turns out to be ideal for oil and gas. Of course you would have to leave the city to know that.