FRACKING – Take off the ‘fossil-fuelled’ glasses

FRACKING – Take off the ‘fossil-fuelled’ glasses by Robert Eggleston, December 3, 2012, Mid Sussex Times
I read the bland assurances from Mid Sussex UKIP on the benefits of fracking with utter astonishment. Cheap, benign and safe – don’t believe it.

Not cheap: On economic grounds it is not clear that shale gas is cheap to produce. One reason for this is that production at wells falls by around 90 per cent within the first year of production (source Sir David King former UK Chief Government Scientist). The consequence of this is that further investment in wells is required to keep pace with production. Evidence from the USA suggests that shale gas is massively underpriced and production is unsustainable at the current price point. The number of rigs in operation has fallen by over 40 per cent as a result.

Not environmentally benign: An authoritative report prepared for the Co-operative Bank in November 2011 by The Tyndall Centre pointed to the risks associated with groundwater and surface contamination and methane leakage. In addition, the impact on the local community is significant with increased lorry movements and a conversion of countryside into an industrialised landscape. New wells will be sunk as an existing production site is depleted creating a further scar on the landscape. Water intensive: According to the Tyndall Report, each stage in a multi-stage fracturing operation requires around 1,100-2,200m of water, so that the entire multi-stage fracturing operation for a single well requires around 9,000-29,000m³ (9-29 million litres) of water. That is for one well only!

Plenty of litigation: There have been at least 40 law suits in the USA in connection with fracking. The allegations in the lawsuits include water contamination from the spills in transport of the chemically-laced fracking fluid or the wastewater the drilling produces; allegations of methane leaks from poorly encased or cemented wells; and allegations of poorer air quality due to drilling emissions. In December 2011, the US EPA linked aquifer contamination in a small Wyoming town to natural gas drilling activities including hydraulic fracturing.
There may come a time when shale gas forms part of the UKs energy strategy but a blind pursuit of it without dealing with the risks involved is irresponsible. Furthermore as a solution it puts at risk our urgent imperative to meet our commitments on climate change and will divert investment from investment in greener and cleaner energy technologies. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to: Shale gas: a provisional assessment of climate change and environmental impacts The analysis in this report clearly demonstrates that the risks associated with the cumulative impact of drilling sufficient wells to provide any meaningful contribution to the UK’s energy needs cannot be dismissed, however low they might be at the individual well level. ]

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