Water shortages may make fracking impractical, industry says, Quantities required for the fracking process may make it problematic in areas of the UK where resources are scarce by Fiona Harvey, November 27, 2013, The Guardian
Fracking may be impractical in parts of the UK due to the scarcity of local water supplies, and in other areas will have an impact on local water resources, the water industry has admitted, in a deal struck with the oil and gas industry. The controversial process of shale gas and oil extraction uses hydraulic fracturing technology or fracking, where water and chemicals under very high pressure are blasted at dense shale rocks, opening up fissures through which the tiny bubbles of methane can be released. But the quantities of water required are very large, leading to cases in the US – where fracking is widespread – where towns and villages have run dry.
In a memorandum of understanding published on Wednesday, the water trade body Water UK and the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), which represents fracking companies, agreed to cooperate on expanding the number of fracking sites in the UK. But in their agreement, noting “the pressure on local water resources”, Water UK acknowledged: “The quantities of water needed vary by site and throughout the gas exploration and production process, but the demand could have an impact on local water resources. … They added: “However, where water is in short supply there may not be enough available from public water supplies or the environment to meet the requirements for hydraulic fracturing.” Water can be brought in from other areas, but this is costly, causes a nuisance to residents, and in large quantities would be impractical. It may be possible to use seawater in some areas. UKOOG said dealing with such issues was one of the purposes of the memorandum. Water UK told the Guardian there could be risks to the water supply particularly in the south-east, where the pressure of population puts supplies under stress. The Environment Agency admitted at a public meeting in Balcombe in Sussex – where the fracking company Cuadrilla has been drilling for oil – that pressure on local water supplies could raise serious problems. An official told local residents: “The big question mark is over cumulative demand for water in the south-east should this industry take on a much bigger size.” … This could lead to water courses running dry, with dire effects on wildlife. If water companies are under pressure to supply more for fracking, this could put even more pressure on resources. [Emphasis added]