Open letter to Greenpeace regarding their misleading science regarding Fracking Greenpeace comments in red, and quotes and links in blue. My comments in italics)
Regarding the fracking information link http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/climate/fracking
Re Section 1, about Climate Change, there are some interesting points, but as every scenario shows us using gas until 2050, and we are at present getting 40% of our electricity from coal, safely produced shale gas seems the least worst option as can be seen here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237330/MacKay_Stone_shale_study_report_09092013.pdf
‘New roads would be built for the thousands of polluting diesel trucks laden with chemicals, fracking fluid and waste fluids travelling to and from the drilling site.’
There are no plans in any of the current cases for water to be transported to the site, as it would be supplied by pipe. Many of these projects are located by motorways, and the figures fade into insignificance with the daily traffic. The roads would be short, as they would use the existing road network. They are also covered by local planning consents.
6 to 17 trucks, so that’s 1 truck every 90mins to 4 hrs on average. Perhaps Greenpeace should campaign to stop farming, or fuel/milk/animal deliveries in rural areas?
‘Fracking uses so much water that the water industry has warned it could make our shortages even worse.’
This is incorrect or irrelevant
Please see this link. This has all been agreed with Water UK.
Also see page 6 of this publication. It states Water companies will assess the amount of water available before providing it to operators. How could this lead to shortages then? This publication (Page 6) indicates the amounts used are small. A 1GW power station uses the amount of water to frack one well every 12 hours.
In view of 8GW being produced by coal in the UK frequently, this relates to water usage that could frack I well every 90 minutes. It also amounts to just 1% of the daily water leaks from United Utilities, in the North West.
‘The fracking process involves potentially toxic chemicals at almost every stage.’
This is scaremongering
The link given does not describe this. The UK industry is governed by UK and EU law. The meaning of toxic is inflammatory and incorrect. Is the use of the word ‘potentially’ a method of saying anything you want, with no science or law to back it up? ‘Potentially’, oxygen, water, salt, sugar, carbon dioxide are all possible causes of death. To present these materials as intrinsically ‘toxic’ would be bizarre.
You can see a review and links of the laws and statutory instruments at
Please take note of the JAGDAG list and the WFD restrictions on chemical usage in this field. This is EU law after all.
Flowback fluid contains NORMS and must be disposed of under Environment Agency licence. It is incorrect to describe this as ‘toxic or hazardous’. It is correct to describe it as ‘radioactive’ as it is above the level that means that designation applies. (I have all of this from a Chartered Waste Engineer, Lee Petts of Remsol)
As the UK’s Environment Agency found, flow-back fluid from the Lancashire shale contained “notably high levels of sodium, chloride, bromide and iron, as well as higher values of lead”
This is irrelevent
As disposal of this is all covered under Environment Agency licence, why is there a problem? As I am sure you are aware, the Environment Agency and Lancashire CC planning office were perfectly happy with the fluid handling proposed by Cuadrilla. In fact, the current plans are to treat flowback water, and reinject it, meaning that the vast bulk of this would be returned from whence it came. Wells are fracked in as many as 30 separate stages. Flowback water from one stage is cleaned up on site and reinjected on the next stage.
There are many industries that produce polluted water, and all are required to follow the law on disposal. That is why the UK is an increasingly clean country. There is no evidence that laws for the fracking industry are any different. Regulations were in fact tightened after the first fracked flowback water was dealt with in Davyhulme waste treatment facility.
‘The shale is fracked deep under ground but if something goes wrong with the well, gas and fluids can leak into the ground or water supply higher up’.
This is incorrect
This displays a lack of knowledge of how wells are produced and the hydraulic forces that govern fluid flows. Gas would come up a production ‘tubing’ that is inside the casing, and sealed off near the production zone by a ‘packer’. If that or any of the tubing did leak, it would immediately become apparent, as the annulus would pressure up. The gas will not come into contact with the casing in normal operation. Please feel free to discuss this with any competent drilling engineer. It also fails to take account of the pressure profile that would prevent frack fluids from rising, as they are too dense. They would simply remain deep down in the well whilst non-toxic gas bubbled up through it. Shale gas in the UK is very similar to the N Sea gas we have been using for decades.
‘Studies in the US have indicated this may be happening in areas with lots of drilling in Pennsylvania and Texas where contaminants including were found at higher concentrations in water wells closer to fracking sites.’
This is incorrect (The Pennsylvania link refers to well casing leaks, and the Texas one has no information about fracking)
In fact the US EPA has recently published its draft review. The press release headline is
‘Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources’.
It then goes on to state
‘Apart from a very few cases of very shallow fracking, the risk to water is a result of…
inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.’
In addition truck accidents and spills that have not been cleaned up have also resulted in pollution.
The fracking process itself, provided it is done at sufficient separation from aquifers, is very low risk, as was noted by the Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2012. See 1.4.1
‘Many claims of contaminated water wells due to shale gas extraction have been made. None has shown evidence of chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing fluids’
Shallow fracking is against the law in the UK, at less than 1000m, unless there is a special licence as can be seen here. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/50
It is common for the claim to be made that the few issues that have occurred are due to fracking. This is false. They are a risk in any form of drilling. This was reported before the EPA draft report.
Reports such as the AP one of ‘243 wells polluted in Pennsylvania’ ONLY involve gas or naturally occurring materials with one exception (drilling mud).. There are many press reports but the following link deals with the science. This is to do with poorly constructed wells, and poor regulation, NOT fracking. http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/digging-deeper-into-those-243-dep-determination-letters/
There was a recent report that did claim that a chemical used in fracking, 2-n-Butoxyethanol had migrated 1 to 3km underground. This would seem unlikely as the chemical is
unstable, it quickly breaks down. It is in fact a food additive
it is present in hundreds of other applications, including in the cement that was used to seal surrounding wells where the sample was found.
Quote ‘Part of the problem may have been wastewaters from a pit leak reported at the nearest gas well pad’
It transpired that the scientist doing the research was working as an expert witness for the water well owner who was suing the drilling company! Quote from footnotes ‘Conflict of interest statement: G.T.L. and Appalachia Consulting provided litigation support and environmental consulting services to the impacted households’…so that’s not very ethical is it?
This is the paper abstract. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/20/6325.abstract
Industry comment is also available at http://energyindepth.org/national/major-research-gaps-in-new-groundwater-study/ It is complex and detailed but it would appear that the newspaper headlines stating that this was caused by fracking are inaccurate. The ‘pollution’ is of parts per trillion of a common chemical could have originated from a variety of sources. In addition analysis of accompanying chemicals would indicate the origin of this pollution is not frack fluid.
Of course how relevant is this in the UK, where 99% of water is delivered by EU law compliant water supply companies! Also only non-hazardous chemicals are permitted by the regulatory authorities….
‘And then there is the risk of a leak from fluids held at the surface……’
This is scaremongering
Unfortunately Greenpeace does not seem to be aware that the fluid containment regulations have been designed to avoid some of the problems that have occurred in the poorly regulated US. These include.
Open flow and storage pits for chemicals are not permitted. See page 4 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277211/Water.pdf
‘In some cases, overflows from such wastewater pits have caused surface water contamination. However in the UK the regulations prevent this fluid contaminating water sources by requiring the operator to:
make appropriate plans for storing fluid safely, and not in open pits
design the site so spills are avoided (and are contained if they do happen)
dispose of flowback fluid safely’
Please see the Cuadrilla website where what they are required to do by the Environment Agency is described. This includes lined and bunded drill pads that would contain fluids in the event of mishap. Are you not aware of any of this? If not then please modify your literature. If you are, then why are you presenting false data to the public? http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/
In addition, it is a condition of licencing that gas containment is 100%, except for emergencies. This can be seen on page 2 and 3 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf
Quote ‘Natural gas may only be vented for safety reasons’. This includes the containment of other gases from flowback.
‘but most of the monitoring will ultimately be down to firms like Cuadrilla, and when has that ever gone wrong before?’
This is misleading
How is a link to the ‘edge of drilling technology’ i.e. the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a comparison for the low pressure land wells proposed? Would Greenpeace compare the dangers of racing a top rally car, with daily driving?
Why are there no comparisons with the North Sea, or any other oil/gas fields? Or comparisons with other engineering disciplines, such as Crossrail/architecture/aircraft and engine design/car
manufacturing and many others. All of these are self-regulated in the UK and we are proud of their safety and innovation.
The North Sea, which is an extreme environment, has been exploited for over 40 years, and has not been in the news on safety grounds for decades and has subsidised our economy with massive inputs of tax revenue. The Piper Alpha disaster (NOT a drilling accident) of 1988 lead to a massive review of safety practice. This is an ongoing practice, involving the HSE, DECC and the unions. Drilling is a VERY safety conscious industry. The last I read, the biggest risk were the helicopters, not the drilling.
In terms of the environment, has the quality of North Sea fish/scallops etc, diminished due to oil and gas drilling?
I would appreciate a speedy respomse to the points I have raised, and request modification of the misleading parts of your website.
Ken Wilkinson BSc Hons (Aeronautical Engineering. Manchester University 1971-74) 26/07/2015
!2 years working as an engineer on oilrigs throughout the world