Fracking report: parts of Britain are likely to be too dry to drill
Source: Guardian (UK), November 28, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
Fracking may be impractical in parts of Britain where water supplies are scarce, the water industry revealed as it announced a deal with the oil and gas industry.
Hydraulic fracturing technology is a controversial process of shale gas and oil extraction where water and chemicals at very high pressure are blasted at dense shale rocks, opening fissures through which 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 – of towns and villages running dry.
In a memorandum of understanding published yesterday, the water trade body Water UK and the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), which represents fracking firms, agreed to co-operate on expanding the number of fracking sites in the UK.
The agreement noted “the pressure on local water resources” and in it 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. This demand may be met from a number of sources, including the public water supply, direct abstraction, water transported by tanker from other areas, or recycling and reuse of treated flowback or produced water.”
It added: “Where water is in short supply, there may not be enough available from public water supplies or the environment to meet the requirements.”
Water can be brought in from other areas, but this is costly, causes a nuisance to residents and is impractical in large quantities. It may be possible to use seawater in some areas.
UKOOG said dealing with such issues was one of the aims of the memorandum. Water UK said 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, Sussex – where the fracking company Cuadrilla has been drilling for oil – that pressure on 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.”
The UKOOG memo came as four protesters were arrested while trying to stop a lorry delivering machinery to a potential fracking site in Salford. Three men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway, police said. The four were part of a group of about 30 who had been attempting to block the delivery.
A protest at a potential fracking site in Salford led to the arrest of four people