The British Geological Survey is to deliver an independent in-depth study on the effect of shale gas exploration/production on the environment. Hydraulic fracturing operations in two Lancashire wells (Northwest England) will be monitored. Exploration operations are conducted by the Cuadrilla Resources Company.
British Geological Survey is conducting long-term environmental surveying programmes that include seismic and groundwater monitoring. The surveys will be intensified in shale gas exploration areas so as to include ambient air quality checks, in addition to groundwater and seismic tests.
Measurements will be made before, during and after hydraulic fracturing operations in order to establish the baseline and potential environmental impacts.
The report and the survey will be delivered by a consortium led by British Geological Survey with contributions from scientific research institutions (the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Loughborough).
Survey results will be made available to the public.
It is worth noting at this point that the first comprehensive report on environmental impact from hydraulic fracturing operations was made in 2011 by a Polish team coordinated by the Polish Geological Institute – NRI (Łebień Report). The scientists have investigated the LE–2H Well at Łebień, where the first full-scale hydraulic fracturing was performed. A team of 30 experts from 5 institutions investigated environmental impact of that potentially problematic technology. Detailed tests of the ambient air, soil air, surface waters, commercial aquifers, noise and ground vibrations were made. Special focus was on the occurrence of methane (a key natural gas component) and of the radioactive radon gas. Study results and conclusion therefrom were presented at a press conference on 2 March 2012.
The study, which was the first one of this scale made in Poland, have not revealed any changes in the environment. Methane and radon gas were not detected. Seismic stations (20 units) of the Institute of Geophysics have not recorded any seismic shocks during hydraulic fracturing operations. Surface and ground water tests did not reveal any variations in the chemistry, as tested and described in detail prior to fracture stimulation. Only the level of noise had been occasionally burdensome, but solely in immediate vicinity of the generator sets. Waste management and process fluids were assessed, too.
Recently, a second study on the magnitude of the environmental impact from gas and oil exploration was completed in Poland. The study was delivered by a consortium composed of: Polish Geological Institute-NRI (consortium leader), AGH University of Science and Technology and Gdańsk University of Technology. General Directorate for Environmental Protection (GDOS) commissioned the study.
In this case, seven shale gas exploration locations have been selected for comprehensive tests made at all stages of exploration (before drilling, during fracture stimulation, after fracturing and on drill site abandonment).
Study reports were delivered in December 2014, but the date of their publication and dissemination is at GDOS discretion.
sources: bgs.ac.uk, PGI-NRI