Beginner’s guide to fracking: 6 fracking and your land

Could my land be fracked without my knowledge or permission?
Almost certainly, yes. The horizontal drill shafts can extend 1,500 meters from the well and the fractures can reach a further 600 meters. So if there is a well within that distance of your land, it’s likely that fracking will happen underneath you.

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Would I be paid for this?
Probably not, unless the centre of the well itself is on or within a quarter mile of your land. Most oil and gas rights in Northern Ireland are owned by DETI and any royalties would go to the UK treasury. Even if you’re entitled to a share of the royalties, this is dependant upon actual gas extracted and saved through that particular well, so there’s no guarantee you would receive anything.

Can I be forced to have a well or access road built on my land?
Yes, under the Mineral Development Act, DETI has compulsory purchase and access rights (Mining Facility Orders) and it can pass the benefit of these on to the gas companies.

Would I be compensated for disturbance, subsidence, damage or the decreased value of my land?
Not automatically, no, other than any standard payment under a Mining Facilities Order. Apart from that, you would have to go to court, at great trouble and expense, to sue the gas companies. The legal position is unclear, but you would only probably succeed if you could show actual negligence and physical damage.

And if the company went bust or was wound up?
You would be unlikely to receive anything, and could be left with the responsibility and expense of decontaminating your land.

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Would I be insured against any of these risks?
It depends upon your exact situation, policy and insurance company. You would be wise to check very carefully. Standard agricultural policies do not cover fracking activities on your own land.

But hasn’t fracking been going on in the states for ages with no problems?
Not exactly. This type of high volume hydraulic fracturing has only been used for the past decade or so, and has caused severe problems for local land owners. The gas companies have been exempt from much environmental legislation (of teh kind that farmers have to abide by) and so there has been little monitoring of their activities. When a problem such as contaminated water arises, residents have very often been forced to sign gagging clauses, so they cannot go public about their experiences.

But it would be better here, wouldn’t it?
Not necessarily. We have no specific laws about fracking, so are dependant on regulations drawn up for very different operations administered by bodies which are unfamiliar with the technology, often with a lack of resources and a poor history of enforcement. Fermanagh also has a very different landscape from most of America, with our complex network of loughs, rivers and streams, our rich habitats and unique geological heritage. If Fermanagh’s landscape was to be transplanted to the United States, say many Americans, there is no way that they would frack here.

What can I do if I’m concerned about this?
Contact your political representatives, especially MLA’s and ministers, and let them know that this issue matters to you. Talk to your neighbours, family and friends and encourage them to look behind the cheerful headlines.

If we are concerned about fracking in Fermangh, we all need to speak out now and make sure our voices are heard. It may not be easy, but it will be a lot harder to live with the consequences if we do nothing.

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Beginner’s guide to fracking: 5 fracking and health

Serious Public Health concerns are beginning to be raised following recent medical research and reports into unconventional shale gas extraction.

The plan for Fermanagh: up to 60 multi well pads with up to 24 wells per pad. Each pad would be 6.5 acres in size and located approximately 1 mile apart. 40,000 acres of development, and may extend up to three times this size.

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Experience from around the world has shown that fracking brings with it a very real risk of contamination of soil, water and air borne contamination. The full extent of future potential health problems caused by contamination from fracked wells is still unknown.

A 2012 study from America’s Cornell University, ‘Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health’, described fracking as “an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale”. Many diseases caused by contamination have a lag time of up to twenty years before people become ill. By then it is too late, you cannot reverse the effects of contamination on peoples health.

Even if the company manages to do ‘chemical free’ fracking, the flow back fluid which comes back up will be contaminated by oil and gas derivatives and heavy metals washes out from fractured rock. This means that millions of gallons of toxic fluid will come back up each well. This flow back fluid will contain varying amounts of the following chemicals with the associated health risks:

– BENZENE: Leukemia, cancers and neural tube defects (spina bifida)
– MERCURY: Brain and kidney damage and effects unborn children.
– ARSENIC: Cancer
– ETHYL-BENZENE: Respiratory disease, fatigue and headaches.
– TOLUENE: Birth defects and central nervous system damage.
– VOC’s: Endocrine disrupters

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Recent medical reports and research into fracking state:
– 25% of the chemicals used could cause cancer and mutations, 37% could upset the endocrine system, 40-50% could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems, and 90% could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system. [Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2012]
– Silicosis lung damage from the airborne silica dust used in frack sand. [Esswein,2012]
– Increased risk of ill health, cancer and non-cancer, in people living near frack pads. [Air pollution control division, Colorado Department of public health, 2008]
– Irreversible lung damage caused by ground level ozone. This is produced when fugitive methane gases combine with diesel fumes of fracking machinery. (In Fermanagh, this ‘smog’ along with other air pollution from fracking will be blown over the rest of the county by thE prevailing westerly wind.) [The Endocrine Disruption Index, 2012]
– Sudden death, slow death, reproductive problems and nerve diseases have been shown in twenty four different fracking incidents involving hundreds of farm animals over six states in USA; mostly related to exposure from flowback fluid. Some of these animals are believed to have ended up in the human food chain. [Bamburger and Oswald, 2012]

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Noise pollution from both lorries on the road and heavy site machinery will be a major problem in a rural county like Fermanagh, where frack pads are likely to be close to houses. The noise together with lights on around frack sites all night, will be a hinderance to sleep and can impact on both physical and mental health and well-being.

Short term industrialisation of rural areas results in –
– a ‘boom and bust’ economy that impacts negatively on public health.
– Social community upheaval creating inequality and resulting in increased mental health problems, domestic violence, crime, drug/alcohol abuse.

The Precautionary Principle must apply. Our Health is our real Wealth.
Full health impact assessments are required, not just environmental impact assessments.

To download this information as a printable pdf, please visit our flyers page.

Beginner’s guide to fracking: 4 fracking and tourism

Fermanagh welcomes you – Naturally?

The most recent DETI figures indicate that the tourism sector in Co. Fermanagh generates over £36 million per annum

DETI Draft Tourism Strategy for NI to 2020
“There is also a real recognition that what makes NI special is the quality of the experience and any development must be sensitive to this.”

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Why do visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Restful and relaxing holiday – peace and tranquility
– Quality of the scenery – unspoilt landscape
– Natrual Heritage – lakes, Cuilcagh Mountain Park, Marble Arch Caves, Global Geopark (54,092 visitors 2011)
– Cultural Heritage: musicians, artists, photographers, writers
– Built Heritage – National Trust properties (92,441 visitors 2011)
– Fishing and boating
– Outdoor pursuits: hill/trailing, watersports, caving
– Good quality food and restaurants

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Opposition to fracking has been expresses by both Fermanagh District Council and Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism

What impact will fracking have on tourism in Fermanagh?
– Frack pads will be located approximately 1 mile apart changing our rural landscape forever
– Our roads will be congested with heavy trucks and machinery
– Fish stocks may be contaminated
– There is a risk of earth tremors
– Our rural landscape will become an industrailised zone
– There is a risk to natural heritage
– The air will be heavy with dust and smog
– The Erne waterways are at risk of pollution
– Noise and light pollution are inevitable
– There will be public health concerns
– We will lose our clean and green image

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What will happen if fewer visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Loss of revenue from tourism
– Loss of jobs in tourism
– Loss of income for local providers including hotels, B+B’s, hostels, resteraunts, cruise hire and supplies, shops, fishing tackle stores, arts/crafts stores, outdoor pursuit centers, golf courses, the Marble Arch Caves and National Trust properties.

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DETI Draft Toursim strategy for NI to 2020
Northern Ireland needs to “Value tourism, value the tourist, value what the tourist values.”

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

A beginner’s guide to fracking: 3 fracking and fishing

As local knowledge about the potential impacts of fracking grows, fishermen in Co. Fermanagh and beyond are becoming increasingly concerned that fracking poses a serious risk to the future of fishing in the county.

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Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin is recognised as a rare and delicate eco-system and has been designated as an ASSI and also a SAC and requires special protection.
– a game fishery with a ‘no stocking’ policy.
– one of the few remaining wild brown trout and salmon fisheries in Europe and home to a healthy migratory run of wild Atlantic Salmon.
– the only Lough in Northern Ireland to have a population of Arctic Char.
– home to three distinct species of trout – Sonaghan, Gilaroo anf Ferox.
Sonaghan is genetically unique to Lough Melvin and has inhabited these waters for over a million years. Research has shoown that the DNA imprint of the Sonaghan matched no other fish in the brown trout family anywhere in the world.

Lough MacNean
Lough MacNean is classified as a course fishery with excellent stocks of Bream, Perch, Rudd Roach Hybrids and Pike.
– Catches in excess of 20lbs recorded from Lough MacNean.
– It holds a stock of quality brown trout that run its two main rivers to spawn and reproduce ie. the blackwater and Glenfarne rivers.

Lough Erne
– The Erne system consists of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and has a world class reputation for course and game angling.
– Lower Lough Erne is a large expanse of water, over 25 miles long.
– Lower Lough Erne is famous for Mayfly fishing.
– Upper Lough Erne is one of teh finest pike fishing lakes in Europe and links to the Shannon system, the largest river system in the British Isles.

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Potential risks to fishing from fracking
– A network of 20 small loughs and 150 streams rivers extend over a radius of 25km from Lough Melvin and Lough MacNean catchment areas. Six km uphill from Lough Melvin is the centre of the frack zone.
– This network of waterways is the lifeline for fish stocks – eg salmon run these rivers to spawn and reproduce with the young fry residing in the rivers for two to three years.
– Millions fo gallons of water are required to frack a single well; where will where will the water come from to frack 1440 wells and where will it end up?
– Flow-back fluid from fracked wells will contain toxically high levels of salt and other chemicals. If this fluid leaks into surrounding streams and rivers there will be large scale, long term contamination.
– If spawning streams and rivers are contaminated, fish stocks and aquatic life will be killed. The diminished fish stocks and risk to indigenous species may be so severe that our lakes and rivers may never recover.

Fishing and the local economy
– Anglers come to Fermanagh from all over the world to enjoy a unique fishing experience in clean waters and tranquil rural setting.
– There are 4 major competitions held annually:
1) The classic Fishing Festival
2) The World Pairs Fishing Festival
3) The Pike Classic
4) The Lough Melvin Open Trout Angling Championship
Annually, these events attract 1000 anglers from across Europe to Fermanagh.
– Local clubs host a further 8-10 fishing competitions each year which bring significant benefits to rural areas.
– Almost 3000 angling licenses are sold in Co. Fermanagh annually, 85% of the total NI
sales, generating direct revenue in excess of 178,000GBP.
– In 2005, teh angling industry alone was identified as underpinning 778 full-time jobs in Fermanagh.

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

A beginner’s guide to fracking: 2 – its immediate impact

The plan for Fermanagh is for up to sixty multi-well pads with up to 24 wells per pad. Each pad would probably be around 6.5 acres in size (though it could be up to three times larger), consisting of a concrete/stone platform with rig drill, water pit, trucks, waste-water containers, generators and compressors etc. The pads would be located approximately 1 mile apart, and joined by access roads, representing a total of 40,000 acres of development.

A multiwell HVHF pad. The extent to which the ground underneath is more than what many people imagine. However the extent of the infrastructure above ground cannot be underestimated either. Collectively, the technology of unconventional shale gas extraction has many varied social, environmental and economic negative impacts (image soure: peak-oil.com)
A multiwell HVHF pad. The extent to which the ground underneath is affected, is much larger than what many people imagine. However the scale of the infrastructure above ground cannot be underestimated either. Collectively, the technology of unconventional shale gas extraction has many varied social, environmental and economic negative impacts (image soure: peak-oil.com).

There will be a change in land use as the area will gradually become a heavily industrialised zone dotted with frack pads, some of which will be located near farms, houses, villages, rivers and lakes.

Airborne dust and smog from these sites can carry harmful toxic chemicals over many miles, affecting the whole of Fermanagh, while heavy traffic will damage our roads and the repair bill will fall on the tax payer.

Lights will be burning around the sites all night, as work often continues twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, with constant noise from generators, pumps, drilling and trucks.

There is a risk of water contamination (usually caused by human error) and serious health concerns for humans and animals.

All this disruption will take its toll on farming, domestic animals, wildlife and plants.

Fracking will damage the local economy – tourism, agriculture etc. as there is a risk of contamination of beef, milk and other agri-food produce and a certainty that we will suffer the loss of our county’s clean and green image. Any jobs promised will be far fewer than has been suggested, most likely low-paid and short-term – a fraction of those which are likely to be lost in agriculture and tourism.

Questions arise for local residents regarding their insurance – will your home or agricultural policy give you the cover you need?

To download this information as a printable pdf,  please visit our flyers page.

A beginner’s guide to fracking: 1 – What is fracking?

Unconventional (left) and Conventional wells (right). Whilst both styles of shale gas extraction may look similar, they are in fact two different technologies that impact upon the environment in different ways.

What do the industry’s words and phrases really mean?

‘Conventional’ gas or oil is held between layers of rock and can be extracted quite easily by drilling a normal well.

Unconventional’ gas or oil is trapped tight in small holes and cracks inside certain rocks, so it can’t be extracted by ordinary drilling. To get at the gas or oil the drilling companies have to shatter the rock.

Shale is a sedimentary rock which contains this ‘unconventional’ gas (methane). In Fermanagh the shale layer is quite close to the surface, at around 500 – 1200 metres underground. In other countries, shale containing gas tends to be much deeper, e.g. in the USA it is usually between 2500 and 4000 metres below the surface.

Traditional fracking is a technique used since the 1940s to flush out conventional gas and oil, typically using around 80,000 gallons of water per ‘frack’. It was used in Fermanagh in the 1980s and in 2001 on a few test wells.

High volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is a new technique for extracting
‘unconventional’ oil and gas. It was first used in the early 2000s but has only been commonly used in the USA since 2005. Unlike traditional fracking, it uses immense quantities of water (usually at least a million gallons per ‘frack’ and often very much more) and very high pressure. This is the technique proposed for extracting shale gas in Fermanagh.

Slickwater or fracking fluid is the mixture of water, sand and chemicals pumped at high pressure down well bores (pipes) to shatter the rock beneath. Some of the methane inside the rock will escape into these pipes and up to the surface.

Horizontal drilling is used with HVHF to allow operators to frack large underground areas.

Multi-well pads allow the operators to drill several wells on a single site, with horizontal bores extending in all directions. The plan for Fermanagh is to have at least sixty of these sites, each with twenty-four wells.

Flowback fluid is the liquid left after the fracking process – a mixture of fracking fluid, high concentrations of salt and other substances such as heavy metals and benzene. Some of this will stay underground and some will return to the surface.

Remember: Fracking in Fermanagh will be HVHF, using high volumes of fracking fluid at high pressure, drilling horizontally from multi-well pads, shattering the shale rock layer relatively near the surface, and producing large quantities of toxic flowback fluid.

Can they really frack without using chemicals?

When most of us talk about fracking, we mean the whole process of shale gas extraction, from start to finish. This includes preparation, drilling, pumping the fluid, shattering the rock, extracting the gas, processing and transporting it and maintaining the site and equipment. But when the industry talks about fracking, it only means the pumping, shattering and extraction stage. So, when operators say, for example, that they will not use chemicals, they are not talking about the whole process.

Is fracking and extraction possible without chemicals? There is little, if any, evidence to support the reality of chemical-free fracking. Even if it is possible, there is still a huge risk of soil, water and air contamination. Deep underground is a cocktail of toxic chemicals, harmless to us if undisturbed. HVHF will bring these to the surface in the millions of gallons of flowback fluid. The rest of the flowback fluid will lie underground, between two aquifers which provide the sources for Fermanagh’s and Donegal’s fresh drinking water. This fluid will contain high volumes of salt, heavy metals and benzene, all tragically toxic to humans and animals.

How will fracking be regulated?

The basic UK law which governs gas and oil licensing dates from the 1960s and has not kept pace with advances in scientific understanding and
technology. Even the most recent environmental laws do not specifically cover HVHF, which has moved so quickly in the last ten years and is still largely experimental.

 

To download this information as a printable pdf,  please visit our flyers page.