There has been a flurry of fracking interest in the media this week, as the Preese Hall Review was released. This report was commissioned by the government to examine the relationship between fracking and the earthquakes which occured in Blackpool last year. It has been reported as an all-clear for the technique, but a closer look tells a rather different story.
The findings of the review include the following:
1) That the earthquakes were caused by fracking.
2) That these earthquakes could happen again.
3) That it is unlikely that surface structural damage will occur due to these earthquakes.
4) That the extraction company did not carry out proper assessment either before or after the fracking to try to stop these earthquakes from occurring. Nor did it gather essential data on the damage caused to the well casing by the earthquakes.
Earthquakes, by definition, cause structural damage underground and this
is the crux of the earthquake issue; not whether or not the quake shakes
tables and chairs on Blackpool promenade. The seismic activity, though
weak on the surface, is potentially much more harmful underground if
fracking pipes are nearby. Seismic activity can weaken the well bore
integrity underground and increase the failure rate of its cement casing.
The report states that earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 have occurred in
several UK coal mines during the last 100 years and have had little
surface effect. But these mines did not have thousands of kilometres of
pipes running through them carrying contaminated and toxic water up and
down, past and through the water table.
The report recommends that a “traffic light system” of regulation should
apply. This assumes that fracking is essentially safe, so the starting
point is a green light. If fracking triggers an earthquake of less than
0.5 [magnitude on the Richter scale] they get a warning card, i.e. an
amber light. If the fracking causes an earthquake above 0.5, this triggers
a red light and the fracking stops temporarily until the Company figure
out what went wrong. This system is not exactly the precautionary
principle of science that would normally apply to an evolving industry, an
industry that is basically a huge engineering experiment in progress.
Our regulators are currently struggling to monitor fracking as the
industry is changing faster than we can properly assess. The type of
fracking done in 2012 [High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing] bears
little resemblance to the simple process used from the 1950s until the
beginning of the 2000s. It’s rather like saying that an AK47 and a
blunderbuss are equivalent as they are both guns. The companies
themselves are still learning by trial and error. The fracking industry is
a constantly moving target that is slow to admit its errors and then asks
us to trust it. We were told that we would not get the cowboy operators
that have caused such problems in the USA but we are still not regulating
this industry properly. This is why, in our view, we need a moratorium for the foreseeable future until the full scientific reports currently being carried out become available.
Moreover, the danger of earthquakes is just one of many factors which can cause environmental contamination, serious effects on human and animal health and irreparable damage to our economy, society and rural way of life. The Preese Hall review was not set up to consider any of these – but we can.
Ohio earthquake was not a natural event, expert says – chicagotribune.com.
“A 4.0 magnitude earthquake in Ohio on New Year’s Eve did not occur naturally and may have been caused by high-pressure liquid injection related to oil and gas exploration and production, an expert hired by the state of Ohio said on Tuesday.
Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources on Sunday suspended operations at five deep well sites in Youngstown, Ohio, where the injection of water was taking place, while they evaluate seismological data from a rare quake in the area.
The wells are about 9,000 feet deep and are used to dispose of water from oil and gas wells. The process is related to fracking, the controversial injection of chemical-laced water and sand into rock to release oil and gas. Critics say that the high pressure injection of the liquid causes seismic activity.
Won-Young Kim, a research professor of Seismology Geology and Tectonophysics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that circumstantial evidence suggests a link between the earthquake and the high-pressure well activity.
“We know the depth (of the quake on Saturday) is two miles and that is different from a natural earthquake,” said Kim, who is advising the state of Ohio.”
Our recent Fracking awareness meetings in Florencecourt and Cashel have been well attended by local people including many from the farming community. There was also a good turnout of fishermen at the Cashel meeting.
Farmers were particularly concerned about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the local agri-food industry. These small businesses are dependent on quality production to maintain their position in this niche market. The slightest suggestion of contamination of beef or milk could mean financial ruin. Speaking after the meeting Dr Carroll O’Dolan, spokesperson for FFAN, noted that where the farming community are struggling to survive in the current economic climate “even the perception of contamination could destroy the local agri-food industry”. At the end of the Cashel meeting committee members of the Garrison-Lough Melvin Anglers Association spoke of their concerns about fracking and its impact on the fishing on the famous waters of Lough Melvin.
Farmers who had diversified into tourism were equally anxious. They spoke of huge personal and public investments in Fermanagh’s tourism industry. This investment has created a brand recognised both nationally and internationally – ‘Fermanagh welcomes you naturally’. But will tourists still want to come here if Fermanagh loses its green and clean image to become one of concrete, heavy industry and heavy traffic? If there is a long term risk of water contamination and/or toxic chemicals getting into the food chain how will our fishing and Lakelands fare? There is a real concern that secure jobs in Fermanagh’s tourism industry could be under threat if ‘fracking’ is allowed to go ahead to be replaced by short term “potential” jobs.
Looking ahead, many were concerned about what happens when the extraction process is over. “Industrialised land” covered with concrete and contaminated with chemicals both above & below ground, cannot be farmed; indeed the landowners may find themselves responsible for difficult and expensive clean-up operations.
Other farmers were downright angry; if they are strictly regulated and penalised if they deviate from DARD & DOE regulations, then why were four exploration licenses for shale gas and oil extraction issued in Northern Ireland with very little consideration as to the impacts on health, the environment, the rural way of life and no public consultation?
Fracking for unconventional gas and oil is a relatively new technology which is causing much controversy around the world and has been banned or put on hold in many regions. It is significantly different from fracking for conventional gas & oil reserves, which has been used for the last sixty years. The British Geological Survey has concluded that fracking was the likely cause of the recent earthquakes near Blackpool, and that these earthquakes were between 10-100 times stronger than the usual low-level seismic activity that can normally occur in that area. A recent poll in the Guardian newspaper showed that 68.3% of respondents were opposed to fracking in the UK.
Closing the meeting in Florencecourt Dr O’Dolan said “We don’t know the long term impact that fracking will have on our health and the environment thus the precautionary principle should apply. The Governments should wait for the outcome of the very detailed studies being carried out in the USA & Europe, and both due for release in 2014. The ‘Sure we’ll see how it goes, if it turns out bad we’ll stop’ attitude is too dangerous.”