A single issue, non-affiliated, cross-community network of local people with a peaceful ethos and a positive vision for our county's development, working to raise awareness of the risks associated with shale gas extraction.
Dr. Carroll O’Dolan speaks with actor Mark Ruffalo, Professor Robert Howarth author of “How green is blue hydrogen?”, Dr Kathy Nolan from Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Dianne Little Coordinator of Operation Grounded a cross border network of groups campaigning for a ban on petroleum licensing and fracking.
Concerned community groups, including FFAN, are stating the extreme urgency for NI politicians to ensure and guarantee a ban on petroleum (oil and gas) licenses in Northern Ireland [NI].
During this momentous time when the COP26 climate change conference was recently held in Glasgow, our own politicians are planning to undermine the very fabric of meaningful change. The NI Department of Economy [DfE, DUP minister] is presently in the final stages of bringing their petroleum policy to the NI Executive and Assembly for a vote before Christmas 2021.
This policy currently does not include the very obvious option of banning petroleum licenses altogether in NI. Instead, it will have various policy options on how to regulate the industry. The agenda for policies to be brought forward has to be jointly agreed by the two parties that make up the OFMDFM (office of first minister & deputy first minister).
These parties are SF and the DUP. Thus only SF can, using their power over the agenda, insist that the DfE add the policy option of a complete ban on petroleum licensing to the policy. So please lobby your SF MLAs and all in that party to insist on a policy option of a complete ban on petroleum licensing in NI is included in the DUPs document.
A summary of the ‘Hatch report’ relating to the possibility of petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland recently became available. This summary, https://www.facebook.com/139276246741759/posts/851207292215314/ was commissioned by the Department for the Economy and delivered to that Dept in July 2021. Below is the response of FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network].
In the fifth paragraph, the report states ‘the scale of the potential GVA [gross value added] and the employment impacts are shown to be relatively low, even under the high development scenario’. Then in the graph at the end of the report it states that this same high development scenario is likely to have major adverse impacts on groundwater and surface pollution and abstraction, also major adverse impacts on social cohesion and community wellbeing. This is no surprise to all of the community groups who have been researching this issue for the last ten years. But shocking that these petroleum licenses are even being considered. Thus the Hatch Report has given the NI Executive the answer to the question should we allow petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland; the benefits are low and the risks are too high so the answer can only be No.
Even using this sanitised version of the oil and gas industry presented by the Hatch Report it is full of glaring omissions and commissions.
Once established the fracking will commence at a higher intensity than the report suggests as that is the only way the industry can make money. The oil and gas industry will then leave us in NI to literally clean up the mess and pay the bills.
None of the authors, based on tender process documents, have any Medical or Public Health qualifications.
The ‘No development scenario’ is dismissed in one sentence early on as simply a baseline. The report says this scenario will have ‘no additional social or environmental impacts on the baseline conditions’. This current baseline protects our health, air and water. It protects our agriculture, tourism and many more jobs. It is the baseline building block for our future prosperity towards a greener sustainable future. This baseline is not a brake on our potential development, but a prerequisite.
The report mentions climate change and net-zero many times, yet repeatedly tries to justify setting up a fossil fuel industry from scratch, in the same year as the COP26 summit.
Section 18: The petroleum licensing Act of 1964 is used in this section to justify the unjustifiable. It must be obvious by now to all parties that this policy has to be updated to reflect the climate emergency that we live in. To meet net-zero by 2050 we must have a zero-tolerance for setting up (and subsidising) a fossil fuel industry in NI. We need a new energy policy to reflect this; specifically that no petroleum licenses will be considered or granted.
Section 20: The report states that the Northern Ireland [NI] assembly debated a motion on a moratorium on onshore [hydrocarbon] development until a bill was brought to ban the same. The report fails to mention that the NI Assembly did not just debate it, but unanimously passed that motion.
Section 31: Lateral drills per well. The report says low intensity will be ten wells & two lateral drills per well, high intensity will be 34 wells & four lateral drills per well. This is a gross underestimate, Wells usually have 8 to12 lateral drills, often up to 16. Tamboran were planning for 60 wells in Fermanagh ~ 1km apart, each well with 12 lateral drills. The more lateral drills created, then the greater the risk of aquifer pollution, fugitive methane emissions and leaks both above and below ground.
Section 40: The report says the oil and gas industry will have a negligible impact on tourism; maybe even increase some trade in restaurants. In reality, the impact on tourism will be negative, large and immediate.
Section 44: Will only have a modest negative impact on the Agri-food sector. This is a highly suspect claim, the negative impact will be huge and long term
Section 47: Health Impact Assessment and associated issues simply stated as not done.
Section 55: States that the UGEE JRP [unconventional gas exploration & extraction joint research programme, Irish-all island group] concludes that ‘there is significant uncertainty around the following topics in particular: Groundwater aquifers could be polluted as a result of the failure or deterioration of well Integrity. These aquifers could also be polluted by the migration of pollutants and gas to the aquifer as a result of the fracking process. The long term leakage of gas after well closure’.
The Hatch report does not even consider the precautionary principle. That the NI Executive should be considering allowing a highly polluting industry into our communities and that this report is unsure of the long term damage to our air and water and thus our health, is truly shocking.
Dr Carroll O’Dolan. MRCGP. MICGP.
Health spokesperson for FFAN
[Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network].
Here’s a template for you to send your objection to Department for the Economy in regards to Planning Application PLA2/16:
As residents of Fermanagh, we wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the granting of a petroleum licence to Tamboran to explore for or carry out fracking in Fermanagh or anywhere else in Northern Ireland, for the following reasons:
The Threat – Fracking is a dirty, toxic, industrialised process which has been proved dangerous and unsuitable even for sparsely populated areas in the United States and Australia. No solution to the problems of leaky wells and waste water disposal has yet been found anywhere.
The Applicant – The companies involved in the fracking process take no responsibility for a subsequent clean-up. They find ingenious pseudo-legal ways, including insolvency, to walk away, leaving the wreckage to the community. Their claim to community involvement actually amounts to a combination of bribery of the weak and intimidation of objectors, dividing communities to the profit of the frackers.
Health – The existential health risks of fracking have been scientifically documented by the Concerned Physicians of New York State.
Agriculture – The reputational damage of fracking to food-producing agriculture, the principal economic activity in Fermanagh, would be permanent.
Landscape – One of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland, which includes the UNESCO Geopark and many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, would be permanently degraded by fracking.
Tourism – Fermanagh’s second most important economic activity would never recover from the known effects of fracking: visual degradation; pollution of its pristine waterways; and the endless lorry traffic on its country roads.
Jobs – Technical supervisors would be imported. The few jobs for local people would be limited to driving lorries and manual labour.
Climate Change – The UK Government has recently published its highly necessary policy and timetable to achieve zero carbon emissions. In the light of this, to grant a licence to produce a highly suspect fossil fuel would be nothing short of reckless.
Political responsibility – For all the above reasons, this matter must be treated with the utmost political seriousness. It would be totally improper, if not illegal, for it to be shuffled through by a civil servant in the temporary absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In particular, the study highlights that during peak hours of operation, fracking traffic can:
Lead to a 30% increase of NOx emmissions.
A single well pad can significantly increase levels of pollutants.
Increase noise pollution during night time hours.
Multiple pads operating can lead to a compounded effect in a localised area.
The paper discusses that despite the fact that fracking traffic increases may appear to be short, relative to the life time of the overall project, they can likely lead to sharp increases of pollutants and noise in the local area of operation:
“…examination of maximal results for phases with high traffic demand, even though the duration of those phases may be short, show substantial increases over the baseline, potentially leading to pollution exceedance events and breaches of local air quality standards, or increased annoyance and sleep disturbance in relation to noise.”
The paper points out that a solution that could mitigate the negative effects of fracking traffic, would be the implementation of pipelines that could transport water and chemicals instead:
“…fracking activities in the UK may be more able to follow existing onshore oil and gas exploration practice with water supply by pipeline, thus reducing reliance on road tanker transport.”
Furthermore, the paper states that by the mid 2020’s, there may be a reduction of traffic related NOx pollutants due to improvements of standards and regulations (EURO V and VI standards). The paper concedes that there is no real life data to back up the assumption and that the subject remains an area of active research as:
“It is anticipated and understood that NOx emissions rates will need to be updated as more knowledge on the real-world performance of EURO V HDVs, but especially EURO VI vehicles come to light. Performance of EURO V HDVs using de-NOxcatalysts (SCR), in conjunction with particle traps, has not lived up to initial promise.”
In conclusion, the paper states:
“Exploratory analyses using the model have revealed that the traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods, primarily involving the delivery of water and materials for fracking to the site. Modelling of NOx emissions showed increases reaching 30% over non-fracking periods and noise levels doubling (+ 3.4 dBA), dependent on access policy implemented to the site, potentially exacerbating existing environmental issues.”
In relation to County Fermanagh, it would be important for citizens to ask:
Would we prefer pipelines to trucks for transportation of fluids and would pipelines eradicated the need for fracking trucks?
How much of a detrimental effect would a 30% increase during peak hours affect the quality of our air, and the health of locals?
Will we see fracking trucks that can reduce NOx levels, despite the fact that there is no real life data to support the idea, in the face of the fact that particle traps (that capture NOx particles) have been shown not to work as effectively as promised?
How much of a nuisance will noise pollution actually be to our sleeping patterns?
Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.
The RAND Corporation and Carnegie Mellon University, who conducted the report, analysed the design life and reconstruction cost of roadways in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.
They found that local municipal roads are generally designed to support passenger vehicles, not heavy trucks, and that “the useful life of a roadway is directly related to the frequency and weight of truck traffic using the roadway.”
As a result, the study found that an increase in heavy road traffic, a characteristic feature of HVHF (due to transporting heavy materials and high volumes of fluids) will lead to an increase of road damage. And as a result, this can lead to an economic increase in the costs of road maintenance.
The study’s findings include:
Heavier vehicles cause exponentially greater roadway damage: A single axle with a 3,000-pounds load has a load equivalency factor (LEF) of 0.0011; for an 18,000-pound load, the LEF is 1.0; and for 30,000 pounds, it’s 8.28. “This means that 18,000-pound and 30,000-pound single-axle … do about 900 times and 7,500 times more damage than a 3,000-pound single axle pass, respectively.”
The estimated road-reconstruction costs associated with a single horizontal well range from $13,000 to $23,000. However, Pennsylvania often negotiates with drilling companies to rebuild smaller roads that are visibly damaged, so the researchers’ conservative estimate of uncompensated roadway damage is $5,000 and $10,000 per well.
While the per-well figure of $5,000-$10,000 appears small, the increasingly large number of wells being drilled means that substantial costs fall on the state: “Because there were more than 1,700 horizontal wells drilled [in Pennsylvania] in 2011, the statewide range of consumptive road costs for that year was between $8.5 and $39 million,” costs paid by state transportation authorities, and thus taxpayers.
This report should allow local residents to question the hidden, often overlooked cost of allowing the process of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing within county Fermanagh and beyond. Who will pay for the maintenance of local roads? Should the responsibility be left to local residents, or the local fracking company? If we were to leave the responsibility to the fracking company, can we ensure that they will pay for the damage of their practice? Leave your comments below.
Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.
As reported by national newspaper, The Guardian, an academic study has revealed that increased fracking traffic could lead to an increase of air pollution. The new study, published by Newcastle University was published in the Environmental InternationalJournal on Wednesday 24th February 2016.
The research found that the vast number of trucks required to transport water to and from unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) sites number in the thousands. With that volume of vehicles, comes an increased volume of the toxic gas, Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as NOX.
The study found that increases in NOX were estimated to be around 30% increase against the baseline at the busiest periods of traffic.
The study created a mathematical traffic model for a hypothetical six well site over an 85-week period. They found NOx emissions increased 6% over the course of the period, or between 18-30% for hourly NOx readings at the most intense periods of activity.
“The traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods,” the study said.
The study also supported long held warnings that fracking traffic will increase road damage and increase noise pollution in affected areas.
The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.
One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.
Topics covered by the compendium include:
Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
Threats to the Climate
Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
Inflated oil and gas reserves
Medical and scientific calls for more study
A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.
One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.
The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”
The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”
Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.
The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.
Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”
In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.
If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.
On the 8th of April 2014, Russia Today‘s ‘Keiser Report’ takes a look at proposed law changes that will allow fracking companies to drill and frack under private property without seeking permission and in exchange for 100 pounds.
Also given consideration is the fact that the energy input for unconventional shale gas extraction is higher than the energy output, resulting in an energy negative process, which increases national debt.