Independent monitoring urged for shale operations

15th July 2015

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An independent body should be established to monitor data from shale gas operations if and when they are established in the UK, according to the government's adviser on shale gas.

The recommendation came in the second report from the Taskforce on Shale Gas, which covers potential local environmental and health impacts.

A national advisory committee could provide an independent analysis of actual and potential impacts on public health to both policymakers and the public, it says.

Health watchdog Public Health England (PHE) should follow up on its 2013 report on shale gas once wells have been established and sufficient data is available, the taskforce said. PHE’s report concluded that the public health risk from shale gas operations is low as long as it is properly regulated.

The taskforce concludes that many problems associated with shale gas derive from historical poor practice in the US, rather than the process of fracking itself.

The report states: “It is worth noting that, in the taskforce’s opinion, current regulations in the UK are more rigorous and robust than those in operation in the US.”

Responsible shale gas operators should welcome strong regulation because it will prevent “cowboy” operators from entering the market, it adds.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Full disclosure by shale gas operators of the chemicals being used in their operations, with onsite monitoring by the Environment Agency.
  • Baseline monitoring of groundwater, air and soil to be established at the moment a potential site is identified, with oversight by community representatives and results made public.
  • Mandatory minimisation of onsite fugitive methane emissions.
  • The disposal of wastewater by deep injection should be avoided in the UK in line with current Environment Agency practice as it has been associated with earthquakes in the US.

The chair of the taskforce, Lord Chris Smith, said: “The evidence shows that many of the concerns associated with fracking are the result of poor practice elsewhere in the world, such as poorly constructed wells.

“It is therefore crucial that stringent regulations are established in the UK, as set out in our recommendations, in order to meet these legitimate concerns.”

UKOOG, the trade body for the onshore oil and gas industry, said that many of the recommendations are either already commonplace or will be introduced by the sector.

Its chief executive, Ken Cronin, said: “The tone of the report is geared towards creating a better understanding of hazard and risk which I think will be invaluable for those coming to this subject for the first time.”

But Daisy Sands, Greenpeace head of energy at Greenpeace said that the task force on shale gas is funded by shale gas companies including Cuadrilla, Centrica and Total and its recommendations should be “taken with a truck load of salt”.

The first report from the task force covered the regulatory process and planning. It will publish further reports covering the impacts of shale gas on the economy and climate change, with a final report due in spring next year.


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