Managing water key for shale sites

3rd October 2014

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water


Michael Connelly

Effective management of water at shale gas exploration sites is now the main concern of water companies rather than its availability, following engagement between the two industries.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Water UK and the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) last November to ensure cooperation because extracting shale resources requires large amounts of water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking).

Since then a task group from both industries has been meeting regularly to discuss issues around fracking and water, a spokesman for Water UK said.

As a result, the providers believe that the main challenge will be ensuring surface water is not polluted when it returns from underground fracking operations. “We feel that we understand the risks a lot better now,” he said. “We feel the main area of risk is making sure they are no spills on site.”

Last month, the World Resources Institute published a report warning that companies developing shale resources are likely to face serious challenges in accessing freshwater in many parts of the world.

It highlighted water stress in areas of the UK where shale gas resources have been identified, such as the Bowland area in Lancashire and the Wessex-Weald area in the South East.

Companies developing shale resources in the UK could face regulatory and reputational risks if they do not actively engage with local stakeholders on water security, the institute warned.

Competition with other industrial water users and residents could cause costs to rise, it warned.

Globally, the institute found that 38% of shale resources are in areas that are either arid or under high extreme levels of water stress; 19% are in areas of high or extreme seasonal variability; and 15% are in locations exposed to high or extreme drought, the report states.

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