Four more reports on fracking

i Mar 31st No Comments by

The recently published Medact report on the health impacts of fracking mentions that “There are now over 450 peer-reviewed publications in this
field, consisting of studies, reviews and commentaries. “

Some of the key ones are the December 2014 review of evidence by the New York State Department of Health (already published on this site), plus four other reports not seen here before:

The evidence is very, very clear.

Anybody who ignores it is either:

a) unintelligent, or
b) lying, and
c) doesn’t care about the health of the people or the other negative impacts, which are now very well known and well documented.

Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing

i Mar 24th No Comments by

In 2011 the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce asked 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types and volumes of the hydraulic fracturing products they used in their fracking fluids between 2005 and 2009.

The resulting report can be accessed here.

The relevant extract from the Executive Summary reads [emphasis added]:

“Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.

Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid [though do you want these added to your groundwater?]. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.



The most widely used chemical in hydraulic fracturing during this time period, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical, was methanol. Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.



“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.



“The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.

“In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify. “

A Canadian experience

i Oct 3rd No Comments by

Jessica Ernst (a consultant with the gas and oil industry in the US and Canada for 30 years) talks about her direct experiences of fracking:

Fracking industry will be minimally regulated in UK

i Sep 23rd 1 Comment by
Fracking in McKittrick, California.

Fracking in McKittrick, California.

The Government has repeatedly claimed that there would be a ‘gold standard’ of regulation for the fracking industry. However, letters obtained by the Guardian show that the industry will be minimally regulated, there is confusion within the government about which department is responsible, and that no government body has overall control over the industry.

This week Cuadrilla announced they had discovered 200tr cu ft of shale gas below Lancashire, and is hoping to drill thousands of gas wells. However, local residents, environmentalists and engineers fear that shale gas extraction could potentially devastate water supplies near where fracking takes place, because methane or chemicals used in the process could leak into ground water.

Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University, called for a moratorium on drilling: “The best evidence indicates widespread contamination of drinking water wells within 1km of gas wells. A moratorium is necessary to step back and better study the risks to water quality, air quality, and global warming.”

Read the full details in the Guardian article.

And it’s also interesting to read George Monbiot’s comments on the role of climate change minister Charles Hendry.

Myths and Facts on Fracking

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

FFR LogoI have been learning about fracking off and on for over a year now, and have been heavily involved in Frack Free Ryedale for just over two months.

I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the key learnings I have made during this time – a summary of the “myths and facts about fracking”, if you like.

I enclose it below, with links to some of the key sources I have found.

I hope it is a reasonably comprehensive and well-referenced source. (And it barely even begins to talk about the health impacts, or the volumes of traffic and water, or…).

Myth 1: Fracking is a 60-year-old, proven technology

Fact: The way fracking is currently being done is a new combination of four different technologies that has only been tried since 2007. There are still problems with it.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/q256zzf
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 2: Fracking is a ‘green’ fossil fuel

Fact: While it is true to say that burning methane (natural gas) obtained by fracking produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal, this is not the full story. During the drilling process, methane is also released into the atmosphere, or burned off by ‘flaring’. If these full impacts are considered, then the greenhouse gas / climate change impact of fracked gas is even worse than coal.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/qy8ewmj
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 3: Fracking is a cheap source of fuel

Fact: The price of solar electricity is falling fast. Citibank, UBS and other banks have recently issued reports advising investors to get out of fossil fuels. Citibank says that solar electricity will achieve “grid parity” even in Britain, by 2020. UBS, the world’s largest private bank, says big power stations in Europe could be redundant “within 10-20 years.”

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/q5vo8mm
(“UBS urges investors to join renewables revolution”, Guardian, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/q8sorn2
(“Oil industry on borrowed time as switch to gas and solar accelerates”, Daily Telegraph, August 2014)
– http://tinyurl.com/kkemuhn
(“Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete”, Guardian, July 2014)

Myth 4: Fracking creates jobs

Fact: Fracking does create some jobs, in the oil and gas industry. These do not benefit local people. Friends in the USA (near the Canadian border) have described how the economy of their small rural town was affected when large numbers of single men moved in.

Fracking also destroys jobs. The main industries here in Ryedale are farming and tourism. Animals and crops in the USA have died after coming into contact with waste fracking water. And you can guess what the impact on tourism would be if there were eight fracking pads per square mile in Ryedale (which is standard, and which was requested in the planning applications for 3,000 wells in Sussex.)

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/l3pqcap
(Website of frack-off (UK), section on Agriculture and Animal Health, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/kawlo87
(“Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers”, Bloomberg, February 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/k7dkeqm
(“Fracking frontline as Sussex has 15 licences to drill”, The Argus, December 2012)

Myth 5: Fluid migration from faulty wells is rare

Fact: Fluid migration from faulty wells is a well known long-term problem, with an expected rate of occurrence. About one in twenty wells fail in their first year of operation. With 8 well pads per square mile, and 6-20 wells per pad, that is a lot of failed wells. After 15 years 50% of wells will be leaking. And eventually all wells fail. A recent report in Pennsylvania listed 243 cases in six years where companies prospecting for fracking were found by state regulators to have contaminated drinking water.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/puo8b7h
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/ouv3pz7  http://tinyurl.com/l76ztgp
(“Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling”, Wall Street Journal, August 2014)

Myth 6: Fracking only uses fluids you would find in most households

Fact: While many of the chemicals used in fracking are probably also found in households, the point is do you want them in your drinking water?

The fact is also that the USA has passed legislation forbidding people from disclosing what chemicals fracking companies use. And when the water is pumped out of the ground it contains a variety of heavy metal salts and radioactive elements that it has picked up underground. When these are pumped back underground they can cause earthquakes and contaminate drinking water.

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/chkk7cn
(Physicians for Social Responsibility website, June 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/q858ulo
(Catskill Mountaineer website, undated, viewed September 2014)

Myth 7: Fracking only causes tiny earthquakes

Fact: The process of fracking does cause small earthquakes. What causes bigger earthquakes is reinjecting the dirty fracking water back into ground, (in the same way that Third Energy is applying for planning permission to inject large amounts of waste water at Ebberston Moor near Pickering).

In Oklahoma, injecting waste fracking fluids is now causing hundreds of earthquakes per year, where there used to be very few. The largest so far registered 5.6 on the Richter scale and caused millions of dollars worth of damage. Could the roller-coaster at Flamingoland or the Temple of Winds at Castle Howard withstand a 5.6 earthquake?

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/mc7luak
(“Why fracking may be responsible for increased earthquakes in Oklahoma”, GlobalNews.ca, May 2014)

Myth 8: Fracking is good for the economy

Facts: The growth of fracking has been financed by debt, not profits: speculators are gambling on a return.

In the meantime, the reality for people who own homes close to actual or proposed fracking sites in the UK is that house values have plummeted dramatically. The value of one woman’s house in Lancashire fell by 70% as a result of a nearby proposed fracking site. When the government was called upon to publish its own report into the likely effect of fracking on house prices and rural communities, it blanked out all of the key predictions.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/kp3dbek
(“Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale”, Bloomberg, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/lyjzp9d
(“Fracking threat wiped £535,000 off my home’s value”, Daily Mail, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/ps99xwj
(“The fracking cover-up: Defra censors key report 63 times in 13 pages”, Daily Mail, August 2014)

And a last-minute addition: on why fracking is a ponzi scheme: http://tinyurl.com/olhwbe3
(“Shale Fracking is a “Ponzi Scheme””, GlobalResearch.ca, September 2014)

And here’s a list of just some of the people and animals harmed so far by fracking:
– http://tinyurl.com/6oz29yq
(“Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Dedicated citizens fighting to protect our most valuable resources”, September 2014)

Example of misinformation on fracking

i Sep 20th No Comments by

Screen shot 2014-09-20 at 09.52.32Just as not everybody says they believe in climate change, and some people say the Earth is flat, not everybody agrees about fracking.

As somebody with a degree in physics from Oxford University I am trained to look at the facts. And frankly I would love it if fracking were as safe and beneficial as some people say it is.

So, the announcement of a study by Stanford University was exciting to me. It offers the promise of an objective comparison of the environmental costs and benefits of fracking as compared against coal, nuclear, wind and solar energy.

Stanford has published an outline to the study here, published 12 September. And the full study is on this page.

Unfortunately, reading the outline, the problems start almost immediately:

“Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking,” said Stanford environmental scientist Robert Jackson, who led the new study. “The key is to reduce the environmental costs as much as possible, while making the most of the environmental benefits.”

This raises a red flag to me. Any true study would be open to the possibility of finding that fracking (or solar energy) was so dangerous that society should shut it down immediately. Surely that is what the study is trying to find out? Any ‘study’ that opens with  a statement, “Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking” has already reached its conclusions before it even starts. This is not a study at all. This looks like the setup for a whitewash job.

But I keep an open mind and read on. (more…)

243 cases of drinking water contamination by fracking in Pennyslvania

i Aug 31st 2 Comments by
Fracking water in the USA - fit for drinking?

Fracking water in the USA – fit for drinking?

Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

The 243 cases, from 2008 to 2014, include some where a single drilling operation impacted multiple water wells. The problems listed in the documents include methane gas contamination, spills of waste water and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the problems were temporary, but the names of landowners were redacted, so it wasn’t clear if the problems were resolved to their satisfaction. Other complaints are still being investigated.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

This news will worry anyone in the UK who is close to a fracking site, which is pretty much all of us. We believe that fracking can never be safe, as wells and their casings crack over time and accidents happen during the fracking process. If you value your drinking water, say no to fracking.

Secret emails reveal officials knew about fracking water threat

i Aug 30th No Comments by
Tap water near a fracking site in the USA.

Tap water near a fracking site in the USA.

The risk that drinking water in Sussex could be contaminated by fracking chemicals was known by the Government more than a year ago, previously secret documents reveal. Ministers were privately briefed by the Environment Agency (EA) that fracking near aquifers – underground rocks which contain water – should not be permitted.

In a private memo, revealed by Greenpeace through Freedom of Information requests to Number Ten, a senior EA official writes: “The Environment Agency would not allow hydraulic fracking to take place in an area where there are aquifers used to supply drinking water. If there were sensitive ground waters present in an area where a company wanted to carry out hydraulic fracturing, we would object during the company’s planning application and refuse to grant an environmental permit.”

fracking_water[1]However, this guidance was not released to the public and the EA’s head of climate change later changed the wording on a public statement related to the issue so as not to create “too stark a message” about shale gas drilling.

Read the full article from the Argus here.

This underlines two things: 1) the government knows that there is a clear and present danger that fracking would contaminate our water supply, and 2) government agencies are doing all they can to cover up this information and mislead the public.

Radioactive water to be pumped back into ground on North York Moors

i Aug 21st No Comments by
Gas drilling at Ebberston in the North York Moors National Park

Gas drilling at Ebberston in the North York Moors National Park

Third Energy, the same company who is behind the survey in Ryedale, is set to begin working Ebberston Moor in the North York Moors after winning permission to get rid of a vast amount of potentially radioactive waste water – that will come up with the gas – by pumping it back into the ground.

According to documents seen by The Independent on Sunday, the Environment Agency (EA)  has been warned that public water supplies could be affected. Yorkshire Water is concerned about the re-injection well which will travel through the rock from which they draw water, called the Corallian limestone aquifer. In submissions to the EA the water company said the water re-injection may “directly affect their asset”.

Russell Scott, of Frack Free Yorkshire, said: “Third Energy intends to inject via mechanical means a total of 5.88 million cubic metres of waste over a nine-year period. Third Energy’s suggestion this process will not have any negative impacts on the integrity of the well casing protecting our drinking water from the injected waste is simply ridiculous.”

Read the full article here.

Cornell University engineer on Fracking

i Aug 14th No Comments by

In this short talk, Dr Anthony Ingraffea of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department of Cornell University talks about:

  • why fracking is not a “60 year old tried and tested” technology
  • how pretty much all wells leak within a few years, and why this is
  • how fracked gas is not a ‘clean’ fossil fuel: in fact it is dirtier than coal

In his talks he also recommends the following two sites as sources of reliable, fact-led information about fracking:

http://www.earthworksaction.org/reform_governments/oil_gas_accountability_project

http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/