There’s a lot of research and reports out there on the risks of unconventional gas extraction. We’ve linked to some it it here. We’ve also included briefings from key environmental organizations and relevant policy statements from Government and regulators, Parliamentary reports and key documents relating to Scottish developments.
Free Range Energy briefing on Fracking and Coalbed Methane.
Policy and political
SEPA’s new Regulatory Guidance on Coalbed Methane and Shale Gas. Clearer than previous policy statement on Regulating Underground Coal Gasification, CO2 Storage, Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane Extraction Activities.
Letter from Scottish Energy Minister to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee detailing unconventional gas activity in Scotland as of May 2012.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round consultation. A map showing current areas under license for unconventional gas exploration and development.
Greenpark Energy’s 2009 Environmental Statement for its Canonbie coalbed methane development (now owned by Dart Energy). A letter from Greenpark to Dumfries and Galloway Council requesting a variation of planning permission in 2011, and a response from the Council to the effect that fracking is purely operational and has no impact on planning conditions.
Greenpark’s Hydrological Assessment as required by SEPA ahead of granting permission to frack at the Canonbie development – contains details of all the chemicals and quantities of chemicals in the fracking fluid the company proposed to use.
The Environmental Statement (non-technical summary) from Dart Energy’s 2012 application to Falkirk and Stirling Council’s for permission to develop 14 wells at Airth. Search the Council’s e-planning systems with references P/12/0521/FUL (Falkirk) and 12/00576/FUL (Stirling) for full application information.
UK research and reports
A 2012 report from the Tyndall Centre that concludes the impact of exploiting shale reserves in the UK would be devastating for climate change targets.
A report commissioned by Caudrilla following 2011 earth tremors at their gas site in Bowland, Lancashire which concluded fracking was the likely cause.
A report from the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineers that concludes fracking can be done safely if a whole raft of regulations are improved. The report does not however look at the climate change impacts of unconventional gas extraction, nor of the public acceptability of the industry, but strongly recommends that these are reviewed.
A brief study from Chatham House think tank on the Shale Gas Revolution that concludes the industry faces serious obstacles in Europe, there is considerable debate over the actual volume of recoverable resource, and that there are fears that unconventional gas will replace renewables, not coal.
Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) commissioned report Time to take our foot off the gas? into the wider context of increasing reliance on gas.
International research and reports
Australia is a good place to look to for the impacts of coalbed methane activities, as the coal seam gas industry – as they call it – is much more developed down under. The National Toxics Network has done extensive research into the impacts of drilling and fracking activities, including: a 2011 report into the health and environmental impacts of fracking in coal seam gas, and a 2012 update to that report; a submission to the New South Wales Government inquiry into coal seam gas; and for the chemists out there, a peer reviewed study into the halogenated contaminants from csg activities.
The study that first conclusively linked shale drilling with methane contamination in drinking water (Osborn et al, Duke University, 2011); a study detailing Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health (Bamberger & Oswald, 2012); and an article in Nature outlining evidence of air pollution from gas drilling sites in the USA.
The US Environmental Protection Agency study on the effects of fracking on drinking water and its draft findings from an investigation currently underway at Pavillion, Wyoming which indicate a conclusive link between fracking and water contamination. The findings are backed up by a recent report from the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The climate debate: the study from Cornell University that demonstrated how shale gas could have a greater climate impact than coal (Howarth et al, 2011); a response from Howarth’s colleagues at Cornell attempting to rubbish his study (Cathles et al, 2011 ); and Howarth’s response to that (Howarth et al, 2012).
The International Energy Agency’s Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, while the tone of the report is generally very positive about unconventional gas, it admits that the exploitation of reserves would likely result in missing global climate targets and less investment in renewables.
Friends of the Earth Europe report on the shale gas industry in Europe Unconventional and Unwanted, and a Deutsche Bank commodities special paper on EU Shale-Gas Prospects which concludes they are considerably less significant than in the USA.
A report from the University of Texas much relied upon by the unconventional gas industry which claimed to find no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing fluids at a number of key sites, and that groundwater contamination is not unique to developments that use fracking. Interestingly, the lead researcher on the project Dr Charles Groat has considerable financial interests in a fracking company. Far from reassuring us about fracking however, the study rings alarm bells about practices and techniques in the wider energy industry.