Autumn fracking report round-up

A quick reference guide to research studies on fracking and oil and gas extraction published during October and November 2014. Key issues include:

  • Human rights of fracking
  • Potential health impacts of shale exploration in Lancashire
  • Impact of shale gas on the countryside
  • Public attitudes
  • Effect of environmental regulation on competitiveness
  • Impact of shale gas on carbon emissions and climate change policy
  • Gas a bridge to a low-carbon future
  • Water and chemicals in fracking
  • Earthquakes and fracking

Impacts of shale extraction

A human rights assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing and other unconventional gas development in the United Kingdom
Anna Grear, Evadne Grant, Tom Kerns, Karen Morrow, Damien Short
Commissioned by The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
October 30th 2014
Summary: The UK Government has a clear and urgent duty to fully investigate the human rights implications of fracking before authorising any exploratory or extractive fracking operations in the UK. It strongly recommends a moratorium on the conduct of fracking operations until such a time as a full , industry – independent, publicly funded Human Rights Impact Assessment has been properly undertaken and placed in the public domain.
Link and our report

Potential Health Impacts of the Proposed Shale Gas Exploration Sites in Lancashire
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire
Commissioned by Lancashire County Council
October 31st 2014
Summary: The prospect of Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites near Blackpool is already causing fear, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbance and depression among people living nearby. If the work goes ahead, the key risks to the health and wellbeing of local people, are identified as:

  • Poor mental health caused by stress and anxiety due to uncertainty/lack of public trust and confidence
  • Noise-related health effects due to continuous drilling
  • Treatment and disposal of flowback waste water

These risks could be overcome by regulators but are likely to be greatest for people living near Roseacre Wood site because this area is quieter and access to the proposed site would be along narrow roads.
Link and our report

What does shale extraction mean for farming and agriculture in the North West
Commissioned by the pro-shale North West Energy Task Force
Nov 2014
Summary: The development of natural gas from Lancashire shale could help farming to remain an important part of the northwest of England’s economy. Natural gas typically represents around two thirds of the cost of producing nitrate fertiliser. In the UK, the development of natural gas from Lancashire shale will help prevent local fertiliser producers from being driven out of business by cheaper energy abroad, improving both energy and food security

A review of the potential impact of shale gas and oil development on the UK’s countryside
The Petroleum and Renewable Energy Company Ltd
Commissioned by the Countryside Alliance
November 2014
Summary: Funding, oversight and research are needed to ensure that shale gas extraction does not cause irrevocable damage to the countryside and rural communities

Shale gas extraction: issues of particular relevance to the European Union
European Academies Science Advisory Council
October 2014
Summary: Looks at the impact of shale gas extraction on population density, methane emissions and on local communities
Full report and Executive summary

Innovation: Managing risk, not avoiding it – Evidence and Case Studies
Various authors commissioned by the Government Office for Science
November 2014
Summary: Considers the issue of risk and debate about risk and uses fracking as one of its case studies. The report was used as evidence by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor in his annual report

Evidence and case studies report

Annual report

Public attitudes

DECC Public Attitudes Tracker Wave 11
Department of Energy and Climate Change
November 4th 2014
Summary: Opposition to shale gas has overtaken support for the first time in an ongoing government study of public attitudes. 27% of those questioned opposed shale gas, compared with 26% who supported.

US post-election survey
Pew Research Centre
November 12th 2014
Summary: 47% of Americans now oppose fracking, compared with 41% who support. In March 2013, 48% supported, compared with 38% who opposed. The biggest fall in support has been amng women, voters under 49, those with some college education, Midwesterners and independent voters. Republicans support fracking by 62%; Democrats oppose by 59%.
Link (spool down to “Views on increased use of fracking tilt negative)

Lancashire voters three times more likely to vote for anti-shale candidates
Redshift Research
Commissioned by Greenpeace UK
November 26th 2014
Summary: A poll of 500 Lancashire residents found 63% of respondents were in favour of a fracking ban and 69% wanted more time to be allowed for a public debate before planning authorities decided on drilling licences. 56% said there were against fracking in the county and 63% were concerned about fracking being given the go-ahead.



The impacts of environmental regulations on competitiveness
Antoine Dechezlepretre and Misato Sato
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Global Green Growth Institute
November 2014
Summary: Environmental regulations make a small difference in productivity and employment, particularly in pollution/energy-intensive sectors. But regulations only marginally affect international competitiveness. The benefits of environmental regulations often vastly outweigh the costs and they induce innovation in green technologies.


Climate change and energy policy

World Energy Outlook 2014.
International Energy Agency
November 2014
Summary: even with existing and planned policies on reducing carbon emissions, fossil fuels will still account for 74% of energy demand by 2040. Oil, coal and gas will account for a quarter each. Under this prediction, energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 20% and global warming by more than 2C.
methane is 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions and limiting methane is one of the four measures need to stay within 2C of warming.
Link to summaries and background (report is paid-for)

UK Global Gas Challenge
Mike Bradshaw, Gavin Bridge, Stefan Bouzarovski, Jim Watson, Joseph Dutton
UK Energy Research Centre
November 2014
Summary: Significant shale gas production in the UK is unlikely to get underway until the early 2020s and is unlikely to reduce dependence on imports or reduce prices

A bridge to a low-carbon future? Modelling the Long-Term Global Potential of Natural Gas
Christophe McGlade, Mike Bradshaw, Gabrial Anandarajah, Jim Watson, Paul Ekins
UK Energy Research Centre
November 2014
Summary: By 2025, the time any shale gas industry is up and running in the UK, global gas consumption must have peaked and begin rapidly tailing off to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. Avoiding a 2C temperature rise relies on gas use beginning to fall in the late 202s and early 203s, with any major role beyond 2035 requiring widespread use of carbon capture and storage.

Low carbon jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy
Will Blyth, Rob Gross, Jamie Speirs, Steve Sorrell, Jack Nicholls, Alex Dorgan, Nick Hughes.
UK Energy Research Centre
November 2014
Summary: renewable energy and energy efficiency create up to ten times more jobs per unit of electricity generated or saved than fossil fuels. However, in itself labour intensity may not be a desirable quality and support for green jobs should not solely focus on short-term gains but also look towards long-term economic growth.

Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas
Haewon McJeon and others
October 2014
Summary: Increases in global supplies of unconventional natural gas will change the future energy system but is not necessarily a substitute for climate change mitigation policies. Increased use of gas does not discernibly reduce the rise in greenhouse gas emissions or their effect on climate change. Modelling suggests abundant shale gas will lead to additional gas consumption of up to 170% by 2050, resulting in CO2 emissions ranging from -2% to +11% and climate forcing of -0.3%-+7%.

Four Corners: The largest US methane anomaly viewed from space
Eric Kort and others
Nasa and University of Michigan
Geophysical Research Letters
October 16th 2014
Satellite monitoring study of methane emissions finds that an area of 2,500 sq miles in the SW USA produces the largest concentration of methane in the country. It released emissions more than 3.5 times the volume of the equivalent area of the EU. The area on the border of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah has released 0.59 m metric tons of methane in each year between 2003-9. The emissions are not attributed to fracking but to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country. The research suggests emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techinques are greater than inventoried.
Link to abstract


Shale gas and oil industry

Drilling Deeper: A reality check on the US government forecasts for a lasting tight oil and shale gas boom, part 3: shale gas
J David Hughes
Postcarbon institute
Summary: maintaining US shale gas production, let alone increasing it, will be problematic. Four of the top seven shale gas plays are already in decline, it says. The only increases in major plays are in  the Marcellus, along with gas from the Eagle Ford and oil from the Bakken.

Monster Wells: Despite drought, hundreds of fracking sites used more than 10 million gallons of water
Soren Runkquist and Bill Walker
Commissioned by the Environmental Working Group
November 18th 2014
Summary: water consumption at 261 fracking wells in Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado from 2010-13 amounted to +3bn gallons. About two-thirds of the wells were in areas with a water shortage. Bill Walker said: “The amount of water used in these wells is staggering, the water used to frack a single ‘monster well’ could meet the water needs of a drought-stricken county in Texas twice over.”

Major class of fracking chemicals no more toxic than common household substances
Imma Ferrer and Michael Thurman
University of Boulder, Colorado
November 12th 2014
Summary: surfactant chemicals found in samples of fracking fluid collected in five US states were no more toxic than substances commmonly found in homes. Surfactants reduce the surface tension of water, allowing for more oil to be extracted. The study found the chemicals were used in products from toothpaste to laxatives, detergents and ice cream. The authors caution that their results may not be applicable to all wells. Individual well operators use unique fracking fluid mixtures that may be modified depending on the underlying geology.
Link to summary

Oil and gas reserves around London
Tony Arbour
October 22nd 2014
Summary: London could benefit from a £94 billion and 46,000 jobs if 40% of shale oil and gas from the south east were recovered.
Link to research findings

Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study
Gregg Macey and others
October 30th 2014
Fracking can pollute the air with carcinogenic formaldehyde at levels twice as high as medical students experience when dissecting dead bodies. Levels of benzene around shale gas wells in the US were also up to 770,000 higher than usual background quantities and 33 times the concentration smelt by drivers filling up at petrol stations. Levels of hydrogen sulfide were also up to 60,000 times an acceptable odour threshold. Exposure for five minutes at one site in Wyoming was the equivalent of living in Los Angeles for two years or Beijin for eight and a half months.

Fracking’s toxic loophole
Environmental Integrity Project
October 22nd 2014
Several oil and gas companies are exploiting the Halliburton loophole in the US Safe Drinking Water Act to frack with petroleum-based products without a permit. A drilling company in West Texas injected up to 48,000 gallons of benzene last month. The use of ethylbenzene and other toxic chemicals appears to be common, despite potential threats to drinking water supplies and public health.

Geochemical tracers can ID fracking flowback fluids
National Science Foundation
Tracers have been developed to identify fracking flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment. The work uses the isotophic and geochemical fingerprints of enriched born and lithium in flowback fluid to detect if it has escaped into water supply and what risks, if any, this poses.
Link in Environmental Protection

Characterization of an earthquake sequence triggered by hydraulic fracturing in Harrison County, Ohio
Paul Friberg, Glenda M Besana-Ostman and Ilya Dricker
Seimological Research Letters
Finds the first evidence to link about 400 earthquakes with hydraulic fracturing in the Utica shale region of the US
Link to summary

Quantification of potential macroseismic effects of the induced seismicity that might result from hydraulic fracturing for shale gas exploitation in the UK
Rob Westaway and Paul L Younger
Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology
November 2014

Fracking firms must be allowed to cause far more significant earth tremors if the Government wants the shale gas industry to succeed


We’ve aimed to make this list as comprehensive as possible. If you know of studies that should be included, please get in touch with the details and we’ll add them to this page.

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