The water and energy industries met under one roof today to talk fracking.
A conference, hosted by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, heard from regulators, the shale industry, consultancies, academics and a campaign organisation.
Here are extracts from the presentations and discussions.
“We felt that the regulatory landscape for shale gas and in fact for all onshore extractive industries is over complex. Not just for the industry, but for communities who are affected to know who it is they ought to put their trust in. DECC are involved, the EA are involved, the HSE are involved. We recommended there should be a single regulatory body in due course taking over and grouping together all the responsibilities of those three bodies.” Lord Smith, Chair of the Shale Gas Task Force
“You are going to have to have a regulatory system that is tougher than you need – but you need that for a whole load of other reasons. You do not want to be where you are now in 20 years’ time.” Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator, Angling Trust
Talking to communities
“Talk to communities, explain it [fracking] to them. They may not like it. They may like it. Then let them decide.” Dr Tarek Saba, Principal Scientist, Exponent
“One of the roles of the BGS is to put information in the public domain. We can put very complex information on our website but that can confuse people. We are endeavouring to put information in the public domain that is simple and accessible but then people can mine down into more detailed material. As part of the Lancashire monitoring I have been into the community as a honest broker and I have learned a lot. It has been important to get messages across. There are big groups of people who are worried” Professor Rob Ward, Director of Science, British Geological Survey
“A large part of my job over the past 18 months has been going out into Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Sussex. We need to be visible there, explaining to people what we are doing. The industry has a role to do that too.” Tony Almond, Onshore Oil and Gas and Geothermal Policy, Health and Safety Executive
“We have to communicate with people. They are quite technical issues. At the moment operators have to be honest about what they are doing”. David Petrie, Communication Manager, UKOOG, on secondment from IGas
“There is a problem of trust. The EA [Environment Agency] currently has a large degree of public trust, as does the HSE. We are at a point where the industry is not trusted. A new [single] regulator would need to have public trust. This is a genuine problem. [A new single regulator] might not be a wise move”. Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator, Angling Trust
Opposition to shale gas
“Do not just put people opposed to shale gas in the ‘loony lab’. There is a very strong case against [shale] on climate change grounds. That is one big hole in the fracking case. If we carry on burning fossil fuels we will not hit our climate change targets”. Martin Salter, National Campaigns Coordinator, Angling Trust
The Infrastructure Act requires baseline monitoring for 12 months before fracking can take place. So is 12 months long enough?
“It might be, it might not be. I think in some situations you may not need a year. However, where you have a dynamic system it may not be dissimilar to surface water where you have big fluctuations….The longer you monitor, the more you reduce uncertainty. If you monitor for 12 months, how do you know you have a typical year?” Professor Rob Ward, Director of Science, British Geological Survey
“Baseline monitoring supports the permitting and consent process. It helps to establish a culture of transparency and disclosure. We will not get a social licence if we do not do that.” Steve Thompsett, Executive Director, UK Onshore Oil and Gas
“From the way the [Infrastructure] Act is written, the level of monitoring could be satisfied by one sample in a 12-month period”. Dr Ian Campbell, Environmental Scientist, AECOM
Disclosure of frack fluid
“Industry is 100 per cent committed to disclosing frack fluid. We are producing this in a standardised format on websites. It is much easier to understand material from an anti-fracking organisation than a six page rebuttal. But that is the challenge.” David Petrie, Communication Manager, UKOOG, on secondment from IGas
Fracking with non-drinking water
“The dirtier the water, the more chemicals you need. It is not quite as simple as using non-potable water. The biggest challenges are to do with waste.” Dr Jim Marshall, Water UK.
Fracture propagation to the aquifer
“As a scientist you do not want to say this [propagation of fractures to the level of the aquifer] will not happen but it is very unlikely.” Dr James Verdon, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol
Academics and fracking
“We [academics] are pressured to be relevant. Academics are under pressure to write about fracking. Some of those that do might not have the expertise”. Dr James Verdon, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol
Updated 8/7/15 to add Lord Smith’s comments from Infrastructure Intelligence