Fracking research update


Our round-up of recent research and reports on fracking and the onshore oil and gas industry. Please let us know if we’ve missed out a report that you think should be included. Click here to get in touch.

Reports and research are split between UK and US research. They’re then grouped into categories and listed in date order. To read more, click on the titles which are links to the original article or report.


Attitudes to fracking

Public engagement with shale gas and oil, report on findings from public workshops, prepared by TNS BMRB, 3rd December 2014
The report concluded that the Government’s commitment to shale development, and the fact licences had been granted, reduced confidence that decision-making bodies would be objective or have scope to make independent decisions, despite information suggesting otherwise.

Contested perspectives on fracking in the UK, Peter Jones, Daphne Comfort and David Hilier, University of Gloucester, 23rd February 2015
The report review the contested benefits and risks associated with the possible exploitation of shale resources in the UK.

Framing ‘fracking’: Exploring public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom, Laurence Williams, Phil Macnaghten, Richard Davies and Sarah Curtis, Public Understanding of Science, 14th July 2015
The authors concluded that government would not win public support for fracking by behaving like a “salesperson” for the technique. They also criticised what they called the “monologue” approach to public engagement by the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil and they called for a wider, more open debate.

Department of Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker – Wave 14, 4th August 2015
The latest results of this opinion poll suggested that the more people knew about fracking the more likely they were to oppose it. Support for fracking stood at 21%, its lowest level since surveying of public attitudes t shale gas began in December 2013.

Climate change

Assessing the impact of shale gas on climate change Third interim report from the Task Force on Shale Gas, 16th September 2015
The Task Force concluded that shale gas could help the UK move to a low-carbon economy over at least the next 15 years. But it said shale gas must not stop the development of renewables and low-carbon industries and carbon capture and storage would become essential if a shale gas industry developed at scale.


What does fracking mean?, Jo-Jo Mehta, June 2015
The campaigning author of this four-page leaflet said it is designed to “directly inform the public of what fracking looks like in production and what has resulted elsewhere from the practice”.

A guide to shale gas, Energy Institute, 5th August 2015
The Institute, which represents the energy industry, said this 20-page document aimed to bring scientific and technical accuracy to the debate and to help readers expand their knowledge of the subject.


Health and Fracking: the impacts & opportunity costs, Medact, 30th March 2015
This report concludes that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas poses significant risks to public health and calls for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full and comprehensive health and environmental impact assessment to be completed.

Human rights

Extreme Energy, Fracking and Human Rights: A New Field for Human Rights Impact Assessments, Damien Short, Jessica Elliot, Kadin Norder, Edward Lloyd-Davies and Joanna Morley, The International Journal of Human Rights, Corporate Power and Human Rights, March 2015
The study concluded the state violated human rights in the way it responded to UK anti-fracking protests.

Policing linked to onshore oil and gas operations – a Netpol briefing on the National Police chief’s council Guidance, 7th September 2015
Netpol said the briefing overs five areas, including the scale of police operations directed at small peaceful protests and why police forces undertake intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking campaigners. It also looked at the role of Police Liaison Officers and sought clarification about how open the new police guidance wouldbe. Netpol asked 18 questions that it thughtthe police should answer.

Local impacts

Residential research report: The Impact of onshore gas exploration activities on local house prices, Report prepared for the pro-shale North West Energy Taskforce, March 2015
Concluded that plans by Cuadrilla to frack in the Fylde region of Lancashire would not affect house prices. Opponents of fracking criticised the quality of the research.

Draft Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts paper, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, published in unredacted form 8th June 2015
The report predicted that shale gas operations could wipe up to 7% off house prices, as well as increase rents, insurance premiums and traffic congestion. It also said fracking could lead to declines rural businesses, greater noise and air pollution, pressure on services, burdens on waste water treatment and industrialisation of the countryside.


The opportunity in every difficulty: attitudes to shale gas development in the UK, Ricardo, 10th December 2014
Based on interview results, the engineering consultancy concluded that more than half those questioned were not confidence that local had adequate expertise or resources to address environmental risks in fracking applications.

Fracking: Minding the gaps, Joanne Hawkins, Environmental Law Review, March 2015
The author argues that there are gaps present in European Union and national controls on fracking and that the system governing fracking is far from satisfactory. She calls for a more precautionary approach to regulation.

Planning, Regulation and Local Engagement, First interim report of the Task Force on Shale Gas, 25th March 2015
The report concluded: “A single regulator with overall responsibility is more likely to provide the clear and transparent framework necessary to build public confidence on this issues.”

An objector’s guide to fracking: the planning system and High Court Challenges, Leigh Day, 29th June 2015
The law firm which wrote this guide says it is intended to support individuals, community groups and NGOs in objecting to planning applications for fracking and challenging decisions of local planning authorities in the High Court.

Assessing the impact of shale gas on the local environment and health, Second interim report of the Task Force on Shale Gas, 15th July 2015
The report concluded that fracking would be safe for local people and the environment only if the drilling was done to the highest standard and operations were rigorously monitored and regulated.


Fracking pollution: How toxic chemicals from fracking could affect wildlife and people in the UK and EU, Briefing by Chemtrust, 1st June 2015
The authors conclude that the use of chemicals, combined with substances that flowback from underground, makes fracking a potentially significant source of air, land and water pollution. They call for disclosure of all chemicals, stronger regulation (even when wells are no longer used) and effective monitoring and enforcement.


Anthropogenic earthquakes in the UK: A national baseline prior to shale exploitation, Miles P Wilson, Richard J Davies, Gillian R Foulger, Bruce R Julian, Peter Styles, Jon g Gluyas, Sam Almond, in Marine and Petroleum Geology, funded by ReFINE, 9th September 2015
The study concluded that the UK experienced three earthquakes a year due to human activity, mostly because of coal mining. It set a national baseline that would detect any rise in earthquakes following any expansion of shale gas exploration.


Attitudes to fracking

Who Needs a Fracking Education? The Educational Response to Low-Skill Biased Technological Change, Elizabeth U Cascio and Ayushi Narayan, The National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2015
The authors found in states, such as North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania, the drop-out rate of high school males increased by more than 6% from 2006-13. The gap between female and male graduation rates rose by more than 11%.

“No Fracking Way!” Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010 to 2013, Ion Bogdan Vasi, Edward T Walker, John S Johnson, Hui Fen Tan, American Sociological Review 1st September 2015
The authors concluded that Gasland contributed to greater online searching about fracking, increased social media activity and heightened mass media coverage. Local screenings of the film mobilized anti-fracking activity, which in turn affected the passage of local fracking moratoria in the Marcellus Shale region.

Climate change

The geological distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2oC, Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins, Nature, January 2015
The authors suggest that a third of known oil reserves, half of gas and over 80% of coal reserves need to remain unused from 2010-2015 to avoid exceeding 2 degrees of warming.


Onshore petroleum and natural gas operations on federal and tribal lands in the United States, analysis of emissions and abatement opportunities, ICF for Environmental Defence Fund, 22nd June 2015
ICF estimated that vented loss from oil and natural gas operations amounted to over 65 billion cubic feet in 2013, with a value of $360 million. The authors said the losses were main methane and described them as “an irresponsible use of taxpayer and tribal resources, and harmful to the climate.”

Drivers of the US CO2 emissions 1997-2013, Kuishuang Feng, Steven J Davis, Laixiang Sun and Klaus Hubacek, Nature Communications, 21st July 2015
The authors concluded that the 11% fall in US CO2 emissions – widely attributed to the replacement of coal with gas in electricity production – were largely a result of economic recession. Changes in fuel mix played a minor role.

Methane Concentrations in Water Wells Unrelated to Proximity to Existing Oil and Gas Wells in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Donald I. Siegel, Nicholas A. Azzolina, Bert J. Smith, A. Elizabeth Perry∥, and Rikka L. Bothun, Environmental Science and Technology, 12th March 2015
The authors found no statistically significant relationship between dissolved methane concentrations in groundwater from domestic water wells and proximity to pre-existing oil or gas wells.

Constructing a Spatially Resolved Methane Emission Inventory for the Barnett Shale Region, David R. Lyon, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Ramón A. Alvarez, Robert Harriss, Virginia Palacios, Xin Lan, Robert Talbot, Tegan Lavoie∥, Paul Shepson, Tara I Yacovitch, Scott C Herndon, Anthony J Marchese, Daniel Zimmerle, Allen L Robinson, and Steven P Hamburg, Environmental Science and Technology, July 7, 2015
The study’s inventory of methane emissions was higher than alternate inventories by a factor of 1.5-4.3.

Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales Thomas H Darraha, Avner Vengosha, Robert B Jacksona, Nathaniel R Warnera, and Robert J Poredae, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 12th August 2014
This study found that contamination of drinking water in the Marcellus and Barnett Shales were caused by faulty wells.

Methane emissions from United States natural gas gathering and processing, Anthony J Marchese, Timothy L Vaughn, Daniel J Zimmerle, David M Martinez, Laurie L Williams, Allen L Robinson Austin L Mitchell, R Subramanian, Daniel S Tkacik, Joseph R Roscioli, and Scott C Herndon, Environmental Science & Technology, 18th August 2015
The authors concluded that methane emissions from natural gas gathering and processing facilities were higher than the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates and represented 30% of the total net methane emissions in natural gas systems.

Environmental impacts

Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on fracking, New York’s Department for Environmental Conservation, 15th May 2015
The outcome of seven years of research. It concluded: “Even with mitigation measures in place, the risk of spills and other unplanned events resulting in the discharge of toxic pollutants over a wide area would not be eliminated. Moreover, the level of risk such spills pose to public health is highly uncertain.”


Compendium of scientific, medial and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction), Concerned Health Professionals of NY, 2nd edition, 11th December 2014
The authors conclude that there is growing evidence that regulations are not capable of preventing harm because the number of wells and attendant infrastructure keeps increasing and because fracking’s many component parts are not controllable.

Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling Is Associated with Increased Hospital Utilization Rates Thomas Jemielita , George L. Gerton , Matthew Neidell, Steven Chillrud, et al. PloS ONE, July 15, 2015.
The data suggests that unconventional gas and oil drilling wells were associated with increase inpatient prevalence rates within specific medical categories in Pennsylvania.

Environmental and health impacts of ‘fracking’: why epidemiological studies are necessary Madelon L Finkel and Jake Hays, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
This commentary concluded there were significant uncertainties about adverse health outcomes that may be associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing because there are few well-designed epidemiological studies. The authors say this gives them cause for concern. 11th August 2015


Well stimulation in California Volumes two and three, California Council on Science and Technology, 9th July 2015
The study identified the need for more data analysis on fracking in California, management of direct and indirect impacts, waste water management, added protection to avoid groundwater contamination, controls on emissions and their impact on human health.

Modelling of the number of wells and their likely impact needed to fully exploit shale in the Delaware River Basin, Steven Habicht, Lars Hanson and Paul Faeth, August 2015
The study aimed to model the landscape and estimate the number of wells needed to exploit fully the Marcellus shale in the Delaware River Basin


Fracking’s most wanted: lifting the veil on oil and gas company spills and violations National Resources Defence Council, 2nd April 2015
The report concluded that oil and gas companies in 33 US states could avoid heightened public scrutiny because data about violations of safety and pollution rules were, in effect, hidden from residents. Only Colorado, Pennsylvania and West Virginia made data on violations easily accessible to the public.


Earthquakes Induced by Hydraulic Fracturing in Poland Township, Ohio, Robert J. Skoumal, Michael R. Brudzinski, and Brian S. Currie, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 6th January 2015
The study linked earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio, to fracking that activated a previously unknown fault.

Hydraulic fracturing and the Crooked Lake Sequences: Insights gleaned from regional seismic networks, Ryan Schultz, Virginia Stern, Mark Novakovic, Gail Atkinson, Yu Jeffrey Gu, Geophysical Research Letters, 23rd April 2015
The authors concluded that a new sequence of earthquakes in central Alberta, Canada, are related to hydraulic fracturing.

Water use, flowback and fracking fluid

Chemical constituents and analytical approaches for hydraulic fracturing waters, Imma Ferrer, E. Michael Thurman, Trends in environmental analytical chemistry, February 2015
The study found that organic additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids included solvents, gels, biocides, scale inhibitors, friction reducers, surfactants and other related compounds.

Toxic Stew, What’s in Fracking Wastewater, Tasha Stoiber, Environmental Working Group, March 10, 2015.
Analysis of data from California found waste water from fracking of oil and gas wells was heavily contaminated with chemicals known to causes cancer or reproductive harm.

Characterization of hydraulic fracturing flowback water in Colorado: Implications for water treatment, Yaal Lestera, Imma Ferrerb, E. Michael Thurmanb, Kurban A Sitterleya, Julie A Koraka, George Aikenc and Karl G Lindena, in Science of the total environment, 15th April 2015
The authors analysed the chemical composition of oil and gas well flowback water from the Denver-Julesburg basin in Colorado. The flowback contained salts, metals and high levels of dissolved organic matter, comprising fracturing fluid additives and degradation products.

Study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 5th June 2015
The EPA’s draft assessment of the potential impacts to drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing for public comment and peer review. In August, nearly 100,000 Americans urged the EPA to redo the study.

What’s NORMal for Fracking? Estimating Total Radioactivity of Produced Fluids, Lindsey Konkel, University of Iowa, Environmental Health Perspectives, 1st July 2015
Estimates of total reactivity for a mixture of isotopes in liquid fracking waste from the Marcellus Shale.

The depths of hydraulic fracturing and accompanying water use across the United States, Robert B. Jackson, Ella R Lowry, Amy Pickle∥, Mary Kang, Dominic DiGiulio, and Kaiguang Zhao, Environmental Science and Technology, 21st July 2015
The study found 16% of US wells were fractured less than a mile from the surface and 6% were fractured above 900m. The authors called for special safeguards for shallow wells.

License to Dump: Despite Ban, New York Permits Pennsylvania to Dump Radioactive Fracking Waste Inside Our Borders, Environmental Advocates of New York, 2015
Study concluded that New York has accepted 460,000 tons of solid fracking waste and 23,000 barrels of liquid waste from Pennsylvania. Leachate from landfills is often treated at wastewater plants, which are not capable of removing radioactivity from water.

Water footprint of hydraulic fracturing, Andrew Kondash and Avner Vengosh, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 15th September 2015
The study looked at the overall water footprint of hydraulic fracturing throughout the US. From 2005-2014, unconventional gas extraction used 708 bn litres and oil used 232 bn litres. Annual water use rates from 2012-14 were 116 bnl (gas) and 66bnl (oil). The authors concluded that while fracking had increased water use and waste water production, the industry’s water use and produced water was lower than other energy extraction methods and represented only a fraction of total industrial water use nationwide.

Please let us know if we’ve missed out a report that you think should be included by clicking here.

More reports and research here

3 replies »

    • Hi Kate
      Thanks for your generous comment. Hope you find it useful. And if you think of anything that’s missing, please let me know.
      Best wishes, Ruth

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