Biggest health threat from fracking is climate change – new report

Medact report

Encouraging fracking is unsafe and irresponsible, according to a new report, which concludes that the biggest health threat from shale gas is its contribution to global climate change.

The findings, from the London-based health charity, Medact, updated research released in April last year. That said significant and unavoidable health hazards were linked to shale gas production and they were a risk to the wellbeing of local communities.

The latest report, published this morning, was based on a review of recent evidence and a public health assessment of unconventional shale gas production in England.

The lead author, Dr David McCoy, said:

“The biggest threat posed by shale gas is via global warming.

“Shale gas not only produces carbon dioxide upon combustion but is also an extremely potent greenhouse gas in its own right.

“Global warming poses a potentially catastrophic threat. Given the recent and alarming trend of rising atmospheric methane concentrations, as well as the disturbing changes we are seeing with the world’s climate and weather patterns, encouraging shale gas production would not just be unsafe, but also irresponsible.”

Speaking at the launch, John Middleton, the in-coming President of the Faculty of Public Health, said one of the most important actions for governments was to commit to investment in 100% renewables.

“Building an energy economy based on renewables will enable us to secure our energy supply and to tackle fuel poverty. This would reduce excess winter deaths and cold-related hospital admissions. It is time for us to leave new fossil fuels in the ground.”

The report said claims that shale gas would displace coal in the UK were “clearly bogus” because substitution of coal by gas had already mostly occurred. Shale should, instead, be compared with other sources of electricity and heating, it said.

“The fact that shale gas will not displace coal as an energy source in the UK and will instead hinder the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies are additional reasons for opposing SGP in the UK at this point in time.”

Medact repeated its call for the UK to abandon its policy of encouraging shale gas. The report argued:

“Given the availability of alternative sources of energy, these are grounds for placing an indefinite moratorium on SGP [shale gas production] (a position adopted by many jurisdictions across the world) until such time that there is greater clarity and certainty about the relative harms and benefits of shale gas.”

Other health risks

Campaigners sent the earlier version of the Medact report to MPs and members of local councils considering shale gas applications. It was accompanied by legal letters before action, warning politicians that they had a duty of care to their constituents.

Today’s report said there were direct risks to the health and wellbeing of local people living near shale gas sites.

“Hazardous pollutants carrying risks to environment and people are produced at all stages of shale gas production.”

According to Medact, these include: methane; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene; particulate matter (PM); oxides of nitrogen; hydrogen sulphide; silica; heavy metals such as lead, selenium, chromium and cadmium; and naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM).

Dr McCoy said:

“What is striking is the lack of an integrated social, economic, environmental and health impact assessment of fracking”.

“In our view, proponents of shale gas have tended to under-estimate the health and environmental risks, whilst over-estimating its local economic benefits.”

The latest report made no direct links between pollutants and illness. It said:

“Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects.”

It also conceded that society tolerated industrial and commercial practices that were considerably more harmful than shale gas production to the environment and human health. It said nuclear, solar and wind energy had their own negative social, health and environmental impacts.

But Medact said there was potential for direct harm from shale gas through:

  1. Adverse reproductive outcomes from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
  2. Risk of respiratory effects from ozone and smog
  3. Stress, anxiety, mistrust, fear arising from nuisance and actual/perceived social and economic disruption

Regulation concerns

Medact said it remained concerned about the UK’s regulatory framework. The report said:

“The cumulative and synergistic risks of chemical, physical and psychosocial stressors of multiple wellpads and boreholes across a relatively densely populated and economically active, rural landscape will pose a health and environmental threat, particularly if regulation is inadequate and if tight profit margins cause companies to take shortcuts and minimise costs.

“It is therefore important that regulation would be able to keep the level of risk to an acceptable level, and that the benefits of SGP outweigh the harms. This is particularly important for local communities who will bear the brunt of the immediate risks and harms associated with SGP.”

The latest Medact report is accompanied by notes on the charity’s website on aspects of the debate over the safety and value of shale gas production. These charity said the notes aimed to encourage a more evidence-based discussion about shale gas.


Shale Gas Production in England: An Updated Public Health Assessment

Link to references and notes

57 replies »

  1. Medact running out of ideas? Jumping on the climate change bandwagon now. Credibility going down the drain……

    “Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects.”

    • For Christ’s sake-climate change is not a bandwagon!! It is not just something that some people choose to believe in and others don’t like the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot or that Princess Diana’s death was no accident. Climate change is real, has begun, we are seeing the effects already around the globe by the extremes in weather that countries are experiencing and the fact that 6 months on the trot this year have been the warmest on record. Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow we are still going to suffer the effects in the near future, so why on earth would we continue to develop a new industry to produce more fossil fuels? To disregard climate change as a strong, if not THE strongest argument against developing a fracking industry in the UK demonstrates the total lack of foresight and understanding of the problems that we, our children and their children will face in our lifetimes!

      • I’m just an amateur but I prefer to see Climate Change as a challenge rather than a disaster. The quasi-religious fervour of so much CC rhetoric does little to persuade me. It may be that, like almost everyone, I only remember what supports my own prejudices but didn’t I read that higher CO2 is actually greening the planet, also that a study in the UK has shown that more species in the UK are benefitting from warmer weather patterns than are not.

    • New York State like making money yet they have banned fracking on Health and economic reasons.If they can’t do it safely why don’t they pick up the phone and ask the UK industry for advice as apparently we can do it with no risk. We could sell them our “Gold Standards” which make it safe and make money. The suggestion they can’t and we can is frankly ridiculous as they have been studying and following the Industry for years.
      Here is one example of their study into potential transport issues. Note the numbers at the bottom of page 7

      Of course if you speak to Governor Cuomo he may want to see some evidence to convince him he is wrong but we are right.
      Luckily we have had a go so we can send him the official report.

      Click to access 5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf

      There. That should prove our point that they have got it wrong and we know what we are doing.

      If others with far more experience than us have said No on health,environmental,and economic reasons we should listen and stop pretending we can do it better.

  2. Two observations:
    1) the anti’s have fallen back on their last resort argument of climate change. This is a tacit admission that the other arguments about local impacts are not strong enough to counter the myriad benefits of shale gas extraction.
    2) if climate change is a real concern, then local gas extraction offers the best avenue to immediate reductions in co2 emissions. The US is leading the world in reducing GHG emissions, and it is because of fracking.

  3. Absolute rubbish! What about the methane gas leaks that always exist with the fracking industry – it’s a well known fact though rarely advertised! Methane gases have a warming potential which is much, much greater than C02! Methane leaks at every stage of production in fracking so please don’t believe what an Investor’s paper is trying to sell you!

    And don’t forget about the thousands and thousands of gallons of water and toxic chemicals used in the fracking process. It goes without saying that there is a huge amount of toxic waste as a by product of fracking which is just stored in vats until they crumble, I imagine! Oh, and the pollution caused by constant comings and goings of huge juggernauts carrying all the necessary water + fluids. Plus the constant flames burning etc.etc.

    Shame this site attracts so many fracking lobbyists; guess they’re either being paid to monitor or have nothing better to do having invested all their life’s savings in this dirty and desperate industry. Well, don’t worry, this Government (which has been promoting fracking for the last 6 yrs and is determined to frack the whole of the U.K., given a chance) has managed to create enough distraction with the referendum so people are too preoccupied with ‘other stuff’ apart from the poor residents living close to the proposed sites. It’s a damn nightmare!

    • Jack – Methane is a warming gas, agreed. Other than from flow back fluid, why are methane emissions any different to conventional natural gas production? Everything downstream of the well head is the same.

      The following will have higher “fugitive emissions” than UK shale gas produced using green completions:

      Imported LNG
      HPHT offshore gas
      Norwegian gas (pipeline distance / compression / process / valves….)
      North Sea associated gas from oil production (separation losses, compression)

      The only gas which may have lower fugitive emissions than UK shale gas would be UK conventional onshore gas – unfortunately there is not a lot of this.

      Google how much methane is emitted globally by livestock.

      Google how much natural seepage of methane there is globally.

      Google how much methane is released from hydrates

      We can stop fugitive emissions from produced natural gas by reducing the demand to zero. We will of course still have the 3 Google sources. The UK could stop using methane to make a point to the world. It won’t make any difference to climate change but you will all feel better.

      BUT where do you propose we get 50% of our electricty (base load and demand load, not weather dependent) from, and most of our heating?

      I agree that methane is potentially a problem – but we are not going to stop using it any time soon. And it is incorrect to single out possible shale gas in the UK as the major methane problem.

      You don’t want shale gas wells near you, that’s fine and understood but your reasoning is as you say, “absolute rubbish”.

      And what is wrong with hearing both sides of an argument and debating an issue. Very few, if any of the antis on this BB have worked in the upstream O & G Industry or have fracked wells. They read a lot and believe everything they want to believe but have little or no direct experience.

      Some good points are made, one I recall about calorific value and the National Grid specs, additional metering will be required etc. But a lot of the stuff specifically targeting UK shale is simply not correct.

    • What a narrow view you have of us fracking lobbyists Jack.

      Can’t speak for the other posters who support the fracking industry but I certainly am not being paid to monitor, nor do I have my life savings invested in it, but there is a thing called democracy and me, just like you and others are entitled to air my views.

      Your comment confirms what us in support of fracking have known for a long time and that is that this site is nothing more than a anti-fracking mouthpiece which makes a mockery of its claim to be independent.

      • Oh Michael – you admitted this week that you have an “interest” but refused to say what it was. Are you trying to claim it’s not a financial one now?

        • Oh John – I was merely responding to Jack’s statement that we have our “life’s savings” invested in this industry, my response was no, not my life’s savings.

          I’m surprised a man of much detail that you seem to be, would have misinterpreted my response, but then again misinterpretation seems to be a major requisite of your side 🙂

          • So you weren’t foolish enough to invest your life savings, just some of your savings. That’s fine Michael. Thanks for the clarification – you must only be feeling a bit stupid now then 🙂

            • As with all things in life, time will tell.

              Won’t be long now till we see shale gas production and a return on my investment. Not too late for you to get on.

    • Jack – “Shame this site attracts so many fracking lobbyists” – it’s a testament to the concern they have that their industry is getting reported by somebody with the time and intellect to shine a proper light on it. They must HATE that so much.

      • Can’t speak for others but I don’t hate the intellect and fact that the “fracking lobbyists” bring to this obscenely biased forum.

        You must HATE the fact that this “independent” journalist on this”independent” site attracts comments and the real facts from the “other side”.

        Reality must be a bitter pill for the editor of this site and her followers to swallow.

    • Methane leaks are a red herring, Jack. Not only are industry methane emissions lower than you’ve been led to believe by some flawed studies, but methane itself is not as big a contributor to the greenhouse effect as most people think. Also, to the extent that fugitive methane is escaping in the supply chain, changes are being made to minimize future emissions.

  4. Thank you Paul. As someone who attended the Medact launch, I was shocked at their presentation of dodgy chemicals that are not permitted in the UK. They were not apparently aware that we have laws here, and when I put a summary of UK and EU law in front of him, his reaction was er… interesting!

    They seem to have completely abandoned their ‘fracking will poison you’ to now state its a climate change we need to worry about. The just released CCC report states that this is no real problem. Why were they telling lies to the public. Here is my open letter that influenced their first rewrite.

    So lets get on with it!

    • They weren’t very good at answering questions at the 2015 launch. The so-called medics hadn’t a clue whether the 2000 oil and gas wells in England had actually caused health issues. Note that on regulation they repeated the myths put out by Mike Hill

      • “so-called medics’ Michael? Are you suggesting they are not qualified? On what basis?

        Perhaps they were surprised that you should be trying to draw spurious parallels between the 2000 well that the industry claims to have fracked (where are the records that confirm this by the way?) and the impact of HVHF slickwater fracking. Honestly you’ve been caught out on this so many times. You know the truth and as a so-called vicar you really should be shamed of yourself.

        And you really shouldn’t let your obsession with Mr Hill get the better of you. It isn’t seemly.

    • Completely abandoned eh? You know what Ken – I don’t believe you have actually read the new report. here are a couple of snippets for you:

      “Our view that the UK should abandon its policy to encourage SGP remains unchanged. We note that an industry-funded Task Force on Shale Gas, chaired by Chris Smith (former Chair of the Environment Agency and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), produced a set of reports last year which concluded that SGP in the UK would be safe (to both human and environmental health), economically beneficial and important for the UK’s energy security. Having reviewed the reports we reject their conclusions, and explain why.”

      “Shale gas operations are undeniably associated with a range of health hazards and will cause pollution and environmental damage.”

      “In our first report, we argued that the regulatory framework for shale gas was inadequate, incomplete and unclear. Although it is not possible to fully determine minimum regulatory requirements and safety stands until there has been some experience of shale gas exploration in the UK, we remain concerned about: a) gaps in the regulatory framework; b) an over-reliance on self-monitoring by the
      industry; and c) large staff and budget cuts that have impacted the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, and local government planning and public health departments. Past efforts by the government to push for deregulation of the onshore oil and gas sector in Europe, coupled with the recent referendum result on the European Union, provide additional reasons for concern.
      While some positive steps have been taken towards the establishment of some baseline data, concerns about the affordability and adequacy of regulation are legitimate and require attention. ”

      So no Ken, if you read the report you will see that Medact have not radically changed stance as you seem to have hoped. What they have done is presented a remarkably restrained and even-handed analysis which does its best to square the circle of risk versus benefit and comes to the conclusion that the risks outweigh the benefits – this is an intellectual process that many of us have been through, although without perhaps articulating it as clearly and well as this particular report. This update report does indeed focus on climate change, presumably because this is the potential source of the biggest impact of all.

      “The biggest health threat posed by SGP is the release of GHG emissions and its contribution to global warming. The risk of fugitive emissions and the limited global ‘carbon budget’ that remains available, suggest that shale gas cannot play a useful role in the UK’s future energy mix. ”

      And then you have the gall to state “The just released CCC report states that this [Climate change] is no real problem”. What *are* you smoking these days Ken?

      The CCC report actually states:

      “Our assessment is therefore that onshore petroleum extraction on a significant scale is not compatible with UK climate targets unless three tests are met” . One of these tests suggests that the absence of CCS implies a reduction in gas consumption by 2050 of around 80% on today’s levels. How are you going to make THAT happen Ken? What is your road map to an 80% decrease in consumption as this is “no real problem”? Do tell.

  5. Just to clarify a few things i would say this, i refuse to support fracking for perfectly legitimate reasons, in fact i would say i am not anti-anything, i am pro life, pro clean environment and pro freedom of choice. Fracking polarises opinions, i read arguments from both camps, i dont just read pro fracking, and i dont just read anti-fracking. There are many issues involved with the fracking proposals, not just pollution and entitlement to clean air, land and water, but social and political issues too. There is no fall back position, and no last resort, the efforts to prevent fracking are all up front and honest, there are no hidden agends, people simply dont want their health and lives ruined by a practice that has caused devastation elsewhere in the world. That is not a fall back position, or a last resort, it is honest and forthright. Local impact is an issue, it cannot be ignored. Climate change is an issue and UK has signed an international agreement to limit CO2, that is an issue, that also cannot be ignored.
    Please look at Anthony R Ingraffea’s talks about the fracking industry and produces papers that are peer reviewed, in other words it is sent to specialist organisations to check and verify the figures. In these talks you will see that burning gas from unconventional Shale Gas extraction is at least twice as ‘dirty’ as other forms of power production, it is not a ‘clean’ source of energy. Gas will be exported, not sold in UK because we dont pay enough and the fracking operators need top dollar to pay off their enormous loans, it wont be used locally, Jobs will be given to imported workers, not local workers. 24 hour traffic will dramatically increase making local villages and towns a nightmare to live in. Accidents and failures in horizontal (high pressure) wells from breached casings and cement seals are frequent and common. Remember it only takes one well casing or to fail to pollute waterways and aquifers with the resulting long term (foreseeable future) pollution and no legal requirement for the operators to clean it up and no permanent on site monitoring to ensure compliance with the limited standards, which are still not effective or enforceable.

    So i ask myself, is fracking safe? I think you can only understand the implications of that by asking the question ‘define safe’.so looked it up:


    1: [PREDICATIVE] Protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost:
    eggs remain in the damp sand, safe from marine predators
    she felt safe with him
    More example sentences Synonyms
    2: Not likely to cause or lead to harm or injury; not involving danger or risk:
    we have to cross the river where it’s safe for us to do so
    a safe investment that produced regular income
    More example sentences Synonyms
    2.1: (Of a place) affording security or protection:
    put it in a safe place
    More example sentences
    3: often derogatory Cautious and unenterprising:
    MacGregor would be a compromise, the safe choice
    More example sentences Synonyms
    4: Based on good reasons or evidence and not likely to be proved wrong:
    the verdict is safe and satisfactory
    his world, it’s safe to say, will not fall apart
    More example sentences
    5: Uninjured; with no harm done:
    they had returned safe and sound
    hopes of her safe return later faded
    More example sentences Synonyms
    6: informal Excellent (used to express approval or enthusiasm):
    that shirt is real safe

    Is it safe by the above definitions? A second question occurs to me, is: how long will fracking wells be safe?’ Dr Anthony Ingraffea also has these figures. I know what i think the answers to these questions are, i leave that for you all to make up your own mind and i wont pollute the issue with my opinion.

    • Are you looking for a “safe” source of usable energy? Sorry to state the obvious again but renewables (apart from imported wood chips) will produce close to ZERO electricity on a freezing, still night in February. That will, by the way, not be “safe” for anyone. Electricity storage will not be up to the back-up task using current technology. So what’s the back-up fuel to be, gas, coal or nuclear?

      We have some basic needs, two of these are food and energy supply. Using food as an example, agriculture is not “safe” , 26 people died last year in UK farming, and livestock produce 18% of worldwide methane emissions. Do we ban agriculture, no of course not because the benefits outweigh the harm. The point I’m coming to is that the aim of “safe” is unobtainable, what we all should be looking for is the safest method relative to the other alternative ways of achieving the necessary goal, which is energy production.

      BTW I’m not paid for my opinions (chance would be a fine thing).

      • Excellent, we can dispense with the word ‘safe’ in this context, of course we also cannot use the phrase ‘safest’ either, since it implies there is a word safe in this context, nor can we say ‘mostly safe’ or ‘as safe as can be allowed within the National Interest’, or any other phrase concerning the word ‘safe’. good, we move on, now we begin to get down to it. We have then to ask ourselves whether the dangers of using any process, farming, industry, oil and shale gas extraction, any process is acceptable, to whom it is acceptable and how we define acceptable ‘risk’. So now we have some more terms to clarify and tease out their implications, Forgive me whilst i go and research these terms and i will reply when i have more information.

  6. Thank you, i looked at that article and no where does it say the paper was peer reviewed, it seems to be the authors who withdrew it, If it has been peer reviewed can you dig out the document? I recall Dr. Anthony Ingraffea mentions this paper and then analyses the figures in his own peer reviewed papers with more reliable evidence based upon empirical evidence. I can see no evidence that Dr Ingraffea has an agenda of any kind, in fact in the last part of his talk at the 2.00 hour point,

    Dr Ingraffea says he was not talking specifically about fracking, it does not keep him awake at night, he does have concerns about wells failing and the rate at which they fail, also the global climate change effects of the use of fossil fuels and states that methane has as much as twenty to eighty times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide depending upon how long it has been in the atmosphere.At least 40% of fracking chemicals remain in the ground and when fracking wells fail, they allow methane to escape to the surface, this is also proven by empirical tests and on site observations. Dr Ingaffea states that he is not anti-fracking, its the process of drilling and fracking and the effects regarding Rock Mechanics he is a specialist in and lectures upon and attends all the workshops on.

    Please show me where it says Dr Anthony Ingraffea has an agenda, and with which bias, you did not say?

    • Philip – please advise which fracking chemicals staying in the ground the good Dr. is concerned about? You will find that these are not permitted in the UK unless he is worried about PAC / soap / sand and H2O. His stuff is old and specific to the US.

      • Hi Paul, i suggest you watch the link i sent, he can say it better than i can. It seems to be the slip chemicals that everyone is concerned about, Out of interest do you have a definitive list of the chemicals that will be used, not just during testing, but during extraction, and what leeway will they have to introduce further chemicals if it speeds progress and who approves and tests them for any likely toxicity?

        • The chemicals used during testing and extraction are probably nil – unless they need hydrate surpression and or corrosion inhibition. If these are needed they will use the same chemicals as used in any gas well production process from conventional reservoirs.

          Preese Hall site is the only shale gas site to have been hydraulic fractured to date in the UK (shale gas). Details of the chemicals which the EA assessed as non hazardous and permitted for use are:
          • 99.75% of the shale gas fracking fluid is made up of water and sand, beyond that a very limited number of chemicals are used:
          • Polyacrylamide friction reducers (0.075%), commonly used in cosmetics and facial creams, suspended in a hydrocarbon carrier;
          • Hydrochloric acid (0.125%), frequently found in swimming pools and used in developing drinking water wells,
          • Biocide (0.005%), used on rare occasions when the water provided from the local supplier needs to be further purified.

          Any chemicals used are assessed under the Water Framework Directive developed under European Environmental Legislation before approval is given. The EA have the powers to require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. They assess the hazards presented by fracking fluid additives on a case-by-case basis. The EA will not permit the use of ‘hazardous substances’ for any activity, including hydraulic fracturing, where they would or might enter groundwater and cause pollution.

      • What is not permitted “at present” in the UK. It is fairly obvious that to maximise gas yields you need additives. If it could be done without and make money why would the US use millions of gallons of chemicals unnecessarily .If we know how to do it without we really should sell that chemical free technology .I am sure the US would pay billions to save tens of billions.
        It is the same old chestnut as the 0.5m threshold. Sounds reassuring to locals but won’t do the job. Evidenced by Cuadrilla asking DECC for a 2.6m threshold after being stopped for causing a 2.3m.
        Their “salami” slicing of planning does not fool anyone either.
        The Industry seems to have overlooked the most important factor that unlike some parts of the US people in the UK pay a substantial premium for living in the countryside. They won’t be giving that up anytime soon.

  7. I’m getting very bored with this as it very easy to find this information out if you really want to (this is from Wikipedia):

    Chemicals permitted for hydraulic fracturing in the UK

    Only ‘non-hazardous’ chemicals are permitted for hydraulic fracturing fluids in the UK by the Environment Agency (EA). The nature (though not the concentration) of these chemicals must be made available to the public.[54]:4

    Increasingly, food additive based chemicals are becoming available, replacing hazardous chemicals that have been used in the past.[138]

    The European wide Groundwater Directive is European legislation that states. In order to protect the environment as a whole, and human health in particular, detrimental concentrations of harmful pollutants in groundwater must be avoided, prevented or reduced. [139]

    The Environment Agency regulations state Groundwater’ means all water that is below the surface of the ground in the saturation zone and in contact with the groundwater or subsoil (EPR, Regulation 2(1)).

    ‘Aquifer’ means a subsurface layer or layers of rock or other geological strata of sufficient permeability to allow either a significant flow of groundwater or the abstraction of significant quantities of groundwater (WFD Article 2.11).

    Under EPR Schedule 22, paragraph 6 we must take all necessary measures to: (a) prevent the input of any hazardous substance to groundwater; and (b) limit the input of non-hazardous pollutants to groundwater so as to ensure that such inputs do not cause pollution of groundwater. The Environment Agency would not authorise the use of a hazardous substance for an activity, including hydraulic fracturing.

    The pollutants the Environment Agency are concerned with for groundwater are: ‘Hazardous substances’, which are substances or groups of substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bioaccumulate, and other substances or groups of substances that give rise to an equivalent level of concern (EPR Schedule 22, paragraph 4).

    Any non-hazardous pollutants, which is ‘any pollutant other than a hazardous substance (EPR, Schedule 22, paragraph 5).

    Substances on List I of the binding Groundwater Directive (80/68/EEC) are taken to be hazardous substances

    The Environment Agency list of chemicals does not contain all of those that may be proposed in hydraulic fracturing. The regulations above indicate that authorisation would be decided on a case by case basis, using the above protocols.

    In the Preese Hall 1 well, the chemical concentration was 0.05%. However, when millions of gallons of water are being used, the amount of chemicals per fracturing operation could be large. For example, a 4 million imperial gallons (18,000 m3) hydraulic fracturing operation would use at 1%, 180 tonnes. At 0.05% this would be 9 tonnes. The main additive is polyacrylamide, the purpose of which is to reduce the viscosity of the water, to allow faster pumping. Additional chemicals that have been permitted are highly dilute hydrochloric acid, a sodium tracer salt and glutaraldehyde, which is used as a biocide in very small quantities, to kill bacteria that could damage a well. This rapidly breaks down into non toxic materials. It is not necessary to use this if domestic water, treated with chlorine, is supplied, as this will be bacteria free anyway. Increasingly UV treatment will replace chemicals for treatment.

    Although some of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids such as hydrochloric acid may be classified as toxic,[143] corrosive or irritant, they are non-toxic at the concentrations used.

    Although hydraulic fracturing was not proposed in a well at Balcombe, the EA permitted one requested chemical oxirane, while not permitting the use of antimony trioxide which is suspected as being carcinogenic.[144]

    Differences between the US and UK

    In the United States, regulation of oil and gas drilling and production is largely left to the states, and differs from state to state. In 2005 in the US Congress, at the behest of then Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton, exempted hydraulic fracturing from the underground injection regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. This meant that any chemical, including toxic and carcinogenic materials were permitted, and public disclosure of these was not required.[145]

    There are also differences in fluid security that mean that open fluid storage is not permitted in the EU or the UK. Venting of unburnt gases is also not permitted, except in an emergency.

    • We’ve heard time after time that the Environment Agency doesn’t allow any hazardous chemicals to be used in fracking in the UK. The point is that as John Powney says, “If it could be done without (hazardous chemicals) and make money why would the US use millions of gallons of chemicals unneccessarily?

      Chemicals are expensive. Frackers wouldn’t use them if they could get away with water, sand, a drop of hydrochloride acid and something used in face cream. And don’t forget, our geology is said to be more difficult than the US. It’s obvious that if fracking is ever allowed in this country, in order to maximise profits the frackers will demand relaxation of the ‘Gold Standard’ regulations and use of more and more additives and it’s equally obvious that the Government,as they have already demonstrated, will accede to any of the oil and gas companies ‘asks’ as George Osborne said.

    • Why do you suppose the infrastructure act was amended at the last minute to include this

      It now includes an amendment by Baroness Kramer, the Liberal Democrat minister guiding the bill through the Lords, that permits the “passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land” and gives “the right to leave deep-level land in a different condition from [that before] including by leaving any infrastructure or substance in the land”.

      Why would it not define the substances as “non hazardous” in line with the EA ?

      Would you agree in the US that toxic and carcinogenic material is used to maximise gas yields. If it is not for that purpose what is it for?

      • John – Why not ask Baroness Kramer the purpose of the ammendment? You and Pauline clearly do not believe what Cuadrilla used, and think they will pump the same chemicals as used in the unregulated US and have no faith the UK system (or the EU). Fracking is a fairly simple procedure – the objective is to induce and open up fractures (hydraulic pressure), place sand grains in these fractures to keep them open when the pressure is taken off, and viscosifier(sand needs to be suspended in the fluid to transport it down the well ). Lubricants, friction reducers and biocides may also be used – if permitted. It is not rocket science. As far as I am aware the Cuadrilla fracks worked well except for the seismicity. The resultant test flow rate was very good. Hence their persistence with this project.

        I don’t care what they have used in the US, what is important is what is being used in the UK. Diesel engines and agricultural chemicals are far more toxic and carcinogenic than UK frack fluids will ever be.

        You can buy a semi automatic firearm over the counter in the US – try and do that over here.

    • Paul – all very interesting but is there a particular reason why you have failed to mention the chemicals which are mobilised during the fracking process and which are in the returned fluid which requires disposal?

      There is a list of the test results from Preese Hall here

      • John – we were discussing what frack fluid additives are used in the UK – not what is in the flowback fluid. Different subject altogether and part of the waste disposal issue (NORM, heavy metals etc.). By the way the link was not in your post but I can Google it. I expect it is similar to produced water from oil and gas fields which I am familiar with – but without the salt content.

        The point about the vehicle movements is that vehicles move all over the place all the time. I agree that if the roads are not fit for purpose this is a planning consideration which has to be addressed and can be a reason for refusal. But not vehicle emissions – the country would immediately grind to a halt if we stopped truck movements, and tractors etc. Would you be happier if they used electric trucks?

  8. What sort of engines do they use to power the compressors then Paul? It’s not all about the frack fluid or flowback

    “The largest impacts on local air quality are likely to come from on -site diesel generators, exhaust from vehicles travelling to and from the site (typically for the delivery and removal of water), and the dust created by disturbing the soil.”

    Click to access Air.pdf

    • John – not sure what you mean by compressors? If you mean compressors to compress production gas to the required National Grid delivery pressure then they will probably use gas turbines. But this is production.

      If you mean the engines for the frack pumps and rig generators (SCR rig) then they will indeed be diesel. But they are not permanent. Also going forward they can take electrcity in from the grid.

      Diesel engines, same pollution as trucks, diesel cars, Virgin diesel trains……

      Vehicles travelling to and from the site? Is this some kind of joke? How do we build roads, bridges, buildings, deliver parcels……. Have you been on a motorway recently?

      • “Vehicles travelling to and from the site? Is this some kind of joke?”

        Not if you live in the countryside and they dump a fracking well next to you Paul. No it wouldn’t be funny at all!

    • Planning can be refused legitimately on noise and traffic (inadequate roads), and possibly amenity impact (unlikely). Visual impact is also an unlikely reason for refusal due to the temporary nature of the elevated structure. It will be refused if the EA does not grant the necessary permits. Otherwise the current Planning System will permit shale gas wells, certainly at the exploration stage. All these other “reasons for refusal” that this BB comes up with are very unlikely to result in refusal. Statutory consultees such as RSPB may try the bird disturbance objection – but that will not fly (excuse the pun) unless the operator is stupid enough to try and put the rig in Leighton Moss or on a Hen Harrier nest site (few and far between these days) or equivalent.

  9. As no one has come up with any reply on the question, ‘what evidence is there that Dr Anthony R Ingraffea has any kind of agenda, i am calling time out on that claim. Dr Anthony R Ingraffea has no agenda.
    Well i am certainly not bored or tired with the question of climate change and the frequency of failure of fracking wells, particularly regarding the latest revelations from Teresa May to disband the DECC. Someone has to keep a weather eye open, even if Teresa May is keeping hers firmly shut.
    Thank you Paul for your breakdown of the slip chemicals used at the Preese Hall fracking site and yes, what you say appears to be so, Some eathquakes causing well failures and a halt on production however, i wonder if new or increase in the chemicals to facilitate slippage are being considered or even used at this moment to overcome this halt and who is monitoring this?
    Inadequate roads are a problem, as is the massive increase in traffic, and the resultant noise and disturbance to residents, it appears that the planning regulations have been curtailed to allow fracking in the national interest, which trumps any argument whatsoever and makes the process a laughing (or crying) stock.
    So, what next, oh yes, the RSPB, it may be interesting to note that birds do fly, no pun intended, and that there are no individual places in which birds are forced to nest, they nest anywhere convenient, unlike humans, they are free to nest anywhere (do humans nest? well i guess a house is a sort of nest), particularly in the country where these wells are existing or proposed. So here we go again, it does not matter in the eyes of the well operators and hence it can be ignored.
    I might go as far as to say that the operators are placing wells in the nesting areas of birds, birds nest primarily in the countryside and in Paul’s words, that may be considered as ‘stupid enough’ (not my words)
    Oh yes, and i dug out the definition of acceptable risk from the business dictionary, appropriate i thought:

    Level of human and/or material injury or loss from an industrial process that is considered to be tolerable by a society or authorities in view of the social, political, and economic cost-benefit analysis.

    Read more:

    OK, so what does that tell us? There are a number of words that still require definition, ‘tolerable’, well that is fairly self evident, I tolerate many things as do we all, not ideal but its life. OK so now we look at ‘society’, now, is that all of society? a majority vote by a society? a decision forced upon a society? Is that with the full knowledge of the implications of the decision, or just smoothed over? Ok now we look at ‘authorities’ (plural i notice). Who has authority in a democracy (yes, i know we dont have one any more, but its still worth teasing out)
    Is it the people? an elected government? An unelected government? A dictator? Or all of us, do we all have authority?
    And then we look at this phrase ‘in view of the social, political, and economic cost-benefit analysis’. in other words, all three elements are considered, social, political and economic.
    What is missing here? How about future society, future politics, future economics? How about a liveable environment, now and for our children? The question i ask, is, firstly Cui bono?who benefits? It seems it should be that not only do we consider the acceptable risk for ourselves, right here and now, but who benefits and who is put under risk, not just now, but who benefits, or suffers in he immediate future, in the short term future and for our children, in the long term future.
    it may surprise you to know i am not against industrialisation, nor am i against progress, i truly believe that the human race, once we emerge from this self destructive phase will have a great future, but that we do it intelligently and with the greatest care for where we live and who will follow us.
    So, an intelligent caring society and politics and economics should be our foremost intentions, not profit at any cost.

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