Recent research round-up: March-Sept 2016

ResearchThesaurusThis round-up looks at 44 recent studies about fracking published since late March 2016. Please let us know if we’ve missed a report you think should be included. Click here to get in touch.

Reports and research are grouped into categories and listed in date order, with the most recent first. Click on the title to go to the full study.

Click here to go to the Resources section of DrillOrDrop for our review of research on fracking and onshore oil and gas dating back to 2011.


Attitudes to fracking

Survey analysis and report of residents’ attitudes towards shale gas fracking in Mickle Trafford and District Parish, Fusion Data Science for Frack Free Mickle Trafford, 10 September 2016
This survey sent to all households in the Cheshire village of Mickle Trafford found that 81.7% of people who responded were against fracking. 6.5% said they believed fracking would be a good thing. 11.8% did not know or did not have an opinion. Of the population as a whole 51.7% were against fracking.

Energy attitudes research. Institute of Directors, 19 August 2016
This poll of nearly 1,000 members of the Institute of Directors finds that almost three-quarters of British company directors support decarbonisation of energy to mitigate climate change. Even more are in favour of greater use of solar, offshore wind and wave and tidal energy. Support for fracking is higher than the UK population but the process is less popular with company bosses than all renewable technologies except onshore wind.

UK Government public attitudes tracking survey, Wave 18, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 28 July 2016
This ongoing survey finds that support for fracking has risen slightly to 21% but the proportion of people who strongly support fracking has dropped to its lowest level. Opposition to fracking has remained steady at 31%. The proportion who neither support nor oppose shale gas remained unchanged at 46%.

Report to Guilden Sutton Parish Council, survey analysis and report of residents’ attitudes towards fracking in Guilden Sutton, Fusion Data Science, 2 June 2016
This survey sent to all households in the Cheshire village of Guilden Sutton found that 76.3% of participants were opposed to fracking, 9.2% supported it and 14.5% didn’t know.

Attitudes toward hydraulic fracturing: The opposing forces of political conservatism and basic knowledge about fracking, Becky Chorna, Yaniv Hanoch and Shannon Currie, Global Environmental Change, May 2016
This study by Plymouth University in the UK, was carried out in the US with 421 adults. It found that political conservative people were more were more likely to be in favour of the practice and to believe fracking offers greater economic benefits and fewer health risks. People with a more politically liberal outlook had greater concern about the health risks, were less likely to perceive fracking as offering economic benefits and were more interested in renewable forms of energy. People who knew little about fracking thought it had fewer risks than those who knew more.

UK public attitudes tracking survey, Wave 17, Department of Energy and Climate Change, 28 April 2016
This ongoing survey finds support for fracking in the UK fell to 19%, the lowest since the question was first asked in December 2013. Opposition was 31%, the highest level recorded. 46% were neither in favour or against and 4% did not know.

Climate change

Zero emission vehicles need to take over car market to reach 1.5°C limit. Climate Action Tracker. 15 September 2016
This analysis concludes that zero-emission vehicles need to reach a dominant market share by around 2035 for the world to meet the Paris Agreement’s lower warming limit of 1.5°C—and even that could be too late to avoid the need for significant negative emissions. This transformation of the passenger transport sector would also have to be accompanied by a decarbonisation of the power sector to ensure the electric vehicles (EV) are truly emissions free.

Fuelling the fire, Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Scotland, 24 July 2016
This report urges the Scottish Government to ban underground coal gasification. It concludes that if plans go ahead for the Kincardine UCG project around 120m tonnes of CO2 would be released – more than twice Scotland’s annual carbon emissions. It also looks at impacts from the US and Australia.

Onshore Petroleum. The compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets, Committee on Climate Change, written March 2016, published 7 July 2016
This report from the government’s adviser on climate change concludes that shale gas development on a significant scale is inconsistent with UK carbon budgets unless three conditions are met. It calls for stronger regulation and the urgent development of carbon capture and storage. The tests are:

  • Strict limits on emissions during well development, production and decommissioning
  • Gas consumption to remain in line with carbon budgets
  • Accommodating shale gas production emissions within carbon budgets

The report says if all these tests are met shale gas could make a useful contribution to UK energy supplies.

UK climate change policy: how does it affect competitiveness? Samuela Bassi and Chis Duffy, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, 10 May 2016
This policy briefing concludes that the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2028-2032 to 57% of 1990 levels, will not damage UK competitiveness and could generate low carbon innovation which can boost economic growth.


The Economics of Shale Gas Extraction, Dr Craig Dalzell, Common Weal, 29 April 2016
This report argues that the economics of fracking are highly vulnerable to global gas prices and may cost more in public subsidies than they generate in tax revenues or profits. It concludes that the economic benefits to communities living in and around potential fracking wells in Scotland would be short term at best and would not make up for the sustained economic harm of a boom-bust effect.

Shale Gas market – Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, Allied Market Research Report, 14 April 2016
This report suggests global shale gas will grow at a rate of 14.4% from 2015-2022. Demand for shale gas is expected to grow at a rate of 12.6% during the same time.


End of the load for coal and gas? Carbon Tracker, 19 September 2016
This study compares the power-generation costs of four new-build coal, gas, wind and solar plants. It applies a Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) sensitivity analysis across three scenarios. The study concludes that reduced load factors and short lifetimes for coal and gas plants in a world that is decarbonizing steadily significantly undermine plant economics.

Oil & Gas industry report 2016, Bank of Scotland, 6 June 2016
This survey of the more than 140 companies in Scotland’s oil and gas sector finds that interest in onshore shale gas has dropped from 2015, with just under a third of all companies (31%) giving it a high priority, compared to just under a half last year. 52% said they still had a high interest in shale.


Onshore Oil &Gas Sector Guidance, Environment Agency, 17 August 2016
Guidance for oil and gas companies and their consultants setting out which environmental permits are needed for onshore oil and gas operations in England.

Health and well-being

The human dimension of shale gas developments in Lancashire, UK: towards a social impact assessment, Anna Szolucha, 31 August 2016
The study in communities near Cuadrilla’s proposed shale gas sites in Lancashire concludes that the prospect of fracking has already had a profound effect on local people. Even exploration had begun residents near the proposed sites had experienced stress and anxiety, much of it caused by what the author describes as “a profound sense of moral outrage” at the activities of the gas company, local authorities and the government”.


UK onshore oil and gas incidents, Martin Dale, June 2016
Compilation of reports of more than 80 incidents at UK onshore oil and gas sites between January 2013 and June 2016.

Waste water

Joint US-UK workshop on improving the understanding of the potential environmental impacts associated with unconventional hydrocarbons, Danny Reible and Richard Davies, NERC Science of the Environment, published 6 May 2016
This report of a workshop in November 2015 finds that the costs of dealing with waste water from fracking could significant and make shale exploitation uneconomic in the UK. It found “huge uncertainty” about how much waste water would be produced by UK fracking and how it would be cleaned or reused.

North America

Attitudes to shale gas

Opposition to fracking mounts in the US, Gallup, 30 March 2016
This poll by Gallup records that opposition to fracking has risen from 40% in 2015 to 51% in 2016. Support has fallen from 40% to 36% and no opinion from 19% to 13%.


Microbial metabolisms in a 2.5-km-deep ecosystem created by hydraulic fracturing in shales, Rebecca A. Daly, Mikayla A. Borton, Michael J. Wilkins, David W. Hoyt, Duncan J. Kountz, Richard A. Wolfe, Susan A. Welch, Daniel N. Marcus, Ryan V. Trexler, Jean D. MacRae, Joseph A. Krzycki, David R. Cole, Paula J. Mouser & Kelly C. Wrighton, Nature Microbiology, 5 September 2016
Researchers analysing the genomes of micro-organisms living in shale oil and gas wells have found evidence of sustainable ecosystems populated by a never-before-seen genus of bacteria. The new genus is one of 31 microbes found in two separate fractured wells. The microbes were almost identical even though the wells were drilled hundreds of miles apart in different shale formations.

Climate change

The sky’s Limit: Why the Paris climate goals require a managed decline of fossil fuel production. Oil Change International in collaboration with, Amazon Watch, APMDD, AYCC, Bold Alliance, Christian Aid, Earthworks, Équiterre, Global Catholic Climate Movement, HOMEF, Indigenous Environmental Network, IndyAct, Rainforest Action Network, and 22 September 2016
This study calls for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion.  It finds potential carbon emissions from oil, gas and coal in the currently operating fields and mines would take the world beyond 2 degrees C of warming. Oil and gas fields currently operating would take the world beyond 1.5 degrees C. The study also calls for the closure of some existing fields and mines before fully exploiting their resources.

Paris Mismatches. The Impact of the COP21 Climate Change Negotiations on the Oil and Gas Industries, John Mitchell and Beth Mitchell, Energy, Environment And Resources Department, Chatham House, London. 13 August 2016
This paper looks at the impact of international action agreed in Paris in December 2015 on the oil and gas sector. It concludes there is a mismatch between the stated objective of the agreement to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C and the contributions to climate change mitigation proposed for the period 2020-2030. It says additional, more stringent measures are likely to be needed in future and the impact on the oil and gas sector will intensify. Without credible policies on consumption and production, oil and gas companies will make risky investments to meet unsustainable demand.


What if…America’s Energy Renaissance Never Actually Happened? US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st century energy. 22 September 2016
This report concludes the US economy is much stronger, more businesses are growing and more people are working in higher-paying jobs because America is producing more energy at home. It estimates without what it calls the energy renaissance: 4.3m jobs would not have been created; the US economy would be $548 billion poorer; electricity prices would be 31% higher and motor fuels 43% higher; gas prices for homes would be 28% higher and for industry 94% higher. Without lower energy prices, the analysis concludes industry would have lost almost $47 billion in economic opportunity, nearly $25 billion in labor income and the equivalent of 387,500 jobs.


Atmospheric methane isotopic record favors fossil sources flat in 1980s and 1990s with recent increase. Andrew L. Rice, Christopher L. Butenhoffa, Doaa G. Teama, Florian H. Röger, M. Aslam K. Khalil, and Reinhold A. Rasmussen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 14 September 2016.
This study concluded that methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry were responsible for the majority of the recent rise in global atmospheric methane. It said emissions from the sector increased significantly 2000-2009, challenging previous conclusions that atmospheric ethane from fugitive fossil fuel emissions fell during this period.

Fugitive emissions from the Bakken shale illustrate role of shale production in global ethane shift, E. A. Kort, M. L. Smith, L. T. Murray, A. Gvakharia, A. R. Brandt, J. Peischl, T. B. Ryerson, C. Sweeney, K. Travis, Geophysical Research Letters, 7 May 2016
This study concluded that the Bakken shale oil and gas region in North Dakota produced the equivalent of 1-3% of total global emissions of ethane in 2014. The researchers said emissions of this magnitude impact on air quality and illustrate the key role of shale oil and gas production in rising global ethane levels.

Environmental impacts

Fracking by the Numbers. The Damage to Our Water, Land and Climate from a Decade of Dirty Drilling, Elizabeth Ridlington, Kim Norman and Rachel Richardson, Environment America and Environment America Research and Policy Centre, 14 April 2016
The report details the amount of water contamination, air pollution, climate impacts and chemical use in fracking in the US. Using industry-reported data, it found that from 2005-2015, fracking used: 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid; 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates (which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes, cause dizziness and nausea and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents) and        445 million pounds of methanol (suspected of causing birth defects).


Systematic review of the association between oil and natural gas extraction processes and human reproduction. V D Balise, C X Meng, J N Cornelius-Green, C D Kassotis, R Kennedy, S C Nagel, PubMed.Gov, US National Library of Medicine, 25 August 2016
This review identified 45 original published research articles related to oil and gas extraction and human reproductive endpoints. The results suggested there is a negative impact on human reproduction from exposure to oil and gas activities. They indicate moderate evidence for an increased risk of pre-term birth, miscarriage, birth defects, decreased semen quality and prostate cancer. The quality of evidence is low and/or inadequate for stillbirth, sex ratio and birth outcomes associated with parental exposure. It is inconsistent for an increased risk of low birth weight. It found there is ample evidence for disruption of the estrogen, androgen and progesterone receptors by oil and gas chemicals.

Associations between unconventional natural gas development and nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in Pennsylvania, Aaron W. Tustin, Annemarie G. Hirsch, Sara G. Rasmussen, Joan A. Casey, Karen Bandeen-Roche, and Brian S. Schwartz, Environmental Health Perspectives, 25 August 2016
This study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health links unconventional natural gas development with nasal and sinus problems, migraine headache and fatigue symptoms in a sample of more than 7,785 patients.

Association Between Unconventional Natural Gas Development in the Marcellus Shale and Asthma Exacerbations, Sara G. Rasmussen, Elizabeth L. Ogburn, Meredith McCormack, Joan A. Casey, Karen Bandeen-Roche, Dione G. Mercer, Brian S. Schwartz. JAMA Internal Medicine, 19 July 2016
This study found a statistical association between people living near unconventional natural gas developments in Pennsylvania and an increased risk of mild, moderate and severe asthma exacerbations. The research says whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation.

When the wind blows. Tracking toxic chemicals in gas fields and impact communities.  Elizabeth Crowe, Sharyle Patton, Deborah Thomas, Beverley Thorpe, Coming Clean, 22 June 2016
This report documents a community-based research project to monitor toxic volatile organic compounds in gas fields in rural Pavillion, Wyoming and to test whether the same VOCs were the bodies of people who live and work there. The study was small and not peer-reviewed but it concludes that gas emissions were probably – though not conclusively proven – making their way into people’s bodies.

Potential Hazards of Air Pollutant Emissions from Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Operations on the Respiratory Health of Children and Infants, E Webbm J Hays, L Dyrszka, B Rodriguez, C Cox, K Huffling, S Bushkin-Bedient, Reviews of Environmental Health, 1 June 2016
This study concluded that air pollution from fracking puts lungs, hearts and immune systems at risk, particularly in young children and infants.

Towards an understanding of the environmental and public health impacts of unconventional natural gas development. Jake Hays and Seth B. C. Shonkoff, PLOS Journal, 20 April 2016
Researchers reviewed 685 papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.They concluded 84% of public health studies contained findings that indicated public health hazards, elevated risks or adverse health outcomes; 69% of water quality studies contained findings that indicate potential or actual water contamination; 87% of air quality studies contain findings that indicate elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations


Activated desorption at heterogeneous interfaces and long-time kinetics of hydrocarbon recovery from nanoporous media, Thomas Lee, Lydéric Bocquet, Benoit Coasne, Nature Communications, 21 June 2016
This preliminary and theoretical study suggests replacing water in fracking wells with high-pressure carbon dioxide. According to modelling, the researchers suggest CO2 could do a better job at releasing gas and it may stay underground. They say CO2 is unlike water, which eventually becomes a molecular seal, trapping gas in the deposit.


Local land use planning responses to hydraulic fracturing, Carolyn G. Loh & Anna C. Osland, Journal of the American Planning Association, 21 May 2016
This study concludes that the US local regulatory landscape is highly variable and legally uncertain. Most communities have not adopted many fracking regulations but higher-capacity communities and those which have experienced a fracking related accident are more likely to adopt stricter regulations. The study suggests that communities could use existing land use, noise and zoning restrictions to regulate fracking to some degree. Communities with more knowledge and experienced technical staff were more likely to have adopted some regulations to either prevent or address fracking issues.


Surface uplift and time-dependent seismic hazard due to fluid injection in eastern Texas. Manoochehr Shirzaei1, William L. Ellsworth2, Kristy F. Tiampo, Pablo J. González, Michael Manga. Science. 23 September 2016
The study concludes that injection of waste water at high pressure can cause a slight buckling, around 3mm a year, in the earth’s surface that can be detected from space. The movement is detectable up to 8km from the wells.

Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, Gail M. Atkinson, David W. Eaton, Hadi Ghofrani, Dan Walker, Burns Cheadle, Ryan Schultz, Robert Shcherbakov, Kristy Tiampo, Jeff Gu, Rebecca M. Harrington, Yajing Liu, Mirko van der Baan, and Honn Kao, Seismological Research Letters, 30 March 2016
This study finds that in Canada most induced seismicity is highly correlated in time and space with hydraulic fracturing. This is unlike the US, where most induced seismicity is linked to deep disposal of waste water from oil and gas extraction. The study finds that the maximum observed magnitude of events associated with hydraulic fracturing may exceed the predictions of the often-cited relationship between the volume of injected fluid and the maximum expected magnitude.

Water use, flowback and fracking fluid

Downhole Transformation of the Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Biocide Glutaraldehyde: Implications for Flowback and Produced Water Quality, Genevieve A Kahrilas, Jens Blotevogel, Edward R. Corrin, and Thomas Borch, Environmental Science & Technology, 12 September 2016
This study for the American Chemical Society found that the hydraulic fracturing biocide, glutaraldehyde, rapidly autopolymerizes, forming water-soluble dimers and trimers, and eventually precipitates out at high temperatures. Salinity significantly inhibited its transformation. Pressure and shale did not affect transformation. The authors said the findings illustrate that biocidal glutaraldehyde has limited time to control microbial activity in hot and/or alkaline shales, and may return along with its aqueous transformation products to the surface via flowback and produced water in cooler, more acidic and saline shales.

Physical-chemical evaluation of hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the context of produced water treatment, Mary Kay Camarilloa, Jeremy K. Domena, William T. Stringfellowa, Journal of Environmental Management, 31 August 2016
This study concluded that the biocide glutaraldehyde, added to hydraulic fracturing fluid, has limited time to control microbial activity in hot and/or alkaline shales, and may return along with its aqueous transformation products to the surface via flowback and produced water in cooler, more acidic, and saline shales.

Spills of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals on Agricultural Topsoil: Biodegradation, Sorption, and Co-contaminant Interactions, Molly C. McLaughlin, Thomas Borch, and Jens Blotevogel, Environmental Science & Technology, 12 May 2016
This study from Colorado State University finds that polyethylene glycol surfactants used in fracking fluids were completely biodegraded in agricultural topsoil within 42-71 days but their transformation was impeded in the presence of the biocide glutaraldehyde and was completely inhibited by salt at concentrations typical of oil and gas waste water. The researchers say their findings highlight the need to consider co-contaminant effects when evaluating the risk of frack fluid additives and oil and gas waste water constituents in agricultural soils.

Brine Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil Development in North Dakota, Nancy E. Lauer, Jennifer S. Harkness and Avner Vengosh, Environmental Science & Technology, 9 May 2016
This study concluded that 3,900 recent accidental wastewater spills in North Dakota had caused widespread contamination from radioactive materials, heavy metals and corrosive salts, putting the health of people and wildlife at risk.

Indication of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewaters Found in Local Surface Waters, US Geological Survey, Duke University and University of Missouri, 9 May 2016
This report looks at the impacts of a deep well injection disposal site on the water quality of a surface stream. It found endocrine disrupting activity at levels high enough to block some hormone receptors and potentially lead to adverse health effects in aquatic organisms. The study did not look at how wastewaters were able to migrate from the disposal site to the surface stream.

Temporal variation in groundwater quality in the Permian Basin of Texas, a region of increasing unconventional oil and gas development, Zacariah L. Hildenbrand, Doug D. Carlton Jr, Brian E. Fontenot, Jesse M. Meik, Jayme L. Walton, Jonathan B. Thacker, Stephanie Korlie, C. Phillip Shelor, Akinde F. Kadjo, Adelaide Clark, Sascha Usenko, Jason S. Hamilton, Phillip M. Mach, Guido F. Verbeck IV, Paul Hudak, Kevin A. Schug, Science of The Total Environment, 26 April 2016
This study found the impact of horizontal drilling and fracking on groundwater quality was not permanent. Researchers found water samples from private wells contained chlorinated solvents, alcohols and aromatic compounds exclusively after multiple unconventional oil wells had been activated within 3.1 miles (5 km) of the sampling sites. Large fluctuations in pH and total organic carbon levels also were detected in addition to a gradual accumulation of bromide. But the study found toxic compounds associated with unconventional drilling may degrade or become diluted over time.

Endocrine disrupting activities of surface water associated with a West Virginia oil and gas industry wastewater disposal site, Christopher D. Kassotisa, Luke R. Iwanowicz, Denise M. Akob, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, Adam C. Mumford, William H. Orem, Susan C. Nagel, Science of The Total Environment, 10 April 2016
This study from the University of Missouri reported high levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the surface water near a fracking wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia. The study concluded that given the widespread use of injection wells for end-disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater, these data raise concerns for human and animal health nearby.

Toxic biocides may not be needed routinely at fracking sites, C&EN, 7 April 2016
The journal of the American Chemical Society reports on research by Rice University and Statoil, which questioned the need for biocides to combat hydrogen sulphide which can corrode pipelines. It said the research found that H2S might be formed by geochemical reactions, rather than microbes and temperatures in wells might be too hot for sulfogenic microbes to survive.

Impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water and Domestic Wells from Production Well Stimulation and Completion Practices in the Pavillion, Wyoming, Field, Dominic C. DiGiulio and Robert B. Jackson, Environmental Science and Technology, 29 March 2016
This study highlighted levels of benzene in water 50 times above allowable limits from a fracking operation in Wyoming. The research, prompted by local complaints about the smell and taste of water, also revealed chemicals had been dumped in unlined pits and that cement barriers were inadequate.

Updated 29/09/2016 to include report by the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st century energy


3 replies »

  1. This is a really excellent initiative; thank you DoD + whoever put it together. Sometimes I think the only things the pro-frackers will take notice of are economics, or hard fact science, and even then …

  2. The evidence against fracking just keeps mounting. The sooner technology allows us to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and their influence on governments, the better. Storage of green electricity and changes in transport will enable this faster than the fossil fuel industry dare admit.

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