12 new fracking studies: resource, attitudes, impacts and regulation


This round-up looks at studies about fracking published in the past month. 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

10:10 energy survey, ComRes opinion poll for the climate change charity 10:10, 20 October 2016
10:10 says this is a representative poll of 2,037 UK adults interviewed online. It found that 34% supported fracking for shale gas, compared with 45% who opposed and 20% who said they didn’t know. This compared with responses for solar farms (83% support, 8% oppose), onshore wind farms (73% support, 17% oppose), offshore wind farms (80% support, 10% oppose), nuclear power plans (45% support, 37% oppose). This is the first opinion poll on fracking since the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, gave the go ahead to Cuadrilla’s site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK, University of Nottingham, 13 October 2016
The most recent survey by YouGov for Nottingham University long-running survey found that for the first time people who thought shale gas extraction should not be allowed in the UK outstripped those who thought it should (41%:37%). The pollsters interviewed more than 4,000 people in September and October 2016, before the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, overruled the refusal of planning permission for a Cuadrilla site in Lancashire. Negative associations of shale gas with water contamination and higher greenhouse gas emissions also increased.

Biology and ecology

Developing a biodiversity-based indicator for large-scale environmental assessment: a case study of proposed shale gas extraction sites in Britain, Robert Dyer, Simon Gillings, Richard Pywell Richard Fox, David Roy and Tom Oliver, Journal of Applied Ecology, 6 October 2016
This analysis of 5,533 species has revealed that 65% of areas of Britain deemed suitable for fracking have above average biodiversity. Senior author Dr Tom Oliver from the University of Reading said: “Our results are an important step in assessing potential impacts of fracking on species and will help protect much-loved British wildlife that could be a risk such as wetland birds.

Energy policy

Written evidence from United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas to the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, published 18 October 2016
The industry body, UKOOG, says UK energy policy “should provide secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy, with an emphasis on home-grown energy and innovation for the future. To achieve this, we will need a balance of gas, renewables and nuclear. Getting this right is critical to manufacturers across the UK.” The authors says onshore energy production has been “impacted by a slow and uncertain planning system. They add: “There is an urgent need to invest in all onshore production, be it shale or non-shale, alongside further investment in the North Sea, to complement nuclear and renewable developments.”

Oil and gas resources

IGas Reserves and Resources as of 30 June, DeGolyerr and MacNaughten, 17 October 2016
This report by an international reserves and resources auditor, estimates IGas UK has 11 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of potentially recoverable gas resources in its UK shale portfolio, which marks it as a “world class” asset. The report estimates a total of 102tcf of shale gas in place across the IGas projects. Proved oil reserves totalled 9.39 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe). Proved and probable reserves amounted to 13.77 million boe. Estimated contingent resources of oil increased to 21.83m boe.

The Jurassic shale of the Wessex area: resource estimation report, British Geological Survey and Oil and Gas Authority, 13 October
The authors estimate the shale oil in place – the total amount of oil present in the rocks –  is 0.2-2.8 billion barrels (bbl) or 32-378 million tonnes. The central estimate is 1.1 billion bbl or 149 million tonnes. They say it is not known what percent of oil present in the shale could be commercially extracted. The report says no significant gas resource is recognised because the shale is not thought to have reached the geological maturity required to generate gas. The authors say shale oil has potential but will require geological and engineering expertise, investment and protection of the environment. This report is an extension to BGS report: The Jurassic shale of the Weald Basin: geological and shale oil and shale gas resource estimation, published on 23 May 2014. See also The Carboniferous shales of the Midland Valley of Scotland: geology and resource estimation (June 2014)


A rapid evidence assessment of regulation and regulatory practices involved in fracking and its publications, Andrew Watterson and William Dinan, 12 October 2016
This study reviewed scientific and academic papers and reports by professionals, government agencies, industry and NGOs. It concluded there was very little support for the UK government position that fracking would be safe assuming there was or would be best practice and robust regulation. Several reports concluded fracking could not conducted safely and outlined risks to public health that could not be mitigated. The authors said the evidence base for robust regulation and good industry practice was currently absent, the evidence from peer reviewed papers suggested fracking in the UK would not be effectively regulated and US and UK peer reviewed analyses and EU law identified both the precautionary principle and prevention as keys to dealing with fracking. An embedded copy of the report is included in the linked article.



Fracked ecology: Response of aquatic trophic structure and mercury biomagnification dynamics in the Marcellus Shale Formation, Christopher James Grant, Allison K. Lutz, Aaron D. Kulig, Mitchell R. Stanton, Ecotoxicology, 14 October 2016
The researchers sampled 27 streams in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale basin in June and July 2012 and 2013 for their physiochemical properties, trophic biodiversity, and structure and mercury levels. They observed no difference in rates of biomagnification related to within-watershed fracking activities, but they did observe elevated methyl mercury concentrations where fracking occurred in the watershed. They concluded that fracking has the potential to alter aquatic biodiversity and methyl mercury concentrations at the base of food webs.


Upward revision of global fossil fuel methane emissions based on isotope databaseStefan SchwietzkeOwen A. SherwoodLori M. P. BruhwilerJohn B. MillerGiuseppe EtiopeEdward J. DlugokenckySylvia Englund MichelVictoria A. ArlingBruce H. VaughnJames W. C. White, Pieter P. Tans, Nature, 5 October 2016
The authors say they have compiled the largest isotopic methane signature database so far, including fossil fuels, microbial and biomass burning sources. They conclude that methane emissions from natural gas, oil and coal production and their usage are 20-60% greater than inventories. Previous estimates put contributions of methane from the global fossil fuel industry at 15-22%. They also concluded that methane emissions from natural gas as a fraction of production have declined from about 8% to about 2% over the past 30 years.

Atmospheric methane isotopic record favors fossil sources flat in 1980s and 1990s with recent increase, Andrew Rice, Christopher Butenhoff, Doaa Teama, Florian Roger, M Aslam Khalil and Reinhold Rasmussen, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 27 September 2016
The authors say they have strong evidence that methane emissions from fossil fuel sectors were approximately constant in the 1980s and 1990s but increased significantly between 2000 and 2009. This finding challenges recent conclusions based on atmospheric ethane that fugitive fossil fuel emissions fell during much of this period. Emissions from other anthropogenic sources also increased, but were partially offset by reductions in wetland and fire emissions. The evidence is based on carbon and hydrogen isotopic measurements of atmospheric methane in archived air samples collected 1977–1998, and modeling of these with more contemporary data to infer changes in methane sources over the period 1984–2009.


Identifying chemicals of concern in hydraulic fracturing fluids used for oil production, William T. Stringfellowa, Mary Kay Camarillo, Jeremy K. Domen, Whitney L. Sandelin, Charuleka Varadharajan, Preston D. Jordan, Matthew T. Reagan, Heather Cooley, Matthew G. Heberger, Jens T. Birkholzer, Environmental Pollution, 13 October 2016
In this review of chemical additives, the authors found the most frequently used chemical additives in oil development were gelling agents, cross-linkers, breakers, clay control agents, iron and scale control agents, corrosion inhibitors, biocides, and various impurities and product stabilizers used as part of commercial mixtures. Hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids, used for matrix acidizing and other purposes, were reported infrequently. A large number and mass of solvents and surface active agents were used, including quaternary ammonia compounds (QACs) and nonionic surfactants. The authors found that different chemicals were used in oil than gas fields. They identified what they called chemicals of concern in oil fields and said environmental data was missing for many chemicals and warranted additional study. Many chemicals which had low hazards for mammals were identified ask potentially hazardous to aquatic environments and the toxicity data was missing from risk analysis.


Surface uplift and time-dependent seismic hazard due to fluid injection in eastern Texas, Manoochehr Shirzaei, William L. Ellsworth, Kristy F. Tiampo, Pablo J. González, Michael Manga, Science, 23 September 2016
The authors say their work shows that wastewater injection in eastern Texas lifted the earth’s surface, detectable up to 8km from the wells. Deformations were seen near the biggest ever recorded quake in eastern Texas (4.8 Timpson earthquake in 2012). They found that the geology of the zone where water is injected can determine whether a quake was likely. In eastern wells buckling happened because a layer of impermeable rock beneath the injection site prevented the pressurised water getting to quake-prone faults further down and the stress was relieved by upward buckling of rocks. In western areas, there was no impermeable layer and high pressure water reached deeper quake-prone faults. The authors also concluded that seismic activity increased even while injection rates declined because of diffusion of pore pressure from earlier periods with higher injection rates.

Updated 24/10/16 to include Upward revision of global fossil fuel methane emissions based on isotope database

14 replies »

  1. There are some strange ‘reports’ here.

    On Regulation. what ridiculous nonsense and free of content report this is.
    ‘Several reports concluded fracking could not conducted safely and outlined risks to public health that could not be mitigated’ What about the million wells drilled in the US with no environmental issues?
    In the UK the only thing that needs to be considered are the new drilling regulations on
    and why do Public Health England have no issues?

    The most ridiculous comment is that regulations are ‘not independently assessed’. Er…. the regulations mentioned above were published after an extensive consultation period and are extensive. They are also subject to review as technology and knowledge progresses.

    As for the US based studies, what possible relevance do they have in the UK when we have a strong regulatory regime, including use of non hazardous chemicals, control of fugitive emissions etc.
    A report on seismicity has no relevance when flowback water waste injection is not permitted in the UK. Its all covered in the regs above!

    • Thanks for the link Ken. Very interesting, Is that a typo at the bottom of page 44 where is says “You may re-inject produced water into geological formations from which hydrocarbons have been extracted, or which for natural reasons have been designated by us as permanently unsuitable in order to facilitate production of hydrocarbons.” – it appears to contradict what you are saying. If a typo that’s very careless!

      Please see my contribution on the very last post. The documentary deals directly with the ‘wells drilled in the US with no environmental issues’ claim. I wouldn’t want people to think you are knowingly attempting to mislead.

      • Its not a typo Phillip. Produced water is nothing to do with shale gas. Several people seem to be misinterpreting this. It is water produced when oil (or normal gas) is produced. If you look at page 46, it deals with flowback water. That is to do with shale gas and it clearly states that it will not be licenced. See figure 5 on page 47. The writing above that means it possibly could be licenced in the future.
        The problems in the US are due to injection of produced water into fractured basement rock, and that has caused seismicity. Water injection into oil bearing rocks is standard practice for maintaining reservoir pressure.

        I never ‘knowingly try to mislead’ but do not know which post you refer to. Environmental issues in a million US wells drilled under improved regulations have had minimal issues. There still has never been a case of fracking causing pollution. If you do have evidence, please send it to Friends of the Earth because they are desperate to find proof that ‘fracking causes water contamination’. The Advertising Standards people have accepted my evidence to date in their provisional ruling, meaning FoE are misleading people.

      • Ken , the term ‘produced water’ is regularly used to refer to ‘flowback’ though perhaps mistakenly (as you say). You are right to make the distinction between the two but wrong to say that they have nothing to do with each other – as clarified in the this schematic ‘produced water’ in shale fracking contains a portion of fracturing fluid (footnote 7) , here :

        The evidence (of fracking causing pollution) is plentiful and the challenge is to get people like yourself (not FoE) to actually open your eyes and see it. There is so much damning testimony ‘out there’. I have now watched what must be getting close to 100 documented video case studies (and I suspect there are thousands) – many of them it has to be said are clunky, long winded and amateur productions but their strength is in their honesty. Having a long association with observational news and documentary-making nobody could ever convince me that these are anti-fracking stooges or paid actors. These are by people, including gun toting died-in-the-wool republican red necks, who have had their personal circumstances severely affected and reduced by local fracking – affecting livelihoods and property values, and damaging their health and the health of loved ones, animals and wildlife habitats. If you were invited to a ‘fact-finding’ documentary session would you be happy to tell some of these people to their faces that they are either lying or deluded or paid mis-informers?

        There’s a saying that’s almost a cliche now (but still true) that ‘once the truth is seen you cannot unsee it’. This is why I am angry about the lying and manipulation of perceptions by the powerful interests and certain people on these threads – refusing to review the testimonies and who go on peddling the prepackaged jargon that goes with the fracking push.

        “There still has never been a case of fracking causing pollution”… I challenge you to admit that this is a play on words (and misleading at that). If you separate the technical process of fracking – as that which occurs a mile or so under the ground – from the rest of the extraction process, only then can you get away with statements like that. When you include the entire drilling and extraction processes, then there are thousands of cases of pollution – and besides, fracking cannot occur in isolation from the other processes. A domestic analogy would be where both tiler and plumber can walk away from your bathroom saying that the leak between youth bath and the wall has nothing to do with tiling and nothing to do with plumbing.

        Again, please watch the analysis in the previously referred to video. It clearly explains why people have been getting away with your kind of argument for so long:

        • ‘the term ‘produced water’ is regularly used to refer to ‘flowback’ ….The link you sent does confuse that but the Environment Agency do not.
          “There still has never been a case of fracking causing pollution”. Yep thats the case. Please advise of a single case. Friends of the Earth examples given to the ASA have been rejected. They are all historical examples of bad practice. Poorly cemented wells, flooding open pits, open venting, etc etc. Its all been looked at by experts and the possible effects mitigated.

          To look at ‘the whole process’ is a content free phrase, to a scientist. To claim that a poorly drilled well or nasty chemicals spilled on the ground is ‘due to fracking’ is childish.

          • Wrong. To look at the ‘whole process’ is the way modern science works . That is what ‘systemic’ means these days … all interactions and feedback loops to be included in the modelling. You haven’t understood the argument and clearly have no answer as to why for example Colarado keep tightening there regulations – it is precisely because of the pollution caused by the shale gas industry. You are clearly seeking to mislead. The ASA should know that.

            • Please send your data to Friends of the Earth if its so clear then. I have not deceived the ASA, they have arrived at the logical conclusion. It is the nature of science to classify the exact causes for problems, and then sort them out.

              I recently attended a very interesting talk about the re licencing of the Concorde after the Paris crash. They had to to identify the exact causes of the crash, and mitigate each individual problem, and there were several. Looking at the matter ‘systemically’ would achieve nothing.

              If for example, pollution occurs from drilling due to a fuel leak onsite, you sort out the reasons that happened and put measures in place (as the UK have done). For example, chemical proof wellpads. You dont say ‘its all due fracking’. Yet that is what you are claiming. Its bunkum.

              Your posts are free of content.

              • You’re tripping over your own logic there Ken. The Concorde programme was treated systemically was wound up, otherwise we’d still see them flying around…. technocratic problem solving does not trump the issue of risks to humans as they are who Concorde was there to serve. Such an example just shows that while accidents do happen it’s all very well being wise after the event but that doesn’t turn the clock back and save the lives of those injured or killed. With the latest approaches to shale gas fracking and extraction the regulators have had to admit that many regulations are still out of date and further impact assessments are needed. The risks are real and it is only those operators that play fast and loose with the regulations are likely to turn a profit.

                Obviously people are using the term ‘fracking’ synonymously with ‘shale gas industry’ – as in the FoE leaflet – but that is not misleading as the two are interdependent. Tell me any way, other than fracking, of getting natural gas out of shale.

                Your argument then is merely pedantic and thereby a better example of ‘content free’.

                • Concorde came back into service after the Paris crash but stopped later due to other factors. Yet again poor logic Phillip.
                  The current regulations were arrived at after extensive consultation. They are also not finished, as they never will be. If new methods develop that are incorporated into the requirements. BAT, or best available technique is required. If you can suggest a better system please propose it to the Environment Agency.
                  Its how every industry works.
                  You seem to have confused ‘hazard’ with ‘risk’ BTW. These are very different animals, that are often confused. The hazards are there, but mitigated, leading to risk being low. (ie its safe)

                  So it is ‘pedantic’ to state that there are zero proven examples of fracking causing pollution?

                  Surely it is ‘misleading’ to present spills and poorly sealed wells as ‘due to fracking’.

                • It is simply a lie to say there are ‘zero proven examples of fracking causing pollution’ given that we are using the term fracking to mean the ‘shale gas industry’ (whose existence depends on that process). To use a technical argument eg that fracking only applies to what takes place within the shale layer itself (in isolation) is an extreme form of pedantry.

                  Incidents of cement seal failure is much higher for fracked wells than for conventional wells due to both the deviation techniques a the extremely high pressure pumping techniques employed. And the failure rate leaps up when those wells get refracted.

                  Your imagined idealised world where these risks and failures are zero does not exist.

          • Ken, your pals at Cuadrilla claim in their radioactive dose assessment documentation that “each well site potentially generates 35,000 m3 of produced water”.

            Do they not know what they are talking about then? I find that a bit worrying as they get near fracking the first onshore well for 6 years!

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