Recent research roundup: January 2017


This round-up, compiled by Jack Lampkin and Ruth Hayhurst, looks at recent studies about fracking. 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.

These papers will also be added to the Research section of DrillOrDrop which has links to studies on fracking and onshore oil and gas dating back to 2011. Look for this section under Resources on the menu.


Air quality

Assessing the fugitive emission of CH4 via migration along fault zones – Comparing potential shale gas basins to non-shale basins in the UK
Boothroyd IM, Almond S, Worrall F, Davies RJ, Science of the Total Environment, 24 September 2016
This study considered whether faults bounding hydrocarbon-bearing basins could be conduits for methane release to the atmosphere. It looked at five basin bounding faults in the UK and found shale basins did not have a significantly different CH4 flux to non-shale hydrocarbon basins and non-hydrocarbon basins. The authors estimate faults have an emissions factor of 11.5±6.3tCH4/km/yr, while the most conservative estimate of the flux from faults is 0.7±0.3tCH4/km/yr.

Changes in O3 and NO2 due to emissions from Fracking in the UK
Archibald, A. and Ordonez, C, EGU General Assembly Conference Abstracts (Vol. 18), April 2016
The authors simulated scenarios to determine potential impacts related to fracking. They said the simulations demonstrated that there were large changes in the hourly maximum levels of Nitrogen Dioxide with modest increases in the monthly mean. They recommended stringent measures be applied to prevent deleterious impacts on air quality from emissions related to fracking.

Attitudes to fracking

Exploring Support for Shale Gas Extraction in the United Kingdom
Andersson-Hudson, J. Knight, W. Humphrey, M. and O’Hara, S, Energy Policy, 98: 582-589, November 2016
This paper draws on the Nottingham University survey of public opinion on fracking carried out in September 2014. The findings suggest 43% of respondents support shale extraction in the UK. Support is less likely from women, class DE respondents, non-Conservative Party supporters and people who associate shale gas with water contamination or earthquakes.

Seeing futures now: Emergent US and UK views on shale development, climate change and energy systems
Partridge, T. Thomas, M. Harthorn, B.H. Pidgeon, N. Hasell, A. Stevenson, L. and Enders, C, Global Environmental Change, 42: 1-12, 20 November 2016
The authors held day-long workshops in the US and UK to facilitate discussion of the possible consequences and meanings of shale development. Concerns expressed by participants were not limited to water contamination. People also question whether shale development was compatible with their visions for a longer-term future, including thoughts on climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, development of alternative technologies and obligations to act responsibly for future generations.


Fear of Fracking? The Impact of the Shale Gas Exploration on House Prices in Britain
Gibbons, S. Heblich, S. Lho, E. and Timmins, C, Spatial Economics Research Centre Discussion Paper 207, October 2016
The authors find that licensing for shale gas exploration did not affect house prices in the UK but fracking the first well in 2011, which caused two minor earthquakes, did. They founda 2.7-4.1% house price decrease in the area where the earthquakes occurred.

Environmental impacts and risks

Developing shale gas and maintaining the beauty of the British countryside
UKOOG, 10 January 2017
The authors, the trade body for the onshore oil and gas industry, conclude that the development of 400 well pads, each the size of two football pitches, could reduce the UK’s gas import dependency by 50%. They suggest 7-11 pads of 2ha each would be needed in a 10km by 10km licence block. Temporary drilling rigs, which are on site for a matter of weeks, would be between 24m (80ft) and 54m (175ft), similar in height to an electricity pylon but smaller than a wind turbine, the authors say. During gas production the wellhead would only be around 2m (6.5 ft).

Everything you always wanted to know about acidizing
Kathryn McWhirter, 10 January 2017
The author, a climate change campaigner, reviews the use of acids in the onshore and gas industry, the environmental risks and the locations where it is likely in the UK.

Potential environmental impacts of ‘fracking’ in the UK
Staddon, C. Hayes, E. T. and Brown, J.  Geography, 101(2): 60-69, November 2016
The authors examine the uncertainties of the impacts of fracking in the UK and assess some of the implications for the water environment. They also suggest ways in which the UK could learn from the experiences of fracking in the USA.

Review of the Scientific Evidence to Support Environmental Risk Assessment of Shale Gas Development in the UK
Prpich, G., Coulon, F. and Anthony, E.J. (2016) Science of the Total Environment, 563-564: 731-740, 1 September 2016
This paper suggests that a high-level environmental risk assessment (ERA) can demonstrate competency, communicate understanding and build trust that environmental risks are being managed properly. But the authors say an ERA requires a scientific evidence base and suggest that evidence from the US might not be transferable to other regions.


Fair fracking? Ethics and environmental justice in United Kingdom shale gas policy and planning
Cotton, M, The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 22(2): 185-202, 27 May 2016
The author concludes UK fracking policy has inherent contradictions of environmental justice in relation to the Conservative Government’s localist and planning reform agendas. The power of communities in fracking decisions had been curtailed and power transferred from local to central government. Only by “re-localising” the scale of fracking governance can political equality be ensured and the distributive and procedural environmental injustices be ameliorated.


A review of the public health impacts of unconventional natural gas development
Saunders, P.J. McCoy, D. Goldstein, R. Saunders, A.T. and Munroe, A, Environmental Geochemistry and Health, p.1-57, 5 December 2016
This paper concludes there is a need for high-quality epidemiological research which incorporates real exposure measures, improved understanding of methane leakage throughout the process and a rigorous analysis of the UK social and economic impacts.


Regulatory Domain and Regulatory Dexterity: Critiquing the UK Governance of ‘Fracking
Stokes, E, The Modern Law Review, 79: 961–986, November 2016
The paper argues that the UK government has adopted two arguments to regulation of fracking: regulatory domain and regulatory dexterity. The author suggests these approaches which are sometimes contradictory and rely on different conventions but are used by the government to advance its policy in support of fracking.

The discursive politics of unconventional gas in Scotland: Drifting towards precaution
Hannes, S.R, Energy Research and Social Science, 23: 159-168, 27 October 2016
The author looks at the role of the Scottish government in shaping public opinion and concludes that the government’s “storyline” has moved from a modestly reformed planning policy, to an exercise in scientific fact-finding and public consultation to possibly a precautionary approach that might result in an extended moratorium.

Fracking in the UK and Switzerland: Why Differences in Policymaking Systems Don’t Always Produce Different Outputs and Outcomes
Cairney, P. Fischer, M. and Ingold, K, Policy & Politics, 23 August 2016
This paper asks why don’t major differences in political systems and policy produce major differences in policy processes, outputs, and outcomes. The authors show that key aspects of fracking policy are similar in the UK and Switzerland, despite the UK government being ‘all out for shale’ and Switzerland’s consensus democracy favouring moratoriums.

Waste water

Desalination of shale gas produced water: A rigorous design approach for zero-liquid discharge evaporation systems
Onishi, V.C. Carrero-Parreno, A. Reyes-Labarta, J.A. Fraga, E.S. and Caballero, J.A, Journal of Cleaner Production, 140(3): 1399-1414, 1 January 2017
The paper introduces a new model aimed at reducing brine discharges from hydraulic fracturing. The authors suggest that their model helps to develop single and multiple-effect evaporation systems and reaching zero liquid discharge.



Public health implications of environmental noise associated with unconventional oil and gas development
Hays J, McCawley M, Shonkoff SB, Science of the Total Environment, 6 December 2016
The authors reviewed the scientific literature on environmental noise exposure to determine the potential concerns, if any, that noise from oil and gas development activities present to public health. They concluded there were many factors that make it hard to determine how noisy work has to be to have an effect on health. But literature indicates that oil and gas activities produce noise at levels that may increase the risk of adverse health outcomes, including annoyance, sleep disturbance, and cardiovascular disease.


Unconventional oil and gas spills: Materials, volumes, and risks to surface waters in four states of the US
Kelly O. Maloney, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Lauren A. Patterson, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Sally A. Entrekin, Joseph E. Fargione, Joseph M. Kiesecker, Kate E. Konschnik, Joseph N. Ryan, Anne M. Trainor, James E. Saiers, Hannah J. Wiseman, Science of the Total Environment, 30 December 2016
The authors analysed data from 6,622 spills from horizontal UOG wells in four U.S. states. They found that wastewater, crude oil, HF solution and drilling waste were most often spilled. The average distance of spills to the nearest stream was smallest in Pennsylvania. Some spills in all states occurred within current surface water setback regulations.

Risks and mitigation options for on-site storage of wastewater from shale gas and tight oil development
Yusuke Kuwayama, Skyler Roeshot, Alan Krupnick, Nathan Richardson, Jan Mares, Energy Policy, 18 Nov 2016
The authors review current research/information on shale gas and tight oil wastewater storage. They conclude that pit overflows, tank overfills, and liner malfunctions are common spill causes. Tanks lead to smaller and less frequent spills than pits, but are not a magic bullet.

Statistical analysis of compliance violations for natural gas wells in Pennsylvania
Abualfaraj et al, Energy Policy Journal, Oct 2016
The paper looks at violation reports for natural gas wells in Pennsylvania. The researchers concluded that conventional wells were more likely to have a violation when inspected. But when they compared violation rates relative to the number of active wells they found that, on average, 20% of unconventional wells have violations reported in each year, compared to 3% for conventional wells.

Developing monitoring plans to detect spills related to natural gas production
Harris AE, Hopkinson, and Soeder DJ, Environmental Monitoring Assessments, 29 October 2016
The authors evaluated how commercial off-the-shelf water quality sensors responded to simulated surface water pollution incidents. The concluded that where practical, sensors should be placed at the mouths of small watersheds where drilling activities or spill risks are present, as contaminant travel distance strongly affects concentrations in surface water systems.


7 replies »

  1. The majority of these reports conclude that there are real and significant impacts from fracking. Also that house prices fell in value where fracking has taken place and that local planning controls have been unfairly altered to favour fracking. There needs to be more research and monitoring on the very real threats to public health. So tell me – why are we forcing this, unfairly on communities that clearly and understandably don’t want it?
    It also shows the concerns of those opposed to fracking are legitimate and far from scaremongering.
    The answer; greed, politics and over confident engineers!

  2. Paul – because the pro frackers trot out phrases like “…’anti’ rhetoric and scaremongering” at every opportunity, along with “FoE propaganda” it rather turns your sides arguments into a bunch of predictable, pre-packaged assumptions (lazy… cultish even) and not addressing the points made in those papers at all…. it’s the same way climate deniers argue when they can’t be arsed to address the findings of the research.

  3. I think any research should align both academic and anecdotal accounts. Impacts on communities is a big issue and this interview is the most impartial and informative one I’ve seen…
    For a politician (supportive of the industry btw) Jesse White has to balance concerns of State (Pa), County, and local populations. He represents his district at the State level and shares his wealth of knowledge from direct observation and dealings with industry, environmental agencies and his local constituents, and he provides several angles on industry practices e.g. how best practices may or may not happen, incident reporting, set-backs, local jobs, PR and nearly every issue that will arise here, if it hasn’t already. He’s an impressively straightforward guy and there’s a refreshing absence of any hype (for a politician):

  4. Off topic, so I apologise, but I hope someone will read this and that my comment will be helpful.

    Please be aware that there is a lot of money to be made in this activity. I made a comment which suggested that one contributor (not anyone on this page) may have been promoting fracking dishonestly – bragging that it would be a good thing in order to wind up people who are frightened and opposed to this activity.

    I suggested that this person may have been an industry insider, one of those with a lot of money to gain from this activity and that his contribution may therefore not be entirely genuine.

    My comment was altered by an unknown person connected with this site and I was told that my comment constituted a “personal attack”.

    Given that I have no idea who the person is I find that difficult to accept. People are free to make up their own minds, but we should not be naive.

    I have no connection with resistance to this activity. I don’t live in an area affected. I feel very much intimidated by the alteration and by the accusation by those running this newspaper.

    Is this publication genuinely neutral on this issue?

    I don’t know. But I feel very intimidated and I won’t be back here. We live in very frightening times.

    • Yes, that was a pretty harsh edit by the moderator… identifying someone as a probable industry insider / investor (which I’m sure is true) is tame compared to the words that person was using to collectively smear the rest of us. Personal criticism has to be so indirect now that it warps plain speaking, but please don’t be shocked by this. I hope you will stick around.

  5. Talking about “research” of dubious quality, perhaps I could reveal the results of the “naturalistic experiment” I suggested last weekend (see my previous reply). I wrote then…
    “Once again it’ll be interesting to see how the UK, and indeed Europe as a whole, copes this week with a high pressure zone covering the UK and the continent from Wednesday to Friday at least, with consequent low wind speeds. I think it’s the sort of scenario that tests the potential of renewables to truly replace fossil fuel electricity supply. You might call it a naturalistic experiment.”

    Well the results are in, indeed the weather pattern was as forecast, the low wind speeds meant that wind contributed, on average less than 2GW of our electricity needs throughout the week, that is less than 4% of our peak demand around early evening. Solar did quite well (clear skies) indeed made over 2GW around Friday lunchtime, but practically zero in early evening. Biomass, I think mainly from the Drax plant, produced consistently over 2GB throughout the week. Hydro again remained at full tilt. I think, without going into detailed figures, last week’s data suggests,at present, in a period of short day length with consistent low winds, relying solely on renewables would leave a shortfall of around 85% of our home produced electricity supply.

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