Fracking research and report round-up: August 2017


This post collates links to studies, briefings and reports from the past six months on fracking and the onshore oil and gas industry. It includes briefings on the industry and regulation, along with work on emissions, public attitudes to fracking, economic impacts, seismic effects and contamination risks.

Please let us know if we’ve missed a reference you think should be included.  Click here to get in touch.

These papers have been added to the Research and report 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 emissions

Mobile measurement of methane emissions from natural gas developments in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada
Emmaline Atherton, David Risk, Chelsea Fougere, Martin Lavoie, Alex Marshall, John Werring, James P. Williams, and Christina Minions
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 7 April 2017
This study monitored methane levels around more than 1,600 unique well pads and facilities developed by more than 50 different operators. It found that 47% of active wells emitted methane-rich plumes above the researchers’ minimum detection limit. Abandoned and under-development well sites also emitted methane-rich plumes but at a lower incident rate. Older infrastructure tended to emit more often per unit. The total contribution of emissions was estimated at 111,800 for the Montney development, higher than the 78,000 tonnes estimated for the total oil and gas sector in British Colombia. Montney represents 55% of production in the state.
Peer-reviewed journal

Composition and sources of winter haze in the Bakken oil and gas extraction region
Evanoski-Cole AR, Gebhart KA, Sive BC, Zhou Y, Capps SL, Day DE, Prenni AJ, Schurman MI, Sullivan AP, Li Y, Hand JL, Schichtel BA, and Collett JL
Atmospheric Environment, online version 9 February 2017
This study investigated particle concentrations in the Bakken region of the US. It found high concentrations of PM2.5 were linked to air mass stagnation. During these periods there was evidence that air masses were dominated by emissions from the Bakken region.
Peer-reviewed journal

Attitudes to fracking


Public Attitudes tracking survey, Wave 22
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 3 August 2017
This quarterly public survey found that levels of support for fracking were at 16%, their lowest level since the question was first asked. Opposition to fracking stood at 33%, also the highest level (also recorded in autumn 2016). The gap between support and opposition was 17 percentage points, the largest recorded so far.

Public attitudes to fracking in Lancashire
YouGov for Friends of the Earth, 30 June 2017
This survey found that 66% of participants opposed fracking within five miles of where they lived and the same proportion were concerned about the impact of fracking on Lancashire’s natural environment. 54% said they thought fracking was unsafe. DrillOrDrop report

Public Attitudes tracking survey, Wave 21
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 4 May 2017
This quarterly survey found that support for fracking had risen slightly to 19%, but it was still 10 percentage points behind opposition, which had dropped 1% since the previous survey.

Deliberating the perceived risks, benefits, and societal implications of shale gas and oil extraction by hydraulic fracturing in the US and UK
Nature Energy, online version 10 April 2017
Merryn Thomas, Tristan Partridge, Barbara Herr Harthorn and Nick Pidgeon
This study concluded that the perceived risk of shale gas development was similar in the UK as in the US. The researchers found that people were concerned about water contamination and earthquake risk and who would bear the costs of the process.

Resilient but not sustainable? Public perceptions of shale gas development via hydraulic fracturing
Evensen D, Stedman R, Brown-Steiner B
Ecology and Society, 2017
This study, based on interviews in the Marcellus Shale region of New York and Pennsylvania, found that people who thought local sustainability was important were more likely to oppose shale gas development but the reversed was true for people who thought local resilience was important.
Peer-reviewed journal


pnr 170817 Frack Free Creators - Knitting Nannas Lancashire11

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 17 August 2017. Photo: Frack Free Creators – Knitting Nanas of Lancashire

High volume hydraulic fracturing
Sir Richard Storey, July 2017
This four-part review of fracking examines evidence about the need for fracking, its hazards and the regulation of the process in England. It highlights findings from studies in the US about environmental impacts and argues that English regulation is “wholly unfit” for purpose.
Introduction, High volume hydraulic fracturing (pdf)

Part 2, Need for high volume hydraulic fracturing (pdf)

Part 3, Hazards and dangers of high volume hydraulic fracturing (pdf) 

Part 4, English regulation of high volume hydraulic fracturing (pdf)

Environmental and Community Impacts of Shale Development in Texas
The Academy of medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, 19 June 2017
This 204-page report covers six impacts of shale exploration and production activities: geology and earthquakes; land resources; air quality; water quality and quantity; transportation; and economic and social impacts. The Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the document led with the conclusion: “Oil and gas drilling in Texas shale plays pollutes the air, erodes soil and contaminates water, while the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater causes earthquakes, a consortium of the state’s top scientists concluded.”

Whitehall’s fracking science failure
Paul Mobbs for Talk Fracking, 24 May 2017
This report critiques the MacKay and Stone review of greenhouse gas emissions of shale, used by the government to support its development. Paul Mobbs questions the accuracy of the MacKay and Stone findings because of what he says are problems in the data selected and the analysis.


Characterization of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids for wells located in the Marcellus Shale Play
Huan Chen and Kimberly E. Carter
Journal of Environmental Management. Volume 200, online version 4 June 2017
This paper investigated the chemicals introduced into the hydraulic fracturing fluids for completed wells located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia from data provided by the well operators. Of the 517 chemicals listed by the operators, 96 were inorganic compounds, 358 chemicals were organic species, and the remaining 63 cannot be identified. Many toxic organics were used in the hydraulic fracturing fluid, the study concluded, some of them carcinogenic. The breakdown of some chemicals produced toxic and persistent by-products.
Peer-reviewed journal


Market Report Series: Gas 2017
International Energy Agency, 13 July 2017
This report argues that the natural gas market is undergoing a fundamental transformation. The ongoing shale-gas revolution in the US and the growing liquefaction capacity along with the fast-growing LNG trade, are disrupting traditional gas business and pricing models.

The shale gas revolution: Barriers, sustainability, and emerging opportunities
Richard S.Middleton, RajanGupta, Jeffrey D.Hyman and Hari S.Viswanathan
Applied Energy, online version 9 May 2017
This study, which analysed data from 23 years of production from 20,000 wells, looks at key discoveries of shale gas and hydraulic refracturing, lessons learned and recommendations. The researchers argue that overall shale gas production is dominated by “long-term tail production” rather than the high-profile initial exponentially-declining production in the first 12 months. They hypothesize that tail production can be manipulated through better fracturing techniques and alternative working fluids, such as CO2 to increase shale gas recovery and minimise environmental impacts.
Peer-reviewed journal

Broadford Bridge 170614 DrillOrDrop1small

Photo: DrillOrDrop

Male earnings, marriageable men and nonmarital fertility: Evidence from the fracking boom
Melissa S Kearney and Rile Wilson
National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2017
The authors conclude that localised fracking booms led to increased wages for non-collee educated men. They found that in response to fracking production, births to married and non-married women increased, although there was no evidence of increased marriage rates.


Health in Environmental Impact Assessment. A Primer for a Proportionate Approach
Ben Cave Associates Ltd, IEMA and the Faculty of Public Health, May 2017
This document argues that the biggest opportunity to influence project design and therefore health outcomes occurs while scoping, very early in the design process.

Is increasing coal seam gas well development activity associated with increasing hospitalisation rates in Queensland, Australia? – an Exploratory Analysis 1995-2011
Werner AK, Cameron CM, Watt K, Vink S, Jagals P, Page A
International Journal of Environmental Research, May 2017
This study found that all-cause hospitalisation rates increased with increasing gas well development. Hospitalisation for blood and immune conditions increased for men and women but rates for circulatory conditions for both genders decreased.

There’s a World Going on Underground—Infant Mortality and Fracking in Pennsylvania
Christopher Busby and Joseph Mangano
Journal of Environmental Protection, online version 24 April 2017
This study looked at infant mortality in the 10 most heavily fracked countries of Pennsylvania compared with the rest of the state. It compared the period 2007-2010, after fracking developed, with a control period of 2003-2006. It concluded that fracking appeared to be associated with early infant mortality in populations living in counties where the process is carried out. There is some evidence that the effect is associated with private water well density and/or environmental law violations.
Peer-reviewed journal


A pilot study to assess residential noise exposure near natural gas compressor stations
Meleah D. Boyle, Sutyajeet Soneja, Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, Laura Dalemarre, Amy R. Sapkota, Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Sacoby Wilson, Donald Milton, Amir Sapkota
PLOS One, 3 April 2017
This study in Doddridge County, West Virginia, concluded that living near a natural gas compressor station could potentially result in high environmental noise exposures.
Peer-reviewed journal


Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma Affects Shallow Groundwater
Chi‐Yuen Wang, Michael Manga, Manoochehr Shirzaei, Matthew Weingarten, Lee‐Ping Wang
Seismological Research Letters, 3 May 2017
This research concluded that induced seismicity in Oklahoma can causes changes of groundwater level over distances more than 150km from the epicentre. The researchers said they tested existing models for the cause. The most consistent model with observations was enhanced crustal permeablity produced by seismic waves, changing aquifer recharge. Sources of the recharge were close to the responding wells and have lateral dimensions of about 100m.

Water and waste

A detailed risk assessment of shale gas development on headwater streams in the Pennsylvania portion of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, USA
Kelly O. Maloneya, John A. Young, Stephen P. Faulkner, Atesmachew Hailegiorgis, E. Terrence Slonecker and Lesley E. Milheim
Science of The Total Environment, online version 27 July 2017
This study found infrastructure, water abstraction, and spills from unconventional oil and gas cumulatively affect ecosystems. The use of well density as a proxy for development correlated strongly only with well pad coverage and produced materials but may miss the potential effects of roads, pipelines, water abstraction, and spills.
Peer-reviewed journal

Sulfide Generation by Dominant Halanaerobium Microorganisms in Hydraulically Fractured Shales
Anne E. Booker, Mikayla A. Borton, Rebecca A. Daly, Susan A. Welch, Carrie D. Nicora, David W. Hoyt, Travis Wilson, Samuel O. Purvine, Richard A. Wolfe, Shikha Sharma, Paula J. Mouser, David R. Cole, Mary S. Lipton, Kelly C. Wrighton, Michael J. Wilkins
mSphere, July 2017
The researchers confirmed strains of the bacteria Halanaerobium in the produced fluids from a well in the Utica shale region of the US. The bacteria had the potential to catalyse thiosulfate-dependent sulfidogenesis. The authors say their work demonstrates that dominant microbial populations in subsurface ecosystems contain the conserved capacity for the reduction of thiosulfate to sulfide and that this process was likely to be occurring. Sulfide generation (also known as “souring”) is considered damaging in the oil and gas industry because of toxicity issues and impacts on corrosion of the subsurface infrastructure.
Peer-reviewed journal

Comparison of chemical-use between hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and routine oil and gas development
William T. Stringfellow, Mary Kay Camarillo, Jeremy K. Domen, Seth B. C. Shonkoff
PLOS One, 19 April 2017
This study compared chemical use in southern California between routine activities in unconventional oil and gas development with the more closely regulated well stimulation activities. The researchers found a significant overlap in the type and volume of chemicals used in unconventional activities and routine activities for well maintenance, well-completion and reworking.
Peer-reviewed journal

Radioactivity in wastes generated from shale gas exploration and production – North-Eastern Poland
Paweł Jodłowskia, Jan Macudab, Jakub Nowaka and Chau Nguyen Dinh
Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, online version 19 April 2017
This study looked at radioactivity in 64 samples of waste from shale gas exploration. It found a significant enhancement in the radium isotopes Ra-226 and Ra-228 after the fracking process in the return fluids. The radium isotope content of the fluids was comparable with waste from copper and coal mines in Poland.
Peer-reviewed journal

The geochemistry of naturally occurring methane and saline groundwater in an area of unconventional shale gas development
Jennifer S. Harkness, Thomas H. Darrah, Nathaniel R. Warner, Colin J. Whyte, Myles T. Moore, Romain Millot, Wolfram Kloppmann, Robert B. Jackson and Avner Vengosh
Geochimica and Cosmochima Acta, online version 5 April 2017
This study found evidence of the impact on surface water of fluids accidentally released from nearby shale-gas well pads and oil and gas wastewater disposal sites. It showed that the chemistry and isotope radios of surface waters near known spills or leaks at fracking disposal sites mimicked the composition of Marcellus flowback fluids.
Peer-reviewed journal


Markwells Wood. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A Review of Karstic Potential and Groundwater Vulnerability of the Chalk Principal Aquifer in and around Markwells Wood, West Sussex
Aidan Foley for Markwells Wood Watch, April 2017
This study estimated that groundwater in the chalk aquifer at Markwells Wood could reach the Bedhampton & Havant Springs water abstraction point. This is faster the Environment Agency had estimated and, if confirmed, would put Markwells Wood in a Source Protection Zone 1, rather than its current classification as SPZ2.

Mobility and persistence of methane in groundwater in a controlled-release field experiment
Aaron Cahil, Colby M Steelman, Olenka Forde, Olykayode Kuloyo, S Emil Ruff, Bernhard Mayer, Ulrich Mayer, Marc Strous, Cathryn Ryan, John A Cherry, Beth L Parker
Nature Geoscience, April 2017
This study looked at the results of a 72-day methane gas injection into a shallow flat-lying aquifer. A significant fraction of methane vented to the atmosphere but an equal portion remained in groundwater. Methane persisted in groundwater despite the active growth of methanotrophic bacteria. The researchers conclude that even small-volume releases of methane gas can cause extensive and persistent free phase and solute plumes emanating from leaks that are detectable only by contaminant hydrogeology monitoring at high resolution.
Peer-reviewed journal

38 replies »

  1. The bulk of these appear to be potentially negative studies in foreign jurisdictions, where regulations and permissions for chemicals, and fluid handling techniques are completely different. They have no relevance for the UK, except for scaremongering. That’s why Public Health England find there are no serious issues under UK regulations. They are the main source of reliable info in the UK, and as a statutory consultee, have contributed to the recent Third Energy application.

    The tail end of the Scottish Govt investigations have been released. These are much more relevant.

  2. “in response to fracking booms, births to married and non married women increased”!!

    If the land ladies in Blackpool can not sell their vacant rooms in January, marketing that “pearl”, there is no hope! Summer season, conference season and then-“fracking” season. Careful with the earth tremors.

  3. Good to see a round up like this Ruth. Well done.
    The finding from Sir Richard Story’s review more than addresses Ken Wilkinson’s point above i.e. that…
    “The evidence base for robust regulation and good industry practice is currently absent. There are multiple serious challenges surrounding location, scale, monitoring and data deficits facing regulators overseeing onshore UGE and fracking in the UK”

        • Look at the planning docs and other evidence and you will see that this is not a big conspiracy, its normal science and the practice of many other industries. Please provide evidence that they are NOT being complied with Philip P.

          • Ken – it is you who is continuing with your rather sad attempts to blacken Mr Hill’s name – your [edited by moderator] attempt to get him thrown out of the IET backfired on you rather spectacularly when not one of your many accusations got upheld.

            I think that as it is you who is claiming “Mike continues to falsely claim that only 1 of the 10 recommendations from the Royal Academy of Engineering report 2012 have been put in place” that the onus is now on YOU to describe why you believe his clam to be false and how you believed those 10 recommendations have in fact been implemented.

            Over to you – I look forward to your response.

  4. “it highlights findings from studies in US”-surprise, surprise. There would probably be thousands of practises in the US that the UK would not follow. I certainly know of quite a few, eg. gun control.

    It really is a lazy, and flawed premise.

  5. The projections and profit calculations are based on those profitable practices, and guidelines developed over the years in the USA – the most experienced country with this kind of industry – surprise surprise. If it was all being invented from scratch here there could be no projections … duh.. gun control has to be your most irrelevant comment yet Martin.

  6. Taken from the IGAS sharechat webpage today, regarding Cuadrilla..


    Is this information correct or wrong ????
    ( I can’t find any other information about it. )

    ” UK fracking potential
    Potential is an often over used word. Cuadrilla began drilling 48 hours ago, to huge fanfare and an announcement of their £100k “bribe” to local residents for which BBC North West were happy to report. The fact is they have now had to remove every single section of that drill today, that’s over 30 sections that they inserted yesterday. No explanation whatsoever. As a result, nearby residents are now without water and United Utilities are on site attempting to remedy the situation. I genuinely feel sorry for those still invested, I was one of those who jumped ship 6 months ago, and at a considerable loss! This share is going nowhere “

    • Hi Jack

      Thanks for your post. We’ve been unable to verify this.

      There are reports of people in postcode FY4 having problems with drinking water, but no indication at present that it is connected to operations at Preston New Road.

      If anyone knows better, please get in touch

  7. Thanks for your post.
    Ok Michael, I can accept that the problem with the local water supply in that particular area may well of been coincidental.

    BUT does anyone have any information regarding the statement made about Cuadrilla on the Igas share chat webpage, Saturday 19th August at 0.47am which says,

    ” The fact is they have now had to remove every single section of that drill today, that’s over 30 sections that they inserted yesterday. No explanation whatsoever”


      • As the next post on the Igas share price chat says to the OP “Clearly you don’t understand the various drilling and cementing phases…”

        • Thanks for your reply Al.

          I gratefully acknowledge the contribution made by a number of members on this forum regarding the technical side of the Oil and Gas industry … From experience, I have found this site to be far more informative than ANY industry arranged public meeting.

          As far as the drilling process goes, I can understand the various stages of production and completion, allbeit on a simple scale… What I can not understand Al, due to the fact I have never worked in the industry, is the drill rate.
          ( I can accept that this will vary due to the location/accessibility and the material being drilled.)

          Taking note of your response to my above post. I can assume that your leval of expertise within industry is far greater than the ordinary layman and therefore you will be able to throw light and give a detailed explanation as to the current depths of Caudrillas condutor casing/surface casing .

          AS YOUR ABOVE POST IS VAGUE AND LACKING IN CONTENT, can you please explain to us ordinary folk why the gentleman on the Igas share chat website is wrong ????

  8. Drill 30ft, add another piece of drill pipe. Keep going until you reach the casing point, which will be an approximate depth on the drilling programme, but will actually be defined as “X metres into the Y formation” OR the drill rate drops because the drill bit is worn out. Assuming first case, pull out, possible logging run, run casing, cement, test cement bond, resume drilling. Second case, pull out, change bit, run back in. Final possibility is junk in hole (eg cone falls off drill bit), then: pull out, retrieve junk, resume drilling.

    • Al, I thank you for taking the time to explain to the forum and myself the various possible reasons for a ” pull out ”
      Regards, Jack .

      • Al, just add to my above post.

        Although we may never know the real reason for this ” pull out ” if it EVER did happen . You do give valid possible explanations for it .

        With just cause, there’s a lot of heightened stress, worry and tension from the general public as a result of Cuadrillas operations and rightly so, as their previous track record in the area is not good .

        Although the gentleman’s statement on the Igas share chat webpage MAY or MAY NOT be valid, have any importance or warrent any serious concern. This is a reflection as to how closely people will be watching Cuadrilla.

        • I think once again it is this type of misinformation you are spreading that creat unnecessary fear and anxiety in the locals.

          • ” once again ” and ” misinformation ”
            TW you spread your net long and wide with those vauge assertions.

            You need to be more specific in order that I have the opportunity to challenge your statement.

            I do not recall a time when you’ve challenged something that I’ve put forward on this forum, but I would welcome the opportunity to debate something in particular from the past or present.

            Regards, Jack

        • Digas is well known as a fake ‘deramper’ on the share chat. You just need to click their name and you can see previous posts. It’s all bunch of nonsense. Relax.

  9. Hi Paul. Can you remind me what date is the CoA hearing? I thought it was this week but can’t see it on the diary. TIA.

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