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. Government sponsored research on air quality implications of burning biomass …

    “National energy statistics as used within the National Atmospheric Emission Inventory (NAEI) show an increasing trend in the combustion of wood. The 2012 version of the NAEI estimates that the contribution of biomass burning to UK PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 μm) emissions rose from less than 5% in 1990 to over 17% in 2012, with the largest increases occurring in the domestic sector.”

    This research shows some of the complications of energy production issues, many people have bought wood burning stoves as they represent low carbon “organic” sources of heat, (assuming the wood burnt is been replanted) but it seems the pollution potential is large. However the use of percentages in the report does rather divert from the major issue which would be the overall level of particulates in an area of concern.

    Relevance to shale gas is of course that replacement of wood burners with gas in urban areas would reduce pollution.

  2. With BHP pull out of shale unfavorable uk geology low gas price together this could be a perfect storm that cause asset like Cuadrilla stranded. Anti frackers are surely happy with these possible factors coming together. They may not have to waste their time hugging the tarmac on PNR now.

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