Research

Fracking waste treatment and disposal could cost £1m a well – new research

171216 KM Eddie Thornton

Third Energy’s KM8 fracking site at Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, 16 December 2017. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Researchers at Edinburgh University have warned that cost of waste treatment and a shortage of specialist facilities could limit the development of fracking in the UK.

A team from the university’s School of Geosciences estimated that treating the salinity and other chemicals in fracking wastewater at existing facilities could cost between £100,000 and £1 million per well under current treatment regulations. This represented between 2% and 26% of the expected total revenue from each well, they said.

Operators could face additional costs of about £163,000 per well to dispose of concentrated sludge containing naturally occurring radioactive material, known as NORM.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology, looked at wastewaters from wells in the US to better understand the volume and make-up of wastewater that would be generated by a UK shale gas industry. It also reviewed the methods used to treat waste from the fracking process.

Only one shale gas well in the UK has produced waste from high volume hydraulic fracturing so far. But the researchers said the fluid could be several times saltier than seawater and contain NORM.

They found that the capacity for treatment of NORM was currently limited in the UK and could restrict multiple fracking operations if not addressed. Under current regulations, NORM concentrated sludge must be disposed in permitted landfill sites, adding to costs of dealing with waste.

The lead researcher, Megan O’Donnell, said:

“Treating wastewater could require a large outlay of the expected revenue from each well, affecting industry profitability.

“The UK’s capacity to treat the radioactive material in wastewater is currently limited, which could pose serious waste management issues if the shale gas industry expands at a faster rate than the increase in treatment facilities.”

There are currently four treatment facilities in the UK that had permits to handle liquid waste containing NORM. The facilities are: FCC Knostrop in Leeds, Bran Sands in Middlesbrough, Castle Environmental in Stoke-on-Trent and FCC Ecclesfield in Sheffield.

The study said there was a limit of 826m3 on the volume of waste containing NORM that could be received each day by these plants.

it said:

“If the volume of FP [fracking waste] water produced during fracturing exceeds this the capacity of the available treatment facilities could become critically stressed.

“Without alternative storage options or emergency treatment capacity, operations would be forced to cease until the fluids can be appropriately handled.”

The study concluded that there was no co-ordinated strategy for the management of liquid fracking waste in the UK.

It also said options for disposal without treatment were limited. The viability of injecting fracking waste underground looked uncertain and there was no comprehensive assessment of suitable sites.

The study’s coordinator, Dr Stuart Gilfillan, said:

“We suggest that industry, wastewater treatment plant operators and UK regulatory bodies work together to produce a coherent strategy for managing wastewater.

“This would serve to assure the public of its safety and prepare for the expansion of treatment capacity required should a shale gas industry develop in the UK.”

Industry reaction

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:

“At this early stage in the development of the industry there are an appropriate number of Environment Agency approved facilities in the UK for the treatment of our waste water.

“The industry has been working with the Environment Agency and a number of leading institutions and companies in the waste management sector to bring techniques to the UK that enable fluids to be recycled on site and NORM wastes to be managed appropriately. Through this strategic work on waste with regulators, the supply chain and professional institutions, we believe the UK can lead the way on reducing wastes and achieving wider environmental outcomes for the onshore oil and gas industry. It is surprising, therefore, that the researchers did not make contact with the industry, as if they had they would then have understood the extensive work, research and planning we are doing in this area.

“There are some poor assumptions made in the research around revenue per well. The 1.8 billion cubic feet (bcf) estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) assumption includes some of the poorer performing wells of the US, while analysis of the top 6 performing shale gas plays of the US reveals an average EUR of 5bcf, over double the authors estimate(1). The use of this data noticeably reduces the inflated percentage cost projections conducted in this study.

“In the UK, optimal geologies are and will be mapped and explored with state of the art techniques and methods. The same attention and innovation will be paid to the disposal of the waste from these sites.”

Lee Petts, managing director of the consultancy Remsol, said:

“The UK waste management sector has a proud history of responding to market demand, investing in innovation and capacity-building where needed. A good example concerns incinerator fly ash – prior to the practice being banned, this hazardous residue from municipal waste incineration was simply sent to landfill but is now typically used either for its alkalinity value as a reagent in the treatment of acidic wastes or is ‘washed’ to remove insoluble metals and other constituents in order to enable it to be recycled into concrete block manufacture. Waste industry treatment capacity for fly ash has grown in-step with the expansion of waste-to-energy incineration, which would have been hampered otherwise.”

  • Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the UK: assessing the viability and cost of management. M C O’Donnell, S M V Gilfillan, K Edlmann and C I McDermott in Environmental Science Water Research & Technology Online link

85 replies »

  1. Putin Pleased As Desperate UK Turns To Russian Natural Gas.
    British homes are set to be heated over the new year with gas from a Russian project targeted by U.S. sanctions, as the shutdown of a key North Sea pipeline slashes domestic output and sends utilities and traders scrambling for supplies. The first tanker of liquefied natural gas from the Yamal LNG project in Russia’s Arctic, which was opened by President Vladimir Putin last week, is making its way to the Isle of Grain import terminal in Kent as UK gas prices soar.

    • This would be interesting if it was relevant Francis. It would take 15-20 years to ramp up local onshore shale-gas supplies (if proven successful for recoverability) by which time I fully expect the rapid advances in renewables and supporting infrastructure would have overtaken that push anyway. This instance is an anomaly caused by an unusual mixture of current events.

    • Forties pipeline closure caused price spike for only a couple of days. Gas prices back to where they were.

      https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N1OF1XF

      Operating costs in North sea down 14%

      https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/north-sea/158928/north-sea-operating-costs-drop-14-oga-says/

      With North sea oil and gas output up for third year on the row, offshore seismic projects opening up new reserves, and Government relaxing offshore tax payments it is clear that the 20 billion boe left in the North sea is going to get exploited at costs far cheaper than onshore shale could ever compete with.

      As UK onshore would cost between 2 to 3 times to produce than US then UK onshore could never compete with imports

      Oxford institute of energy studies page 101

      https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=yMudrN5klPIC&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=uk+shale+gas+will+cost+3+times+more&source=bl&ots=12hReQpF3E&sig=gBW6ZPwrLdJ9FRivJ59yyqyGrX0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwizza_Xz5PYAhUIIewKHZQBCKEQ6AEISjAG#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Extra costs for waste disposal add even more economic burden to an industry that never could compete.

      • On the first day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        An outrage in a democracy.

        On the second day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the third day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the fourth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the fifth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the sixth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the seventh day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the eighth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Eight fakes a-faking,
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the ninth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Nine nanas knitting,
        Eight fakes a-faking,
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the tenth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Ten lords a-leaking,
        Nine nanas knitting,
        Eight fakes a-faking,
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the eleventh day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Eleven pipes a-cracking,
        Ten lords a-leaking,
        Nine nanas knitting,
        Eight fakes a-faking,
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy.

        On the twelfth day of Christmas,
        Gregg Clark sold to me
        Twelve quakes a-quaking,
        Eleven pipes a-cracking,
        Ten lords a-leaking,
        Nine nanas knitting,
        Eight fakes a-faking,
        Seven loans a-cruing,
        Six police accosting,
        Five golden handshakes,
        Four appalling lies,
        Three DUPed mp’s,
        Two fracking trolls,
        And an outrage in a democracy!

        And a very merry Christmas to everyone, everywhere, adults and children alike.

        Especially a very big thank you and a Very Merry Christmas to Ruth and Paul and all at Drill Or Drop.

        Make it a good one, have you been naughty or nice? Yes, neither have I?

        [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

          • Better than the standard Darwin Award isn’t it?

            BTWTW, its not a poem? It’s a….slightly modified…..Christmas Caroll?

            Carroll’s are what people sing at Christm…….oh never mind?

            Wait for tomorrows contribution……

            • But wait! Here is todays fascinating contribution from Ian R Crane! And you thought I had forgotten, never fear, Ian’s here!

              As ever, Enjoy, Enjoy!

        • Is the recently and technically defaulting and fraudulent (under company law and trading regulations), now amongst the growing plague of financial zombie apocalypse companies?

          Take a look at, amongst others, the capital and conflict website to find out what that means for us here.

          So when you see a dishevelled living dead corporate CEO stumbling and mumbling “proffffittttt, give me proffffiiiiiittttt” towards your bank account, or your community, or your oil and gas supply, or your government, you will know what to do about it won’t you?

          • Yes Sherwulfe, perhaps we should, I know from past posts there is a fracking poetry forum somewhere, I think it was on one of the protest or events topic items earlier in the year?
            Paul, could you help there? Maybe the subject search will retrieve it? I’ll have a look tonight.
            Perhaps similar to the item Ruth and Paul did last year, but with the poems and songs too?

    • Lesson: If you’re a student, trying to get a PhD, it’s better to ignore the experts in the field upon which you are writing (you know, those who actually operate rather than those who just pontificate) in case they provide information that would nullify your thesis. This way you can be assured of getting proper headline attention and coverage!

      • I think you’re confusing science with junk journalism EKT. The only science the operators are schooled in is about the techniques that will get the maximum profitable returns from the extraction process. There is a big lag in the health and environmental impact studies and the industry has rampantly ignored many warnings so far. It’s clear they take a calculated gamble with waste – that of the proportion of illegal dumpers who actually get monitored or caught an even smaller proportion will end up in court.

        • A pretty dim view of humanity, Philip. So, all operators are just bean counters, huh? None of them have advanced degrees in the relevant fields where they work? I’m not so sure that’s accurate. We’ve been fracking for 60+ years and using high volume fracking (if that distinction even matters) for thirty years. Where is all the evidence if fracking is so damaging? And why have so many independent scientific bodies failed to find it after looking for so long?

          • If only ‘humanity’ had more say in this industry EKT. The HVHF form of shale fracking has only become commercially rampant since around 2008 by the way (with its associated scale of risks that is stirring the controversy) after being experimentally piloted in the 90’s and early early 2000’s. You may hide behind semantics with the term fracking but that has no relevance to the dumping of waste products. Much evidence around from official complaints and fine to photos and videos of waste fluid being dumped in fields and ditches and even released/sprayed onto roads. Operaters cut corners to make a profit . Simple economics. You may have to invent more feet to shoot yourself in.

    • The Telegraph reports:
      “Britain rarely receives deliveries of liquid natural gas (LNG) in winter because prices are typically far higher in east Asian markets. However rocketing demand in Europe drove the price for gas delivered to the UK to more than $10 per million British thermal units. This put the UK on a par with Asian gas markets, which are some of the most expensive in the world.”

      If UK gas prices fall by the time the ship reaches UK, Petronas will reroute the LNG cargo to its original East Asian market, which commands much higher prices than in the UK/EU.

      “Ed Cox, an LNG market specialist at ICIS, said “a price spike like the one we’ve seen this week obviously makes the UK market more attractive” for LNG deliveries. But he warned that the buyer, Malaysia’s Petronas, may still choose to divert the shipment before the end of the month if it can find a more lucrative market.”
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/12/13/russia-send-first-arctic-gas-cargo-britain-wake-supply-crisis/

  2. I understand science it seems a little better than yourself PhilipP, and my science states that if you are to research a subject you at least have a dialogue with those in the UK who have been looking at this subject commercially for some time. If you don’t, you come up with such a wide spread it is absolutely meaningless. Surely the point of research is to examine all relevant information? If you do not you either end up with an answer which is lop sided, or an answer which has an excessive range The latter has been achieved in this case.

    Yes, it is relevant Francis, but because it is inconvenient for the antis they will try and dismiss it. What is seen as “unusual” is actually quite usual once you have insignificant storage for gas, which is where we have moved to. All quite predictable, and certainly relevant. Nice to know an energy policy could be based upon PhilipP’s “expectations”. One of PhilipP’s co antis ended up with a diesel car as he “expected” a politician to know what he was talking about regarding future energy policy. Alex Salmond lost his job because he thought the same.

    What is this 15-20 year ramp? Not speculation but fabrication. First gas could be produced in 2018. Maybe a little dollop, maybe a bigger dollop but it could start to replace some imported gas in 2018. UK will still be producing gas from N.Sea for some years to come, but we could (other things being equal) start to replace some imported gas in 2018. Beyond that is unknown, in terms of “ramping”.

    (I shall start to book my tickets for Wembley, as I expect my side will be in the final!)

  3. Of course Ruth would highlight the 1mn figure. Here’s what the study said, “We find that the projected salinity in FP waters from UK hydraulic fracturing operations can be treated at a cost of between $2701 (∼£2000) and $1 376 093 (∼£1 047 000) per well”.

    What is often so adorable about these academic “studies” is their inability to predict how markets respond to opportunities. Does anyone honestly believe that it would actually cost 1.2mn to treat wastewater from a single well? That really is cute.

  4. My speculation versus your fantasy Martin. I’d be on your side if I thought it was as easy as sticking a hole in the ground and opening a valve. Generating commercial volumes of gas from fractures little wider than a grain of sand is what the shale-gas extraction science is based on and to ‘get there’ relies on an awful lot of wells and fracking and all that that entails, with each well yielding most of it’s gas in the first couple of years. It’s diminishing return after that. What does that mean? relentless and ongoing drilling and fracking with clusters of wells on a multitude of pad sites and laying a grid of pipelines to interconnect the sites across the landscape. You’d only begin to make a dent in overall gas demand/dependency after the first thousand or so wells.

    I’m at a loss to know what sort of counseling to suggest for you if you seriously believe the English public are going to roll over and play dead while all that is going on. And I haven’t even mentioned the pollution, health and climate impacts. Please watch some of those documentary clips PhilC has been posting (ok avoid the Ian Crane ones if you must) and get up to speed on the health, toxicity, water and generally socially divisive impacts the industry has brought to America…. the social science part of the equation.

  5. Oh dear. Back to speculation and into fabrication.

    I will stick with the facts, not fantasy, PhilipP-for instance that the vast majority of economists predict that the world economy will STILL be based upon oil and gas 30 years forward. I will stick with the confirmation by UK builders who obviously feel the same way.

    Alternative energy sources will still continue to develop, but the speed of that development is much different to what you suggest, and the public as a whole understand that.

    By the way-how much have gas wholesale prices gone up in the last year? Do you not think that is a concern to the UK public?

    • ‘By the way-how much have gas wholesale prices gone up in the last year? Do you not think that is a concern to the UK public?’… best talk to Nigel Farage and his crew who lied to the UK public about Brexit and caused the run on the pound, nothing to do with supply and demand of oil and gas products I’m afraid……prices of ALL imports have gone up considerably and inflation has not risen by the fabricated 3.1%. If you add a zero to that figure you will get the true cost to the people of the UK; that’s the real concern to the UK public.

      ‘and my science’ – is there such a thing as ‘fake science’ 😉 ? – ‘states that if you are to research a subject you at least have a dialogue with those in the UK who have been looking at this subject commercially for some time.’ – why commercially Martin, is that the only science that has value?

  6. Very interesting use of totally unconnected subjects Sherwulfe. Shall we now debate the recent change of leadership within the ANC?

    But, you did manage to make a valid point within that. If imported items are rising in price, why not produce our own? Even if the retail price ended up the same the direct and indirect taxation would mean the UK population themselves would not be required to pay so much personal taxation. I enjoyed my British cheeses tonight-superior and less expensive than the French alternatives! Shame that the best cheese in the world could be removed if the lagoon goes ahead-that should keep Giggle going. (I like the idea of the lagoon but have yet to see a plan that shows that the project has been completely thought through.)

    You showed quite clearly with quoting my comments that my point was to examine ALL available sources of information, and science, on the subject. I know the antis want to keep sources very selective, but it is a bit odd that Edinburgh University do so.

  7. Brian Davey makes some excellent points on the real economics of fracking on the earlier page of this comment thread. It’s a recent response but nested with an earlier comment.

    Martin, you offer a textbook example of someone who cherry picks ‘facts’ and simply ignores or denies anything that doesn’t fit your assumptions. You could at least make an effort to sound a bit more scientifically sussed when making your sweeping statements eg by adding supporting arguments and references.

    • Philip, I’m afraid hell will freeze over before you get MC to ‘at least make an effort to sound a bit more scientifically sussed when making your sweeping statements eg by adding supporting arguments and references’. or maybe he is not able to, now there’s a thought?

      So Martin; strangely I did not make the point you referred to, but hey, you want to discuss UK solutions? Try the vast oil and gas fields offshore, the increasing offshore wind farms, onshore provision, individual solar, UK solar farms, all producing power in the UK for the UK.
      Maybe it is time for you to change the record; it’s never going to get to number one however many times you play it 🙂

      ‘Even if the retail price ended up the same the direct and indirect taxation would mean the UK population themselves would not be required to pay so much personal taxation’

      …..sounds about right, individuals and small businesses taking on the tax burden whilst the multinationals and fracking explorers hide their money in tax havens…..great world you promote Martin, hope you enjoy your cheese.

      P.S make sure it is British made before you scoff it all; most products are imported and called ‘British’ because they are packed here……..

    • Of course Sherwulfe and Jackthelad, there is no such thing as fake science.

      Any more than there is fake gravity, or fake electromagnetism, or fake pollution, or fake poison? Or indeed fake company law?

      But fake scientists?

      Now there the anti anti’s and their fake companies have us all at a disadvantage!

      Has the now fake Third Energy announced that they are no longer a legally viable operation?

      Or has this fake government allowed them to fake that law too?

      • Ha! Maybe we should declare ourselves ‘fake CEOs’ and claim some of those billions held offshore to share with the fake ‘ordinary working class’

        • Yes Sherwulfe, I am considering setting up a Robin Hood fund recovery operation to “redistribute” tax payer funded assets back to the poor and homeless, including “recovering” tax payer funded private yachts, offshore tax haven bank accounts, government private corporation rubber stamp departments, mp and lords expense accounts, and non productive salaries and putting all government civil servants and the house of lords on zero hour contracts at marginally above living wage rates?
          Let’s see how they like their own medicine?

          • Don’t forget, they can only have a 1% pay rise, if any at all, made to stand at the door each morning to see if there’s any work for them, and to be constant talk of ‘shutting the department down soon’ just to add a little spice to their lives……..

            • Yes, quite right,and we must reduce to a minimum and stop funding their vital services, their civil service only restaurants, their personal subsidised shops and vouchers, their civil service only zero rate bankers little friend credit cards, their personal relative employment scheme, their free cars and chauffeurs, let them all use the bus or walk, and their London second homes in anything other than high rise flats that need upgrading and fire safety installed. Have i forgotten anything? Oh yes, regular working hours with publically viewable time sheets, signed off by the opposition, and no more than two weeks holidays!

              What have the politicians ever done for us!

  8. You seem to have many problems Sherwulfe with identifying facts! I certainly have no problems identifying sources of cheese, I know the individual dairy who produces the recently voted best cheese in the world. I wouldn’t try and place your problems upon others-you might just find they do know what they are talking about. It is a pretty strange attempt to show your level of knowledge on the subject when I have posted many times I have worked in agriculture all my working life, and my family farmed in the South West! And yes, there is a link to that and the lagoon-but you obviously are not aware of that.
    Sorry if you have to have “references” and “links” to identify if facts are facts. I suppose that is the new age. But, if you are too lazy to DYOR, don’t expect me to do it for you.

    Still bit strange that Edinburgh University failed to include the most obvious source of facts for their study within that study. But it seems that is the way “research” goes today.

    • Why so cryptic Martin? You say ” bit strange that Edinburgh University failed to include the most obvious source of facts for their study within that study. But it seems that is the way “research” goes today.” Which is? There are 76 references in the literature search and over 3000 cases used for their metrics.

    • Well, shiver me timbers, another friend you know [edited by moderator]…..
      Now about this waste water and don’t forget to take your own advice ‘Sorry if you have to have “references” and “links” to identify if facts are facts. I suppose that is the new age. But, if you are too lazy to DYOR, don’t expect me to do it for you’

  9. How come cryptic, PhilipP? You have not read the text that Ruth kindly submitted, and the comments by Ken Cronin? “The researchers did not make contact with the industry”-is that so cryptic?

    I’m not sure that re-emphasising that your idea of research is so limited is a wise move.

    Meanwhile, perhaps it may start to dawn on some why I rarely provide links. Could it just be that I respect others should have done some research and have a decent, broad level of knowledge on the subject, and could it be that some others, without those links, quickly expose they have pretty limited knowledge of the subject they are posting about?

    I could have posted links around the ownership of Third Energy, or Ineos, but why should I? Much more fun to see some of the anti “experts” expose that they are posting without doing basic research.

    Surely, you understand this is required on the internet? Otherwise you start to believe all those Facebook “friends” are who they say they are. (No links required there, I’m sure a chat to a few down the Dog & Duck will bring forward numerous real life experiences.)

    • ‘Meanwhile, perhaps it may start to dawn on some why I rarely provide links’ no Martin, we sussed you a long time ago. Very surprising comment from one who professes to have ‘done research’ and is proficient in ‘statistics’….It is unlikely that the truth will ever ‘dawn’ on you as to the rubbish your write here, often incoherent and massively prolific twaddle.

      However, extending the hand of friendship at this special time of year, will leave you with some advice; again.
      1. If you want to make a relevant to the post statement credible, add credibility from a source; links help but a searchable reference will suffice. A ‘friend’ or a chat down the Dog and Bull carries no weight here.
      2. Make sure you are respectful of others comments. All have an input and have indeed much expertise; we don’t have to flout it in here to gain recognition.
      3. Create a open dialogue; writing closed and often abusive statements only inspires banter.
      4. Respond, don’t react; that way you can really think about what you need to say to answer the question or put forward your views.
      5. A last but not least, lighten up! What gets posted on here may not directly change the world, but a positive attitude will.

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