This post collates links to more than 30 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.
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These papers will be 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.
Discrepancy between simulated and observed ethane and propane levels explained by underestimated fossil emissions
Stig B. Dalsøren, Gunnar Myhre, Øivind Hodnebrog, Cathrine Lund Myhre, Andreas Stohl, Ignacio Pisso, Stefan Schwietzke, Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Detlev Helmig, Stefan Reimann, Stéphane Sauvage, Norbert Schmidbauer, Katie A. Read, Lucy J. Carpenter, Alastair C. Lewis, Shalini Punjabi & Markus Wallasch
Nature Geoscience, 26 February 2018
The authors of this study at universities in York, Oslo and Colorado called for investigations into the levels of methane released from oil and gas sites. Their research found that global levels of ethane and propane released during fossil fuel extraction and distribution could be two-three times higher than previously thought. They said a re-evaluation was needed of the how much of the recent growth of atmospheric methane came from oil and gas development. Peer reviewed journal DrillOrDrop report
Reduced biomass burning emissions reconcile conflicting estimates of the post-2006 atmospheric methane budget
John R. Worden, A. Anthony Bloom, Sudhanshu Pandey, Zhe Jiang, Helen M. Worden, Thomas W. Walker, Sander Houweling & Thomas Röckmann
Nature Communications, January 2018
This study by scientists at NASA concludes that rising emissions from the oil and gas industry are mainly responsible for the increase in methane in the atmosphere. After remaining fairly stable around the year 2000, atmospheric methane levels began rising in 2006. This rise could be significant for climate change because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. The rise has been attributed to burning, as well as oil and gas fugitive emissions. The NASA team found that the actual drop in methane from burning was almost twice what they had expected. Taking this bigger drop into account, and adding predicted increases from both fossil fuels and wetlands, they found that the calculated methane levels now matched the observed levels in the atmosphere. Peer reviewed journal
Is the global spike in methane emissions caused by the natural gas industry or animal agriculture?
Dr Robert Howarth
The Methane Project at Cornell University, 14 November 2017
This paper calls for urgent research to measure the C14 content of methane in the global atmosphere as the best to determine unambiguously what has been driving the global increase in atmospheric methane. The paper “tentatively concludes” that the global increase in methane over the past decade is due to shale gas and shale oil development in the US. A revised global methane budget for 2015 indicates that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are now likely to be more than two times higher than those from all animal agricultural globally.
Fracking under the radar?
Weald Action Group, February 2018
Short introductory leaflet about the use of acid in oil and gas sites in southern England.
Use of acid at oil and gas exploration and production sites
Environment Agency, January 2018
Frequently asked questions and answers about the Environment Agency’s approach to the use of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid in oil and gas formations. See also critique in DrillOrDrop report
Everything you always wanted to know about acidising
Weald Action Group, January 2017, updated autumn 2017
Detailed study based on scientific papers, industry training manuals, promotional literature, new patented technologies and discussions with engineers, geologists and scientists. It reviews the varied uses of acid in oil and gas wells and examines the possible implications for southern England and Lincolnshire.
Attitudes to fracking
How have oil and gas firms in the south east engaged with affected communities?
Keith Taylor MEP, 19 February 2018
This small online and self-selecting survey found that most people were not consulted by oil and gas companies about developments in their neighbourhood. The vast majority were unhappy with the industry’s approach to public engagement. DrillOrDrop report
Public Attitudes tracking survey, Wave 24
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2 February 2018
This survey found support for fracking had recovered from its previous record low, up to 16%. Opposition to fracking fell slightly from 36% to 32% but remained double the level of support. 49% of participants neither supported nor opposed. DrillOrDrop report
UK public beliefs about fracking and effects of knowledge on beliefs and support: A problem for shale gas policy
Rachel A Howell
Energy Policy, 21 December 2017
This paper discusses an online survey of 1,745 British adults about shale gas fracking. It found that more respondents supported fracking in Britain (36%) than opposed it (32%) but only 22% supported fracking locally, while 45% were opposed. Respondents were more united in negative beliefs than positive beliefs about fracking. More knowledgeable participants held more polarised views and were significantly more likely than others to agree with negative statements and to oppose fracking in their local area. More respondents disagreed than agreed that it is possible to compensate for fracking risks by payments to local communities.
Public Attitudes tracking survey, Wave 23
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2 November 2017
This quarterly survey of public attitudes found support for fracking was at a record low at 13% and opposition at a record high of 36%. People who neither supported nor opposed fracking remained the largest proportion and was unchanged at 48% since the same time last year. DrillOrDrop report
The Anti-Fracking Movement in Ireland: Perspectives from the Media and Activists
Tamara Steger & Ariel Drehobl
Environmental Communication, 9 November 2017
This study, based on interviews and analysis of articles about fracking in Irish newspapers from April 2013-April 2014, concluded that social mobilization against fracking in Ireland is challenged by a frame war on the credibility of activists, diverse economic interests across national and local scales, and the need for procedural legitimacy in the contribution of science. The researchers said the capacity for social mobilisation was influenced by agenda setting and framing. Peer reviewed journal
The potential for spills and leaks of contaminated liquids from shale gas developments
S.A. Clancy, F. Worrall, R.J. Davies, J.G. Gluyas
Science of the Total Environment, 15 February 2018
This study by ReFine (Research Fracking in Europe) is the first of its kind in the UK. It predicted the UK could see up to one spill for every four large shale gas pads with 40 lateral wells. For pads with 10 lateral wells there could be one onsite spill for every 16 pads. They also predicted there could be one road spill for every 19 pads. The study concluded that strict controls would be “a necessity” to minimise the risk of leaks and spills from any future shale gas industry in the UK. Peer reviewed journal DrillOrDrop report
Produced Water Surface Spills and the Risk for BTEX and Naphthalene Groundwater Contamination
Amanda Shores, Melinda Laituri and Greg Butters
Water, air and soil pollution, November 2017
This research modelled the solute transport of BTEX and naphthalene for a range of spill sizes on contrasting soils overlying groundwater at different depths. The results showed that benzene and toluene were expected to reach human health relevant concentration in groundwater because of their high concentrations in produced water, relatively low solid/liquid partition coefficient and low EPA drinking water limits for these contaminants. The researchers recommended that the surface area selected for a hydraulic-fracturing site should exclude or require extra precaution when considering areas with shallow aquifers and coarsely textured soils. Peer reviewed journal
Understanding future emissions from low-carbon power systems by integration of life-cycle assessment and integrated energy modelling
Michaja Pehl, Anders Arvesen, Florian Humpenöder, Alexander Popp, Edgar G. Hertwich and Gunnar Luderer
Nature Energy, 8 December 2017
This study concluded that cumulative emissions from upscaling low-carbon power, other than hydropower, were small, compared with the direct sectoral fossil fuel emissions and the total carbon budget. Peer reviewed journal
Natural gas and climate change
Kevin Anderson and John Broderick
Tindall Manchester, Uppsala University, University of Manchester, Teesside University, 7 Noember 2017
This study concludes that within two decades fossil fuel use, including gas, must have all but ceased to meet the Paris 2oC and equity commitments. Complete decarbonisation should cease soon after. The authors state: “There is categorically no role for bring additional for bring additional fossil fuel reserves, including gas, into production”. They say the conclusion is not significantly affected by the prospect of carbon capture and storage. “An urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU is an imperative of any scientifically-informed and equity based policies designed to deliver on the Paris Agreement”, they say.
Can the climate afford Europe’s gas addiction?
Friends of the Earth, 7 November 2017
This short briefing draws on the study by Kevin Anderson and John Broderick Natural gas and climate change (see above). It says gas, like coal and oil, cannot be considered as a short or medium term solutions. “If Europe is serious about its commitment to make efforts to limit temperature increase below 1.5 degrees, Europe’s energy system must be fossil free by 2030. To do anything less will continue Europe’s failure towards those most at risk of climate change’s worst impacts.”
Can fracking for gas and oil power the Scottish economy
The Edinburgh Geologist, September 2017
This paper concludes that a shale gas bonanza in Scotland is unlikely. The author, from Edinburgh University concludes that Scottish shales have modest organic carbon content, shallow depth, unremarkable thermal history, heavy faulting and “barely correspond to even the poorest US-producing regions”. He adds: “their frackability remains unproven but could well be slight on account of their low quartz-plus-dolomite content. All in all Scottish shales may well have a success factor of zero.”
How large are global fossil fuel subsidies?
David Coady, Ian Parry, Louis Sears, and Baoping Shang
World Development, 7 August 2017
This study estimates fossil fuel subsidies amount to 6.5% of global GDP in 2015. Coal subsidies account for about half across the world and most subsidies are concentrated in a few large countries. The study also concludes that fossil fuels are expensive but most of their costs are hidden as subsidies. If people knew how large the subsidies were, there would be a backlash against them. Peer reviewed journal
Shale reality check. Drilling into the US Government’s rosy projections for shale gas and tight oil production through 2050
J David Hughes
Post Carbon Institute, 5 February 2018
This report assesses the US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook. It concludes that the AEO’s forecasts for most oil and gas plays are “extremely optimistic” and “impart an unjustified level of comfort for long-term energy sustainability”.
Gas-fired power in the UK: Bridging supply gaps and implications of domestic shale gas exploitation for UK climate change targets
Turk, JK, Reay, DS and Haszledine, RS
Science of the Total Environment, November 2017
The authors conclude the projected 7.5% shortcoming in the fourth carbon budget will be increased if the UK pursues a domestic shale gas industry to offset projected decreases in traditional gas supply. If the supply gap for power generation were met by UK shale gas with low fugitive emissions (0.08%), an additional 20.4 Mt Co2e would need to be accommodated during the carbon budget periods 3-6. Modest fugitive emissions rates (1%) for UK shale gas would increase global emissions compared to importing an equal quantity of Qatari LNG and would risk exceeding UK carbon budgets. Peer reviewed journal
Prenatal Exposure to Unconventional Oil and Gas Operation Chemical Mixtures Altered Mammary Gland Development in Adult Female Mice
Sarah A Sapouckey, Christopher D Kassotis, Susan C Nagel, Laura N Vandenberg
Endocrinology, 7 February 2018
This study concluded that low levels of chemicals used in oil and gas production caused abnormal mammary glands in adult female mice. The mice that were exposed to a mixture of 23 chemicals used in oil and gas fracking developed mammary lesions and enlarged tissues. The authors called for further research on the long-term health of the mammary gland, including its lactational capacity and the risk of cancer. Peer reviewed journal
Hydraulic fracturing and infant health: New evidence from Pennsylvania
Janet Currie, Michael Greenstone and Katherine Meckel
Science Advances, 13 December 2017
This study analysed the records of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013, comparing infants born to mothers living at different distances from active fracking sites and those born both before and after fracking was initiated at each site. It found evidence for negative health effects of in utero exposure to fracking sites within 3 km of a mother’s residence, with the largest health impacts seen for in utero exposure within 1 km of fracking sites. The impacts included a greater incidence of low-birth weight babies as well as significant declines in average birth weight. The study found little evidence of health effects at distances beyond 3 km, suggesting that health impacts of fracking are highly local. Peer reviewed journal
Neurodevelopmental and neurological effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations and their potential effects on infants and children
Ellen Webb, Julie Moon, Larysa Dyrszka, Brian Rodriguez, Caroline Cox, Heather Patisaul, Sheila Bushkin and Eric London
Reviews on Environmental Health, 25 October 2017
This study concluded that exposure to heavy metals (arsenic and manganese), particulate matter, BTEX, EDCs and PAHs, are linked to adverse neurological and developmental health effects, particularly in infants and children. The authors say studies show that chemicals used in the industry have been linked to serious neurodevelopmental health problems in infants, children and young adults. Early life exposure is associated with learning and neuropsychological deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neurological birth defects, with potentially permanent consequences to brain health. They call for more research to understand the extent of these concerns in the context of unconventional oil and gas. Peer reviewed journal
Measurement of Area and Personal Breathing Zone Concentrations of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) during Oil and Gas Extraction Operations, including Hydraulic Fracturing
Esswein EJ, Alexander-Scott M, Snawder J, and Breitenstein M
Journal of Occupational Environmental Hygiene, 20 October 2017
Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined diesel particulate matter on oil and gas sites by collecting 104 full-shift air samples In Colorado, North Dakota, Texas, and New Mexico during a four-year period from 2008-2012. The researchers say the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists have not set occupational exposure limits for diesel particulates but California has an exposure average of 20ug/m3. More than 10% of the study’s measurements exceeded these criteria. Peer reviewed journal
Comparative human toxicity impact of electricity produced from Shale Gas and Coal
Lu Chen, Shelie Miller and Brian R Ellis
Environmental Science and Technology, October 2017
The study concludes that the human toxicity impact of electricity produced from shale gas is lower than that from coal. This is also the case in the implausible scenario where all fracturing fluid and untreated produced water is discharged directly to surface water through the lifetime of a well. Peer reviewed journal
Fracking Women: A Feminist Critical Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania
International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, Autumn 2017
This essay, based on 20 qualitative interviews with women living near Pennsylvania fracking sites, found that exposure to fracking has negative impacts on women’s health by increasing their exposure to contaminated water and provoked gendered attacks on activism. Peer reviewed journal
17.6 million Americans live close to active oil and gas wells
Eliza D. Czolowski, Renee L. Santoro, Tanja Srebotnjak, and Seth B.C. Shonkoff
Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2017
This study is the first peer- reviewed nationwide measurement in the United States of the number of people living within one mile of an active oil or gas well. In addition to national figures, the researchers produced a state-by-state comparison. West Virginia has 50% of its population living near an active oil or gas well with Oklahoma close behind at 47%.
The study concludes that given the large numbers of individuals, including 1.4 million under-fives, potentially exposed to pollutants from oil and gas development, health protection policies and regulations, such as minimum set-back distances and wide deployment of air-pollution-technologies, should be considered. Peer-reviewed journal
Human Rights and Legal
Taking away David’s sling: environmental justice and land-use conflict in extractive resource development
Amanda Kennedy, Kai A. Schafft and Tanya M. Howard
The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 2017
The paper title refers to a remark by the US environmental justice lawyer Luke Cole who described environmental justice lawsuits as “another stone in David’s sling”. The paper looks at cases in the United States and Australia where legal and political frameworks have been used to prioritise development and minimise opportunities for community objection. Peer reviewed journal
The Socio-Exposome: Advancing Exposure Science and Environmental Justice in a Post-Genomic Era
Laura Senier, Phil Brown, Sara Shostak and Bridget Hanna
Environmental Sociology, 2017
Scientists coined the term exposome with the aim of listing and measuring environmental exposures as precisely as scientists measure genes and gene expression, taking account of complex in-situ conditions rather than just studying effects under laboratory conditions.. The aim of the socio-exposome is to provide a framework to guide research on assessing health effects of environmental exposures, blending sociological and public health research with insights from environmental justice scholarship and activism. The paper proposes a structure taking account of three levels of exposure – individual, local and global. Peer reviewed journal
Geological concerns about fracking the Bowland shales of NW England. Briefing Note 4: Major hazards from hydrogen sulphide gas
Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, November 2017
This briefing document calls for the immediate suspension of fracking in West Lancashire because of the high risk of major incidents due to toxic hydrogen sulphide in frackable rocks. The author says fracking at Preston New Road should be stopped permanently because “a lack of enough uncluttered open land to ensure rapid and safe evacuation of all workers, residents, police, farm workers, passing motorists and legitimate protestors in the event of uncontrolled releases of hydrogen sulphide and methane”.
Hydraulic Fracking, Shale Energy Development, and Climate Inaction: A New Landscape of Risk in the Trump Era
Anthony Ladd and Richard York
Human Ecology Review, September 2017
This essay highlight what it says are some of the technological risks and socio-environmental impacts of unconventional gas and oil development and how these are likely to be exacerbated by the policies and appointments of the Trump administration. Peer reviewed journal
Is reporting “significant damage” transparent? Assessing fire and explosion risk at oil and gas operations in the United States
Benjamin D. Blair, Lisa M. McKenzie, William B. Allshouse, John L. Adgate
Energy Research and Social Science, July 2017
The objective of this study is to determine the rate of fires and explosions at oil and gas sites in Colorado and Utah, and apply this information to determine how close these incidents are to homes. The researchers found that there were 116 fires and explosions at wells in Colorado between 2006 and 2015 (0.03% of active wells) and 67 fires or explosions in Utah (0.07%). They suggest that the lower rate in Colorado may be due to more lenient self-reporting regime in the state. The average number of residencies within 1609m of the incident ranged between 4 and 31. The researchers believe this is the first systematic analysis of fires and explosions at oil and gas sites. Peer reviewed journal
Fracking: How far from faults?
P. Wilson, F. Worrall, R. J. Davies and S. Almond
Geomechanics and Geophysics for Geo-Energy and Geo-Resources, 28 February 2018
This study by ReFine used published microseismic data from 109 fracking operations. It found that the risk of induced earthquakes due to fracking is greatly reduced if high-pressure fluid injection is 895m away from faults. The results showed there was a 1% chance that fractures from fracking activity could extend horizontally beyond 895m in shale rocks. There was a 32% chance of fractures extending horizontally beyond 433m, previously suggested as a horizontal separation distance between fluid injection and faults.
The 2013–2016 Induced Earthquakes in Harper and Sumner Counties, Southern Kansas
Justin L. Rubinstein, William L. Ellsworth and Sara L. Dougherty
Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 20 February 2018
This study analysed 6,854 earthquakes in southern Kansas between March 2014 and December 2016. The authors concluded that wastewater created during oil and gas production and disposed of by deep injection into underlying rock layers is the probable cause for a surge in earthquakes. Peer reviewed journal
Minimising risks from fluid reinjection to deep geological formations
Environment Agency, September 2017
The authors say this report, based on a literature review and eight case studies, provides a greater understanding of the issues related to re-injecting water back into the oil reservoir when extracting oil or gas from the ground. It provides recommendations on how to manage risks from commonly used reinjection practices and describes alternatives such as offsite treatment and disposal. The report says it will help the Environment Agency to make decisions about the regulation of the onshore oil and gas industry in England.
Water and waste
An analysis of chemicals and other constituents found in produced water from hydraulically fractured wells in California and the challenges for wastewater management
Emily A.Chitticka and TanjaSrebotnjak
Journal of Environmental Management, 15 December 2017
This research analysed the produced water from 630 wells in California, hydraulically stimulated between April 2014 and June 2015. It found that hazardous and toxic compounds where found in wastewater from 96% of wells. Water from nearly 500 wells contained lead, uranium or other metals. The case study concludes that reporting of the chemical composition of produced water should take more place more often and cover a wider range of chemicals used in the fracking process. It also suggests that current methods of dealing with produced water in Calfornia – open evaporation ponds and underground injection – are inadequate due to the risks involved and that there needs to be more re-use and recycling of wastewater, with adequate controls in place to ensure safety and reliability. Peer reviewed journal
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
Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, 30 November 2017
This study by Edinburgh University concluded that safe treatment and disposal of waste water from fracking in England could cost between £100,000 and £1m per well under current treatment regulations. They estimated this represented 2-26% of the expected total revenue from each well. An additional cost of about £163,000 per well would be needed to dispose of concentrated sludge containing naturally occurring radioactive material. They warned that the cost and shortage of specialist facilities could limit the development of fracking in the UK. Peer reviewed journal DrillOrDrop report