The British government again came under criticism from environmental groups when it became known that a fracking monitoring scheme – called the energy security and innovation observing system – will be introduced at a cost to the taxpayer of £60m-£80m – The Guardian reports.
The programme will involve drilling hundreds of boreholes across the UK to monitor possible water pollution or earthquakes caused by fracking. The information will then be made public. The government believes that the programme is a step towards making shale exploration in the UK safer and more accountable.
“We will be taking the pulse of the sub-surface environment and will reveal if things are going wrong, but also if they are going right,” said Professor Mike Stephenson, director of science and technology at the British Geological Survey, which would drill the boreholes. “The aim is to reassure people that we can manage the sub-surface safely.”
He added: “America did not do it right, so let’s do it right here. If we found it was impossible to frack in the UK because, say, there are lots of faults in the rocks, that would come out.”
Stephenson explains that the programme will involve drilling many holes in each shale gas area – deeper ones monitoring for earthquakes and ground movement and shallower ones monitoring for water pollution. As ground water contamination is one of the biggest fears associated with shale development, by providing constant and detailed monitoring of areas within and around shale sites, the programme should assuage the fears around shale drilling.
“For example,” Stephenson asked, “several kilometres away, are we sure groundwater is untouched?” He further explained that “we don’t know the health of the sub-surface because it is very little monitored at the moment.” The monitoring should allow for the shale development in the UK to proceed in a responsible manner.
The environmentalists – which oppose shale exploration and would rather the government concentrated on renewable energy sources – saw the matter differently.
Tony Bosworth, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The government is behaving like a love-struck teenager, showering the shale gas industry with gifts. [It is] not content with changing trespass laws and handing out tax breaks – taxpayers may now have to fork out for the industry’s research. The public are unlikely to be convinced by our ‘all out for shale’ government assuring them fracking is safe, even with additional monitoring.”
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