UK introduces enhanced monitoring of shale sites as Cuadrilla gets its fracking permission

Drilling rig
Source: DollarPhotoClub

The British Geological Survey will carry out tests at two hydraulic fracturing sites in Lancashire. This research will be carried out independently of the monitoring the exploration company – in this case Cuadrilla Resources – is obligated by the regulators to put in place.

As a part of this enhanced research programme, groundwater, regional air quality, seismicity and ground movements will be independently monitored during fracking by the BGS with its university partners Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Loughborough and Manchester.

The research will provide the UK scientific community with independent data gathered before, during, and after the completion of hydraulic fracturing procedures. All results of the research will be open and made freely available to the public.

Professor John Ludden, executive director of the BGS, said: “This ground breaking research will provide new scientific insight and innovative ways of monitoring the environmental impact of shale gas development.”

Today, shale company Cuadrilla Resources was granted by The Environment Agency the environmental permits to commence operations at their proposed shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, Plumpton in Lancashire. The company also awaits permits for their second site in Lancashire, at Roseacre Wood, Roseacre.

In a separate development, the UK government has accepted more than a dozen fracking-related amendments put forward by the opposition Labour Party to the Infrastructure Bill currently passing through Parliament. These included requirements for baseline measurements of methane gas in groundwater, well-by-well disclosure of chemicals in the fracking fluid used, and a legal duty to consult the water industry during the planning process

The Coalition has baulked, however, at reversing government proposals to allow fracking under people’s homes without permission and allow “any substance” to be injected into fracking wells.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change called the conceded amendments “new transparency measures” which “will make sure that local residents know exactly what shale gas operations in their community will entail and can hold the industry to account.” He also noted the £5m the government will spend to “provide independent evidence directly to the general public about the robustness of the existing regulatory regime”.

However, the accepted amendments were deemed insufficient by Tom Greatrex MP, Labour’s shadow energy minister, who told The Guardian that “Despite clear flaws in the existing framework, David Cameron’s government has repeatedly side-lined genuine and legitimate environmental concern and seem prepared to accept shale gas at any cost,”

“We have repeatedly attempted to overhaul the regulations but have been rebuffed by a Tory government that simply doesn’t want to listen to public concern,” he added.

Mr Greatrex said that further concerns remained over the protection of drinking water, independent inspection of wells, escapes of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) and protection for national parks. “These piecemeal concessions cannot overturn a Tory mindset which is zealously opposed to any further regulation of shale gas in the UK, despite clear evidence that this is necessary.”

On the other hand, Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry group UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said that the new requirements were nothing new as they were already being observed voluntarily. “The industry has consistently said it would carry out baseline monitoring. We announced in February 2013 that the industry would make public all fluids used. We also announced in 2013 a memorandum of understanding with water companies to proactively address the issues.”

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