The Infrastructure act 2015 has a section enacted on fracking safeguards which covers a series of statutory requirements. –http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/50
- Prohibits any fracturing above 1000m deep, (now 1200m under national parks)
- Monitoring the water table before, during and after the operations, with results published
- Independent inspection of the integrity of the well.
- Monitoring of methane emissions, and results published.
- Not in protected ground water areas or other specified areas
- All substances used have the relevant environmental permits
- Relevant undertaking for post restoration are agreed.
- Scheme is in place to provide financial or other benefit to local areas
The bill had the following briefing paper which is found at – www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06073.pdf
Igas has signed up to the UK Onshore Operators guidelines (UKOOG), which requires operators to genuinely engage with local communities, residents and other stakeholders in advance of each stage of the development, including planning applications – http://www.ukoog.org.uk/onshore-extraction/industry-guidelines
The guidelines state that operators must disclose details of their chemicals used, traffic movements, waste disposal, and their monitoring/management regimes, including local monitoring as well as other guidelines.
As the wells can include up to 2km of lateral drilling, then their location should be defined with the surface considerations of transport, noise, inconvenience etc., and not just based on the geological factors. Indications are that up to 10 wells each with 4 horizontals could be completed from the same small area pad, which would reduce the impact of any development.
An independent Task Force was set up by the government in 2015 and has produced 3 reports on “Planning regulations and local engagement”, “assessing the impact on the local environment”, “the impact on climate change”, with a fourth due in April 2016 –https://www.taskforceonshalegas.uk/shale-gas-issues
Recommendations reinforce the UKOOG guidelines especially for community engagement and include local monitoring of the water and air before any operations to provide a baseline and to continue throughout the lifetime and after decommissioning. Independent monitoring of the well integrity, the seismic disturbance traffic light system and spot checks by the regulatory authorities are also confirmed as part of the regulatory system. Therefore the weakest areas of leakages and earthquakes, which have caused some problems in other countries are now covered by British regulations.
Cheshire West and Chester had a Cross Party Working Group with a remit to advise the Executive on its key findings following an investigation into the issues for the Borough and its regulatory remits associated with conventional and unconventional on-shore gas and oil techniques. – http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/pdf/20150917_ugo_finalreport.pdf
A meeting was held in Helsby high school on the 27/11/2015, chaired by Graham Evans MP and including experts from Igas, HSE, EA, Public Health, Sustainable Engineering Technologies and a Surveyor. A Report by Ian Walton a Manley Councillor is attached for downloading – Facts About Fracking Final 3_manley
Environmental Agency (EA) report on their Risk Assessment system for exploration wells –https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296949/LIT_8474_fbb1d4.pdf
An Environmental Risk Assessment for coal bed methane, coal mine methane and abandoned mine methane operations in England – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338417/SC130029_summary.pdf
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the EA have an agreement to work together to regulate the unconventional gas industry. Their inspections cover the safety of the operation, the treatment/handling of the waste water, and the protection of the local ground water. No waste water is allowed to be pumped back down disposal wells, as in other countries, and this was a potential area for causing seismic movements. During drilling and fracturing, water recycling and filtration, gases can be evolved. These now have to be treated to minimise any potential escapes of greenhouse gases.
HSE /EA have also provided guidelines for planners – http://www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/unconventional-gas.htm
The Igas web site contains many examples of their work, including photos and their guidelines etc. (www.igasplc.com)
Igas and Peel commissioned a report on the commercial prospects for the ocean gateway, Liverpool area and to the north, which however does highlight the potential skills problem of this new industry –http://www.igasplc.com/media/10851/ocean-gateway-shale-gas-impact-study.pdf
There are many university groups involved in research and development of which ReFINE quotes itself as the leading international research consortium on fracking, led jointly by Newcastle University and Durham University. Their recommendations appear to have been included in the Government task force and guidelines –http://www.refine.org.uk/