10 February 2012

Shale gas: an updated assessment of environmental and climate change impacts

Researchers at Tyndall Manchester, in partnership with The Co-operative, have updated their assessment of the environmental impact of shale gas in light of new developments in the UK. The report, released in November 2011, updates their January 2011 work. It finds that in the absence of a stringent global emissions cap, large-scale extraction of shale gas cannot be reconciled with the commitments enshrined in the latest international climate change agreement, the Copenhagen Accord (2009).
The report has also an interesting chapter on human health and one of the main findings of this work is that there is a paucity of information on which to base a quantified assessment of environmental and human health risk.
The report provides a list of key risks and impacts of shale gas and shale gas processes and development. Those can be divided as follows:
 contamination of groundwater by fracturing fluids or mobilised contaminants arising from:
o wellbore/casing failure; and/or
o subsurface migration;
 contamination of land and surface water, and potentially groundwater via surface route, arising from:
o spillage of fracturing additives; and
o spillage/tank rupture/storm water overflow from liquid waste storage, lagoons/pits containing cuttings/drilling mud or flowback fluid;
 water consumption/abstraction;
 wastewater storage, transport and treatment;
 land and landscape impacts from;
o drill rig and well pad
o storage ponds or tanks
o access roads
 impacts arising during construction and pre-production:
o noise/light pollution during well drilling/completion;
o local traffic impacts;
 seismic impacts