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Unconventional gas and fracking: what's it all about?

Understanding the situation and risks

Mary Church

on 8 October 2012

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Transcript of Unconventional gas and fracking: what's it all about?

Unconventional gas and fracking What you can do Thanks for listening! Friends of the Earth Scotland is campaigning with other groups for a halt to unconventional gas, at the very least until more research and regulation about the environmental impacts is in place.

We can offer campaigning support, research and link you to other campaigners in Scotland who would like to help. And keep in touch! Conventional gas extraction: Drill vertically and capture at well head 'Hydraulic fracturing.' A new technology used to extract shale gas. It is also often used in coalbed methane extraction. What is it? Natural Gas A fossil fuel formed by decomposing organic matter over hundreds of thousands of years As conventional sources of gas dry up, the industry is developing new techniques to get to harder-to-reach sources known as 'unconventional gas'. Unconventional gas Coalbed methane is the most commonly found unconventional gas resource in Scotland , with deposits across much of the central belt and Fife. Shale gas is already being extracted extensively in the USA. It's also being explored in England and across much of Europe. Coal bed methane extraction
- drill vertically and horizontally into coal seam
- pump vast quantities of water out of seam in process known as 'de-watering'. often this is enough to get gas flowing for capture
- fracking is often required at a later stage once gas flow starts to decline What's it all about? Fracking The story so far Shale gas extraction has become widespread in the USA. There have been cases of water contamination in a number of places. The industry has become notorious since the film Gaslands highlighted the flaming faucets of Pennsylvania, caused by methane leaking from drilling sits into private water supplies. Risks What about here in Scotland? Bans & moratoriums AUSTRALIA: New South Wales introduced a moratorium on new coal seam gas (coalbed methane) and the use of BTEX chemicals in fracking in 2011. Now reintroduced with new regulations. FRANCE: the first country in Europe to ban shale gas extraction although the legislation fails to define fracking. stronger environmental and planning regulations than in the USA
stronger Freedom of Information regulation - so we can find out which chemicals are used
we have the opportunity to learn from what's going on in other countries and stop this before its too late on the +ve side on the -ve side coalbed methane is often wrongly understood to be less damaging than shale gas, and there is less media hype about it, so risks escaping close scrutiny
under current regulations a company could seek permission to frack AFTER the planning stage meaning that communities and local authorities wouldn't get a say
the CBM resource is in more densely populated areas than in USA or Australia so impacts could affect more people In your area Dart Energy has bought out most onshore licenses in Scotland since 2004 Airth is Dart Energy's flagship European CBM project, and could be the first operational commercial unconventional gas project in the UK
14 test wells drilled have already been drilled
the site produced its first electricity in summer 2012
Dart has a deal with Scottish and Southern Energy for 5 years. Could generate total revenues of up to US$400 million. Dart submitted applications to Falkirk and Stiring Council in September 2012 to take the project into phase two... The bigger picture Climate change Extreme energy There are
alternatives Mary Church
mchurch@foe-scotland.org.uk Shale gas extraction:
- drill deep into shale rock deposits, vertically and horizontally
- pump vast quantities of water mixed with chemicals (in some cases highly toxic ones such as benzene) and proppants (such as sand) under high pressure to fracture the rock and ease flow of gas Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Netherlands and parts of Germany, the USA and South Africa all have bans or moratoriums in place too currently 6 areas with licenses to explore and develop onshore gas. Not all of these will necessarily be used for CBM or shale. the most developed of these is Airth where Dart Energy are taking their flagship European CBM project to commercialisation we've seen activity within three of these license areas: in the Forth Valley at Airth, Dumfries & Galloway at Canonbie, and North Lanarkshire at Moodiesburn Project Airth this involves a further 14 wells, alterations to the existing wells and a network of gas and water pipelines. this phase of the project will only access 20% of the estimated resource at the Airth site Dart insist they don't intend to frack here, but evidence from other countries indicates that it is highly likely they will want to use fracking at the site in the future Object to Dart's plans at Airth!
Write to your MSPs, MP and MEPs to express your concerns
Try to influence your local plan so that its harder for developers to get unconventional gas projects through planning
If your area is at risk, set yourselves up as a 'Frack Free Zone'
Hold public meetings and stalls But it's all so complicated and I don't have any resources! we've set up a website full of resources and information to help you campaign in your area What are the risks? Coalbed methane developments are associated with:

the risk of leakage of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere and local water environment;
the lowering of water tables and subsidence;
problems related to the disposal of contaminated water extracted from coal seams.

This is true whether or not fracking takes place. With shale gas extraction, and where fracking takes place in coalbed methane developments there is the additional risk of toxic chemicals from the fracking fluid seeping into local water tables, poisoning drinking water for humans and animals, and contaminating agricultural land.

Fracking is also known to cause earth tremors which – while unlikely to be felt by people – can cause damage to boreholes and wellheads increasing the risk of methane and chemical leaks. Climate chaos coalbed methane and shale gas are fossil fuels and burning them contributes to climate change.
if the current dash for gas continues we risk badly missing our climate targets
investment in new sources of unconventional gas is likely to cause a distraction from urgently needed investment in renewables
that means if Dart's plans go ahead we could be facing a further 50 or more wells in the area! www.frackfreescotland.org.uk Don't worry! How is unconventional gas regulated? Licensing The regulatory framework that unconventional gas and fracking takes place in is complex but there are three key areas stages: The UK Department of Energy & Climate Change is in charge of licensing
Tends to issue licensing in rounds
Next round (14th) is expected to go out to tender in early 2013
Licenses operate in 4 stages: exploration; development; production; de-commissioning
The developer has to demonstrate it has passed certain conditions to get into the next stage, otherwise it has to surrender the license so that another company can have a go! Planning Once a company has a license it can start exploring (as long as it has permission from the landowner)
Small temporary structures associated with exploration & early development often don't require planning permission
As soon as the company needs to start constructing site access and drill rigs it needs to apply to the local authority for planning permission
Individual sites can be small enough that they are treated as local developments, meaning a single planning official can authorise them to go ahead! Environment The size of unconventional gas developments mean they can slip under the radar of Environmental Impact Assessment
SEPA is the environmental regulator in Scotland, but its powers in relation to unconventional gas are limited to looking at certain impacts on the water environment
SEPA issue permits in relation to fracking and do not necessarily have to consult communities or the relevant local authority before they do so
However, the good news is that Scotland's Freedom of Information regulations seem to be doing a good job compared with other countries What are we calling for? Friends of the Earth Scotland think that there are inherent and unacceptably high risks associated with unconventional gas.

The Government should call a halt on all unconventional gas activity until it has reviewed:
public acceptability of the industry
full life cycle impacts on the environment, climate and health
suitability of environmental regulations to deal with the new technologies Dart has a fracking permit for its Canonbie site, but the development is on hold while the company focuses on Airth
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