High volume hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’, is a controversial technology used for extracting oil or gas resources which are trapped in shale rocks, coal seams and similar deposits. In the US, where fracking is carried out extensively, there are many examples of fracking causing chemical pollution leading to health and environmental impacts.
Due to our concerns about fracking, CHEM Trust commissioned a detailed examination of the impacts of fracking with respect to chemical pollution; the detailed report “Chemical Pollution from Fracking” is also available here.
This briefing summarises the “Chemical Pollution from Fracking” report, discussing some of the latest developments and includes our recommendations for the future.
Fracking operations require large numbers of wells, and need substantial volumes of water and chemicals. This chemical use, combined with the substances that flowback from underground, makes fracking a potentially significant source of air, land and water pollution.
In addition, fracking operations also generate substantial noise and air pollution from vehicles and other equipment. Note that in this briefing we use the term ‘fracking’ to cover the entire process of shale gas exploration and production.
Our key recommendations are:
- All chemicals used in fracking must be disclosed, with no provision for commercial confidentiality.
- Stronger EU regulation of fracking is required, ensuring that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are required for all sites, chemical use is controlled and transparent, effective monitoring is obligatory and wastewater management is safe, including an absolute ban on disposal of wastewater by re-injection into the ground.
- Regulations must protect the environment and people even when fracking wells are no longer used, including financial bonds to cover clean-up costs.
- Effective monitoring and enforcement is essential to ensure that regulatory controls are followed. This means that regulators must have the resources to carry out these functions; this is a particular concern in the UK where the Environment Agency (EA) is experiencing substantial budget cuts.
In CHEM Trust’s view there should be an EU-wide moratorium on fracking until all their recommendations regarding regulations, chemical disclosure, monitoring, regulators, location water supply are in place.
Sources and more information
- Fracking pollution: How toxic chemicals from fracking could affect wildlife and people in the UK and EU, CHEMtrust, June 2015.
- Chemical Pollution from Fracking report, written by Philip J Lightowlers for CHEM Trust, updated April 2015.
- Fracking – Our recommendations, CHEMtrust.
- Chemicals from fracking could cause significant pollution and damage to wildlife, CHEMtrust, by MICHAEL WARHURST on JUNE 20, 2015