Energy engineers from the University of Glasgow have deemed current fracking regulations as ‘ridiculous.’ The researchers have called for a new regulatory framework, closer to the one which already governs quarry blasting, to replace the current regulations that were put in place two years ago.
‘Fracking’, or hydraulic fracturing, is the technique used to extract gas and oil from shale rock. It involves drilling down into the earth and directing a high pressure water-mixture at the rock to release the gas inside. A mixture of sand, water and chemicals are then injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out.
Dr Rob Westaway and Professor Paul Younger from Glasgow Uni say that if similar standards to the current ones were applied more widely, we would see the use of lorries, and even slamming doors, banned. They argue that the vibrations caused by fracking would amount to no more than ‘nuisance’ vibrations, which are already widely accepted, and are not a hazard.
The academics said that the largest fracture possible caused by the drilling would be 600m long underground, which would only be ‘sufficient to cause minor damage on the surface such as cracked plaster.’
Professor Younger went on to say that: “the biggest cause of serious seismic incidents isn’t the drilling or the fracking process itself. Instead, it’s the practice of disposing of waste water back into the borehole once the process is finished. This washes away particles of sand holding open the fractures created during the process, which can cause earthquakes.
“In Britain, we’ve adopted longstanding EU groundwater regulations which bar subsurface disposal of wastewater completely, meaning there is no danger of this sort of event happening here. Instead, the water would be treated and disposed of safely elsewhere.”
But the calls for fracking regulations to be weakened have drawn an angry response from campaigners. Critics of fracking have challenged the report’s findings, citing an earlier report done in 2011 which found that fracking tests near Blackpool were the ‘likely cause’ of earth tremors in Lancashire.
Dr Westaway and Professor Younger’s report was published on November 11th in the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, and can be found here.
[Louisa Burden – @burdisthew0rd]