Geology experts could keep an eye on fracking sites

An independent research will be carried out to monitor two fracking sites in Lancashire if they are given the go-ahead, geology experts announced.

The British Geological Society (BGS) said it will expand its national supervision programmes for environmental issues at shale gas extraction sites across the UK and it will gather detailed data on seismic activity and groundwater.

Professor Rob Ward, director of groundwater science at the BGS, said: "Hydraulic fracturing of shale rock is a new activity within the UK which, as with any subsurface industrial activity, will induce changes.”

The research is to take place at two proposed fracking sites in Lancashire if planning permission is granted. Energy company Cuadrilla is still awaiting permission from the Lancashire County Council to drill, frack and test gas exploration at four wells.

"This groundbreaking research will provide new scientific insight and innovative ways of monitoring the environmental impact of shale gas development," said Professor John Ludden, executive director at the BGS.  

According to geologists, the collected data will be available for free and provided in real-time before, during and after the hydraulic fracking has taken place.

The scheme, led by the BGS, is separate from the one carried out by the operator and required by regulators.

In a response to BGS’s announcement, spokesperson for Shale Gas Europe Marcus Pepperell said: “Shale gas is an opportunity. Beyond the economic benefits we also need to build the social license to show how any risks can be managed and mitigated.

“The British Geological Survey’s role within this process in the UK will be important and we welcome today’s announcement."

Hydraulic fracturing, pejoratively known as fracking, pumps water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it.

Although the government supports the shale gas industry, declaring that it could clamp down the country’s reliance on gas imports, opponents have raised concerns over earthquakes and water pollution from fracking.

Hundreds of people attended a six-day protest in August near the Little Plumpton proposed site to campaign against shale gas extraction.

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