A case study based assessment of potential cumulative impacts on groundwater from shale gas production in Northern England

Elsome, J.; Mallin Martin, D.; Burke, S.; Ward, R.S.. 2019 A case study based assessment of potential cumulative impacts on groundwater from shale gas production in Northern England. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 115pp. (OR/19/036) (Unpublished)

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The UK shale gas industry might see significant growth in the near future, with many energy companies already having gained approval and others in the stages of seeking approval for exploration. Exploratory boreholes have been in place in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, and the Fylde Basin, Lancashire, since 2013 and 2010 respectively. Since then, several other sites around the UK have been earmarked for future exploration. The current absence of producing shale gas wells within the UK means it is too early to assess any actual impact of these operations at the local, regional and national scale. However, international analogues may provide some indications based on areas elsewhere in the world where a shale gas industry is more developed (e.g. the Marcellus Shale, USA) albeit with obvious limitations due to differences in geology and setting. While regulation and compliance of shale gas operations varies between countries, the process and method of extraction and the environmental risks are comparable. The general requirements for water, drilling mud/fluids, hydraulic fracturing fluids (“frac fluids”) and the design of wells and well pads can all be extracted from an already mature international experience. However, the requirements in the UK will be modified by the regulatory requirements and restrictions that exist. There are ongoing discussions within the UK to determine whether shale gas is beneficial, economically viable and environmentally safe. In this report, the impact on land use, groundwater quality and water resources of one well in a selection of approved Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) areas will be considered, followed by an estimation of the cumulative impacts that may result from multiple extraction sites within these areas. The exercise will depend on ranges of input parameters informed by international analogues applied in a UK geo-environmental setting. To recognise the variability in parameters and uncertainty in UK industry development, a range of impact scenarios - low, moderate and high – have been considered.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed, but not externally peer-reviewed.
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Methane and shale gas
Date made live: 06 Feb 2020 16:49 +0 (UTC)

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