LETTER: A response to a fracking article

IN response to Mr. Richter’s request for a ‘balanced’ view of whether fracking is good or bad, as a technical director with over 30 years of experience of working in the oil and gas industry, I would refer him to the excellent article published in the New York Times in 2013 written by Susan Brantley (professor of Geosciences at Penn State University), and Anna Meyendorf of the University of Michigan.

The article basically considers the pros and cons of fracking based on facts and experience, not emotion-driven ignorance and/or anecdotal ‘evidence’, and concludes the majority of ‘arguments’ put forward by the anti-fracking bodies are misguided at best, and downright wrong at worse, however, fracking is not the universal panacea some of the fracking companies would have us believe.

On the plus side, in the US, of the tens of thousands of deep injection wells operating across the US, less than eight have produced minor earth tremors, with none actually causing any damage.

Pennsylvania has carried out an in-depth survey of hundreds of private water wells within the major fracking regions of the state, and not a single water well was found to have been contaminated.

The downsides of fracking are also analysed, and they include potential chemical spills of the liquids used for fracking such as brines, acids for well cleaning, anti-bacteria compounds, and chemicals used to carry materials to prop open the fractured rock/shale formation. In addition, during the drilling of the exploratory and production wells, there will be many vehicle movements, personnel movements, heavy duty drilling equipment erected temporarily etc.

Fracking has been taking place

in the US since the 1940s, and fracking techniques have dramatically improved since the early days when dynamite and washing detergents were employed as fracking methods.

Providing that a fracking project is well planned and managed, by

far the majority of liquids used to carry out the fracking process and the subsequent liquids that are released from the fracked well, are re-cycled and re-used to frack further wells, so environmental impact is minimised, but never completely eliminated.

The conclusion of the article is that if the West wants to shift our reliance on Russian and Eastern Bloc oil and gas, and if the gas produced by fracking displaces the use of coal, fracking is not only good for the economy, but is on balance, also good for the general environment.

However, if fracked gas merely displaces efforts to develop cleaner, non-carbon-based energy sources without decreasing reliance on coal, the overall impact will be to accelerate highly undesirable global climate change.

Peter Arundale

Downview Road