The British Geological Survey (BGS) plans to expand its existing national environmental monitoring programmes by carrying out independent research in areas of the UK that may see shale gas exploration and production.
In a UK first, this will include independent monitoring during hydraulic fracturing (fracking), subject to planning approvals, at two proposed shale gas exploration sites in Lancashire. All results of this research will be open and made freely available to the public.
The BGS has existing national environmental research programmes that include seismic and groundwater monitoring. This research will be enhanced in selected areas where shale gas resources have been identified to gain vital “baseline” information.
In addition, if planning applications for shale gas exploration are approved in Lancashire, this research will include monitoring during hydraulic fracturing. This research will provide the UK scientific community with unique real-time data from a shale gas operation over its whole life cycle – before, during and after hydraulic fracturing has taken place.
As part of the enhanced research programme, groundwater, regional air quality, seismicity and ground movements will be independently monitored at two proposed hydraulic fracturing sites in Lancashire. This will be carried out by a UK consortium led by the BGS with university partners (Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Loughborough and Manchester).
In December 2012, Ed Davey, the secretary of state for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, gave the green light for shale gas exploration to resume.
UK energy company Cuadrilla currently has two planning applications (Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood) before Lancashire County Council and intends to commence shale gas exploration if these are approved.
John Ludden, executive director of the BGS, said: “This ground-breaking research will provide new scientific insight and innovative ways of monitoring the environment impact of shale gas development.”
Rob Ward, director of groundwater science at the BGS, added: “Hydraulic fracturing of shale rock is a new activity within the UK which, as with any subsurface industrial activity, will induce changes. A programme of research that will involve monitoring before, during and after the operations will provide valuable scientific information.”