Task Force on Shale Gas produces final report

By Dean

15 Dec 2015

Shale gas can be produced safely and usefully in the UK, and can help the UK with the transition to a renewable economy, provided the strictest environmental standards are in place.

The report found that, provided the highest regulatory and industry standards, there is no more risk to the public from fracking than other comparable industries.

“The size of the UK industry’s impact will depend on its (as yet unknown) potential output. We recommend that a number of exploratory wells should be allowed to go ahead, under the very strict environmental safeguards that we have outlined in our previous reports, in order to establish a much clearer picture of where and how much recoverable gas there is in the UK. Only when we have a better understanding of how much gas could be recovered in the UK will the public be able to make an informed decision as to whether they support it.

“We have always said that it is up to individuals to make up their own minds about shale gas on the basis of reliable and factual information. The guiding principle of the Task Force has been to provide that information.

A summary of final recommendations and best practice is as follows:

  • Transparency must be placed at the heart of any nascent shale gas industry. Operators must agree to full disclosure of the chemical content of materials used in shale gas exploration and production and agree that the specific composition will not exceed levels mandated by the Environment Agency. The Task Force does believe operators must do everything possible, and be transparent, in seeking to minimise the effects that their works will have on nearby residents.
  • Baseline monitoring of air, land and water should begin as soon as a site has been identified
  • Operators must be held to the very highest standards for well integrity. Operators must commit to using only the very best materials and techniques, and to allow independent monitoring of the site, with the community involved in an oversight role, to ensure that any indication of a failure of well integrity can be identified quickly and remedied.
  • The process of “green completions”, recently made compulsory in the US, should also be mandated in the UK for production wells. The Task Force would wish to see no venting of gases, and for the exploratory phases small time-limited flaring permissions granted only when necessary.
  • Local residents should have a direct role in monitoring any operations in their area. Monitoring of sites is essential. The Task Force believes that, in order to foster trust between operators and the communities in which they wish to work, inspections must be carried out by an appropriate regulatory body with community representatives able to attend to ensure complete transparency.
  • The Government must commit to ensuring that the regulatory system for the shale gas industry is robust and fully resourced. The existing regulatory system is currently fit for purpose, as it will inevitably take time for a new industry to grow. If a shale gas industry does develop, however, the Government should explore the possibility of creating a bespoke regulator specifically to oversee this industry, to assume the current responsibilities of the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the regulatory responsibilities of the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

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