Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) – DASH FOR GAS ISN’T ALL IT’S FRACKED UP TO BE

The government should proceed with caution over fracking warns the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), in its new policy position statement ‘hydraulic fracturing of shale in the UK’. The statement reviews the potential environmental impacts of the use of hydraulic fracturing, known as ‘fracking’ to access natural gas reserves in shale rock, and discusses whether it is an acceptable method to produce gas in the UK.

Fracking for shale gas has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts from induced seismicity, degradation of landscape and amenity, water contamination and the release of fugitive emissions of methane. Robust regulation would see these risks minimised. In addition to the regulatory controls proposed, CIWEM is calling for Environmental Risk Assessment to be made mandatory for proposed shale gas operations. This would ensure that each site is individually assessed, with thelikelihood of a specific impact and its cumulative impact taken into account.

Many apprehensions over fracking in the UK are a result of the experience in the United States. There have also been mixed messages in the UK, with some touting shale as a long-term panacea for energy security, and others suggesting that energy prices will show a similar fall to those in the US. However, differences in geology and mineral rights, and stricter regulation in the UK would preclude a similar situation occurring. Furthermore, there remains limited understanding about the commercial viability of shale gas reserves in the UK, despite rhetoric suggesting a potential new ‘dash for gas’. The government’s gas strategy needs to set out clearly the contribution that shale gas could make and how its environmental impacts will be limited.

CIWEM believes that shale gas from fracking should not be encouraged as a part of our energy mix until there is more evidence that operations can be delivered safely, that environmental impacts are acceptable and that monitoring, reporting and mitigation requirements are comprehensive and effective. It is time for sound, evidence-based objectivity coupled to a renewed and long-term government commitment to a renewables-centred energy mix.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says:

“As a carbon based fuel shale gas is not a sustainable energy source. Onshore reserves estimated to only be capable of providing the equivalent to two years of the UK’s gas supply and fugitive emissions that could seriously undermine any carbon benefits of using shale gas over coal. Pursuing shale gas will make it more difficult to reach our climate change commitments and renewable energy targets; its development must not become a distraction from the necessary drive for energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.”


For more information contact Rosanna Geary, CIWEM, Policy Administrator, on 020 7831 3110 or

Editor’s note

    The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world

    CIWEM’s recently published Policy Position Statement ‘Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of Shale in the UK’ is available from:

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