Fracking regulations under scrutiny by UK government

On 4 Feb The Times revealed that the UK government is conducting a review of the regulations surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing. In contrast to earlier ministerial assurances that fracking requires no extra regulation, the government, Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive are examining risks of water contamination and other issues associated with Hydraulic Fracturing.

Tony Grayling, head of Climate Change and Communities at the Environment Agency¬† was quoted as saying ‘we are undertaking due diligence to see if the regulatory framework is fully robust.’

Questions arise, however, as to whether the fracking industry can be adequately regulated at all.

An industry report shows 60% of gas wells leak after 30 years.

Schlumberger report showing Sustained Casing Pressure (SCP) in aging wells. SCP is a measure of gas appearing outside a well’s central borehole.

In ‘Building Gas Wells‘ gas service company Schlumberger found gas outside the borehole in the majority of wells within three decades. The report investigated deep water boreholes, which in the UK come under the same regulatory framework as hydraulic fracturing.

The report investigates the area is known as the annulus – the space between the steel pipe and the borehole edges.

In new wells, 5% tested for gas in the annulus.

After ten years, 30% tested positive. After 30 years it reached 60%.

Given that a well is a permanent feature it’s hard to see how regulators can assure an increasingly skeptical public that a well remains permanently sealed.

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