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A GLOBAL survey states deep fracking is ‘not’ a threat to water supplies in the South Downs.
The British Geological Survey states the risk of water supplies being contaminated in Britain is much lower than in the United States because almost all shale oil and gas is at least 650m below groundwater layers.
Many US homeowners have claimed that their water supply has been contaminated by methane leaks from fracked wells.
But companies in the US targeted shale less than 100m from chalk aquifers, which store water.
The distance to chalk water supply aquifers at the Weald basin in the South Downs is at least 650m.
The survey states that water supplies under the Downs should not be at risk from deep fracking, as long as vertical wells were drilled and ‘sealed safely’.
Dr Alwyn Hart, head of the air, land, and water research team at the Environment Agency, said: “We have strong regulatory controls in place to protect groundwater, and will not permit activity that threatens water and drinking supplies.”
Groundwater from the aquifers in the South Downs provide up to 70 per cent of the drinking water in the South East, making it one of the most important natural resources in the region.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was among 25 people arrested at Balcombe in August 2013 during anti-fracking protests.
At court she was found not guilty of obstructing a public highway and a public order offence.
Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The survey is very interesting but we don’t think that it will eliminate the risk to the contamination of water.
“We believe the regulatory system is not strong enough.
“We don’t need to be trying to extract increasingly difficult fossil fuels when we need to be reducing our carbon emissions.” (more…)
New underground maps show shale gas deposits overlapping with major drinking water aquifers.
View across the Hodder Valley in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, one of the main targets for fracking companies. Photograph: Alamy
The UK’s complex geology will pose challenges for fracking companies wanting to avoid water contamination in some parts of the country, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).
New maps of underground Britain released by BGS and the Environment Agency show that almost half the area of England and Wales where major drinking water aquifers are located have shale gas deposits below them.
However, the maps also suggest that the vertical distance between the water and the gas is sometimes several kilometres, making water pollution very unlikely.
According to the BGS, the main drinking water aquifers are present across more than 80% of England and Wales, while shales and clays that have the potential for shale gas and oil cover 51% of England and Wales. Areas where the two overlap cover nearly 30% of the total area and are likely to be where development will be most strongly opposed.
The distance between the shale rocks and the water supplies will be critical considerations for the Environment Agency, which will have to assess the likelihood of contamination before giving companies permission to inject chemicals under high pressure to fracture the shale and release gas.
The Bowland shale rock formation in Lancashire, one of the main targets for fracking companies, is nearly 800m below the drinking water aquifer and the chalk aquifer of the South Downs is at least 650m below the uppermost shale oil rocks.
But, says the BGS, in some areas the water and the gas may be much closer. “Even in one region it can vary considerably,” said John Bloomfield, a hydrogeologist with the BGS.
“UK geology is particularly complex. There is enormous diversity on a small island. It’s very different to other places where shale gas has been developed. In the US a lot of the shale is highly continuous; here it is concentrated into tight basins. This offers challenges [in terms of avoiding water contamination] to putative developers,” he said. (more…)
RISKS of fracking have been “exaggerated” and should not be ruled out in national parks, according to the head of the Environment Agency.1
Agency chairman Christopher Smith said hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – could be “useful” in helping Britain to reduce its reliance on imported gas because it causes “minimal visual intrusion” to the environment.
The fracking process involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rock deep underground at high pressure to extract shale gas and oil.
There is potentially more than eight billion barrels of shale oil under the Weald basin in Sussex – but critics argue the process contaminates water supplies and can cause earthquakes.
Lord Smith, who is due to step down next month, said he did not agree with the concerns of anti-fracking campaigners.
He told a national newspaper: “The campaigners fall into two camps. One is very much campaigning against the local impact of drilling at particular sites.
“Provided it’s done carefully and proper regulated, those fears are definitely exaggerated. There’s another set of campaigners who say, ‘This is a better fuel to burn than coal but it’s still a fossil fuel and we ought to be putting everything into renewable and not doing shale gas at all’.
“I don’t agree that with analysis because we aren’t yet ready to see 100 percent of our energy requirements being produced from renewables.”
He said he would not rule out fracking in national parks like the South Downs because “provided it’s being done properly, the visual impact can be very limited indeed. It will depend on any individual location”.
He said: “The South Downs National Park Authority is currently considering an application from Celtique Energie to exploratory drill for shale oil and gas in Fernhurst, near Chichester.”
Energy company Cuadrilla Resources has been actively testing at a site in Balcombe for more than a year, but has ruled out fracking.
A spokeswoman from Britain and Ireland Frack Free said: “Lord Smith’s view on fracking is an indication that the government, and agencies, are wilfully choosing to ignore the large amount of peer reviewed scientific reports that prove fracking is not and cannot be made safe. The continued reference by agencies and individuals that fracking will be ‘safe’ if ‘properly regulated’ is a betrayal to the public.”
- I always thought that the ‘Environment Agency’ was FOR the Environment and not against it as it would appear here in the UK. ↩
Met Office and Newcastle University study is first to draw direct link between climate change and rise in summer downpours.
Flood damage in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images
Flash flooding in summer is likely to become much more frequent across the UK as a result of climate change, with potentially devastating results in vulnerable areas, according to new research.
The study, published in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change, is the first to draw a direct link between climate change and an increase in summer downpours.
The research, a result of a collaboration between the Met Office and Newcastle University, used climate change computer models and standard weather prediction models of the type used for short-term weather forecasts. It found that summers would be drier overall, but punctuated by more extreme downpours.
These can have a much worse effect than the steady rainfall typical of winter, because the dry land is less capable of absorbing water, and when too much falls in a short period it runs off, causing flash floods of the type that struck Boscastle in 2004, one of the worst examples of sudden localised flooding in recent years.
Whether any given area is subject to flash flooding will depend heavily on its topography, such as the proximity of uplands and rivers, but vulnerable areas are likely to experience far more incidents than they did in the past.
It is not possible to say exactly how many more floods are likely, but the researchers said instances of particularly heavy summer rainfall – defined as more than 28mm in an hour – would be about five times more probable.
Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office, the lead author of the study, said that the research was groundbreaking in using a high-resolution weather forecasting model to translate the likely effects of climate change into a detailed prediction of future UK summer weather.
“Until now, we haven’t been able to do it in this way,” she said. “This should help people to understand what is likely to happen in the summer in future. It’s very important that we’ve detected this signal for heavier downpours in the UK. It’s now for policymakers to decide what to do about it.”
Some of the worst results could still be a few decades away, but the effects are already being felt and are likely to grow more severe, according to the models. But Kendon said more accurate predictions would depend on more scientific research being undertaken.
Summer rainfall is different to that typical of winter, when long-lasting steady bouts of heavy rain are common. These can cause their own flooding problems, as seen early this year when heavy rain caused widespread devastation in the UK with thousands of people forced to flee their homes.
Climate models suggest heavier winter rainfall for the UK. Summer downpours, such as those seen in 2012 when heavy rainfall followed a long period of drought, with disastrous results, are harder to predict but can take a greater toll as they are more sudden, and crops are ruined and tourism disrupted.
Kendon said: “It’s the hourly rainfall rates that you look at in summer.” The rain tends to fall in shorter but more intense bursts, caused by convective storms, but this has been difficult for climate models to simulate, because they lack the ability to home in on such brief events. It took the Met Office supercomputer, one of the most powerful in the world, nine months to run the necessary simulations.
Editors Note: This will either push insurance premiums through the roof or else make it impossible to get any kind of insurance cover for your property.
Flooding is predicted for parts of England as heavy rain persists. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Heavy rain across the east of England could cause flooding over the coming days, forecasters have warned.
The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning of rain for the region, predicting localised flooding that could cause disruption to travel.
The wet weather would persist until Wednesday night, the Met said, with up to 70mm (2.76in) of rain expected in worst-hit areas including parts of Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and the Humber.
The Environment Agency (EA) warned of a flood risk in the east, mainly from surface water and low-lying rivers.
It said: “There may be some flooding of low-lying land and roads, some disruption to travel and possibly flooding to individual properties.”
Meteo Group forecaster Gareth Harvey said: “An area of prolonged rain is moving up over the eastern region and it’s not going to shift until Wednesday night.
“The rain is not exclusive to the east region but that’s where the persistent and largest rainfall totals of between 50 and 70mm will be.
“Pretty much the whole of Great Britain will see rain at some point over the next 48 hours.
“This means there could be some localised flooding.”
The EA has issued 10 low-level flood alerts in the south-east and the Midlands, mainly warning of groundwater flooding close to rivers.