Potential contamination of water sources with radiation, chemicals and methane. During the shale gas drilling and extraction process 20-40% of the contaminated and potentially radioactive fracking fluid flows back to the surface for disposal. The remaining 60-80% of the contaminated fluids may remain underground. The only thing defending underground aquifers from contamination is the integrity of the drilled wells and cement well casing.
Hundreds of chemicals have been licensed for use worldwide, including Benzene, Toluene, Phenol & Formaldehyde, several of which are carcinogenic.
Contaminated water from de-watering of coal bed methane exploration is likely to contain natural salts, metals, hydrocarbons, drilling fluids, injected chemicals and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM).
Radioactive isotopes (such as radium-226) and Radon can be leached out of the rocks that the fracking fluid passes through.
Leaking wells and condensate tanks exacerbate local air pollution. Before commercial production, unwanted methane is usually flared (burned off) and can be vented direct to the atmosphere only for safety reasons.
Noise & Light Pollution
Operations on drilling sites and gas processing cause light and noise pollution for local communities, usually operating 24 hours a day.
Recorded Health Impacts
Health impacts such as headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties have all been recorded, however potential health impacts remain an under researched area.
Industrialisation of the Countryside with Well Sites
To make unconventional gas exploration profitable companies will need to potentially drill hundreds of wells in a small area. This would extensively industrialise any area of countryside and have a significant visual impact.
Pipelines & Plant
Gas pipelines, access roads to drill sites and the construction of many ‘frack pads’ (drilling sites) are likely to be necessary to make production economically viable.
Increased HGV Traffic
There will be an increase in HGV movements to bring in the drilling equipment and the chemicals needed to drill and frack each well, and potentially remove waste drilling fluids, often on minor rural roads not suited to such heavy use.
Fracking has also been associated with earthquakes and may cause subsidence. In the UK fracking company Cuadrilla has admitted that its exploration in Lancashire has caused earth tremors.
Shale gas has been hailed as a reducer of greenhouse gas emissions as it produces less CO2 than burning coal. It remains to be seen just how “Green”a fuel it is, as recent research in America has shown that leakages of methane from frack pads and pipelines have been underestimated. As methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 this may cancel out the advantage of using shale gas as a transition fuel until we have sufficient renewable energy.