A MILESTONE IN THE DEBATE SURROUNDING THE HEALTH RISKS OF FRACKING:
Oil and Gas engineer Mike Hill has strongly criticised the burgeoning fracking industry and government in the UK for failing to properly assess the health implications of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in dense populations. Today his opinions are being published in the world’s leading medical journal The Lancet.
Mike says “After a very thorough review of my correspondence on Shale gas regulation in the UK and health implications of fracking The Lancet will publish online this Friday and then it goes into the journal shortly after. Can I take this opportunity to thank The Lancet for their scrutiny of this piece and rigorous approach to ensure that the details were as accurate as possible. I am, of course, delighted and humbled that such a journal, with such a reputation throughout the world, has chosen to publish my words.”
The correspondence brings the reader up-to-date with the lack of regulation and monitoring in the UK at this time. The health studies emerging from the US are now opening up the debate on the health implications of fracking with some serious results (abnormality in new borns, low birth weights, chronic health conditions). The UK Gov is constantly re-assuring the public that fracking is safe and strictly regulated. The reality seems to be somewhat different. With just 1 out of 10 Royal Society recommendations implemented in 2 years despite the governments acceptance that all are needed and fracking about to resume in Lancashire, then this letter explains just how far we have to go in the UK before we can possibly think of fracking again.
Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemicals, silica and water down a borehole and raising the pressure to thousands of psi to fracture the shale rocks. The silica acts to hold open the tiny cracks and this then allows gas trapped at a microscopic level in the rocks to flow back to the surface along with approx. half the waste material in the form of liquid flowback (approx. 12 million litres/well). The main operator in the UK is Cuadrilla Resources. They have fracked one well in the UK at Weeton near Blackpool, Lancs. in 2011 causing two earthquakes and damage to the well. No fracking has occurred in the UK since. The UK Gov recently announced a new law to make fracking easier for the operators by allowing them to drill underneath anyone’s property with no permission required. Cuadrilla now intend to drill 8 wells with vertical and horizontal sections ( approx. 4 miles) in Lancs this year and have recently applied for planning permission to do so.
Mike says ” We are not ready to resume fracking in the UK. Our regulatory regime is inadequate, we have not implemented the necessary recommendations and the health impacts which are now becoming known through serious research in the USA are being ignored by the UK Gov. I hope that the letter assists the government, health professionals and public in knowing just how serious the situation is and the risks we are presently facing.
Mike Hill is a chartered electrical engineer with many years’ experience in the oil and gas industry both direct (wireline, seismic) and indirect (process automation). Mike is an expert advisor to the EU Commission BREF Committee on Management of Tailings and Waste Rock (inc shale gas). He has written and presented several papers on the subject of regulation and monitoring of shale gas – most recently to the Institution of Engineering & Technology (old IEE) President, UK Gov and Royal Society Report authors on 20th May , assisted the DECC on inspection matters and was a contributor to the Royal Society/RAE Report on Shale Gas. He has also been a contributor to BBC Newsnight, BBC Inside Out, Private Eye, The Times, BBC Radio Big Fracking Debate and The Guardian. Mike has also worked with Friends of the Earth UK, Friends of the Earth Europe and The Greens in the EU Commission – advising on well integrity and engineering aspects of regulation.