The Manchester University study, which involved taking readings at a monitoring station near the drill site and using drones over head said the amount of the greenhouse gas leaked was the equivalent environmental cost of 142 trans-Atlantic flights.
The research team was led by Prof Grant Allen who said that over a one-week period in January 2019, analysis showed the leak to be a result of the release of non-combusted methane from the flare stack following operations to clean out the 2.3 km deep shale gas well. Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire said the study showed that fracking was not the relatively “clean” fossil fuel bridging technology that some had claimed.
She said: “This latest report confirms the serious concerns that we have been voicing for years: fracking increases methane emissions that contribute to the escalating climate crisis. The industry continually dismissed any fugitive emissions as unproblematic, previously calling it “reassuringly tiny”. The fact is, Cuadrilla did not and likely could not, control methane leaks from their operations, which on top of the host of fracking failures – including structure-damaging earthquakes – should sound the death knell for this terrible industry.”
Professor Grant Allen, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and leader of the project at The University of Manchester, said: “Our work shows that atmospheric monitoring of shale gas activity is crucial to meaningfully assess any role that the industry may have in the UK’s future energy mix and whether it can (or cannot) be consistent with the UK’s stated aim of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2015. This work informs that debate and provides new data on emissions from well-clearing activities that must be captured in industry life cycle assessments, and should be used to inform regulatory oversight and industrial practices surrounding venting activities such as the event quantified here. Such emissions should be avoided wherever possible.”
Identification of the methane emissions from the site was made by comparing the data with two years of baseline measurements carried out by The University of Manchester as part of a British Geological Survey-led environmental monitoring project and supported by the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. Professor Rob Ward, Policy Director at British Geological Survey said: “This study demonstrates the importance of establishing effective monitoring at oil and gas sites to establish the baseline and then enable detection and quantification of any emissions that might arise. Not only is this important for managing what might be a hazardous situation, it is also important for properly assessing greenhouse gas emissions.”