And it could be coming to Argyll.In a recent article we used a figure often used in the shale gas industry – that it takes three million gallons of water for each fracking [hydrofracturing - the injection of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock - to fracture it and release the gas it holds].
One reader rubbished this figure – claiming, by implication, superior knowledge but conveniently giving no alternative figure, even when challenged to do so.
Because fracking for shale oil and gas is a new industry here, although in more long standing use in America, we wanted to be sure that our facts remained current.
Research has shown that they are not – but that even greater water volumes than we had cited is now required for each fracking.
The rule of thumb in the industry is over 4,000,000 gallons of water a pop.
We note that in a major article on fracking in today’s edition of The Sunday Herald, Environment Editor, Rob Edwards – in disclosing that an extensive area of central Scotland is now marked for potential exploration – gives the figure of 20,000 cubic metres of water per frack. This computes to 4,400,000 gallons.
With several drilling licences granted in a single area – the impact of this process on our water supply is massive.
Then there is ‘flowback’
‘Flowback’ is what returns to the surface of the mixture of water with the chemicals included for fracking [which are often toxic] – and the additional naturally occurring radioactive material in the earth this volume of water absorbs into itself.
Flowback is traditionally pumped into open pits on the site for later disposal [or not].
This ‘disposal’ is a subject the industry simply does not really discuss but research has shown that there is a genuine risk of this dangerous fluid waste penetrating and polluting the water tables or aquifers that provide our drinking water. This has happened in incidents in America and it is why that country is very nervous about the development of the huge Marcellus shale, sitting on the aquifers that supply water to the city of New York.
There is now talk of requiring mining companies to re-use flowback – but this is a new process which may not even yet be in place and is being talked about mainly to pacify any natives right;y concerned about the environmental impact of flowback waste where they live.
It is of interest to Argyll that the exploration area map given by Rob Edwards in his piece today [The dark side of the gas rush] includes all of the Isle of Bute, part of south east and east Cowal and the southern half of the Rosneath peninsula.
The entire area shown for potential exploration drilling and production is a wide belt running diagonally SW to NE from north of a line from Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway to north of Lochgoilhead on the west coast, over to [gulp] Torness nuclear plant and north to what looks like Inverbervie, north of Montrose on the east coast.