Fluid migration, Permitting, Uncategorized, Well integrity

“Dear Aunty, is fracking fluid really toxic?”

Well, my little flowerpots, no it’s not. It does contain chemicals, but the ones that are used are mostly harmless and are certainly not hazardous once mixed into the fracturing fluid!

Setting aside the arguments about how many onshore oil and gas wells have already been fracked in the UK, cherubs, right now the only people to have done any recently (and that are probably hoping to do some more some soon!) are Cuadrilla.

Take a look at their website, and you’ll find that they’ve been very open about what they’ll be using:

Water
Polyacrylamide
Sand
Salt

And, if circumstances dictate:

Hydrochloric Acid
Biocide (Gluteraldehyde)

If you look at these, you’ll find that with the exception of the last two, none of these ingredients is remotely hazardous my darlings.

Most of their fracturing fluid is water, with hardly any other additives used at all. The polyacrylamide is a friction reducer and plays an important role in managing the injection pressure – which will help to make sure there are none of those little earth tremors – whilst the sand holds open the tiny fractures that are created so the gas can escape.

Even the Hydrochloric Acid (which is corrosive and causes burns to exposed skin) and biocide (which may be harmful to aquatic life in its neat form) won’t make the fracturing fluid hazardous when present in the very dilute concentrations in which they’re likely to be added. Cosmetics, like those supplied by Lush Cosmetics (currently campaigning against fracking) contain chemicals, including Phenoxyethanol biocide but they’re present in such small concentrations that they’re harmless to us.

Unlike in the US, where they have their famous ‘Halliburton Loophole’, companies here can’t just put any old stuff in the ground sweeties, only substances that don’t pose a hazard to the water table. Like every other aspect of drilling for oil and gas, it’s very well regulated with laws that have been practiced in their implementation, and regularly strengthened, over a long time.

Just look at the guidance provided by DEFRA for instance – it’s endless! (If you’re reading this for the first time munchkins, do please remember that it regulates the introduction of substances into groundwater, not those that are already there!)

So, my dears, you needn’t worry about what’s going into the rock thousands of feet beneath your feet. Not only is it not hazardous, there’s no water down there to contaminate, and also very little chance of it ever finding its way to somewhere it shouldn’t be (see my earlier posts on well integrity and fluid migration).

Of course, other operators may use different fluids, but they’ll all be subject to the same rules and will no doubt all be as transparent as Cuadrilla after signing up to the code of practice drawn up by the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG).

Until next time xxx

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