Subsidence, Uncategorized

“Dear Aunty, should we be worried about undermining?”

Well, of course not, sweetie – at least not where shale gas exploration and extraction is concerned.

I noted recently that there has been quite a lot of chatter on this topic amongst groups and individuals opposed to shale gas development, but it isn’t really all that relevant.

You see, cherubs, the old laws that people refer to were born out from our coal mining past. People were rightly worried that, whilst the pit entrance might be more than a mile away from their properties, the great tunnels and caverns created by extracting the fuel of yesteryear could easily pass below their homes – potentially causing damage if those extractions took place at shallow depths.

Which is why it is referred to as ‘undermining’ – literally mining under people’s homes.

The techniques used to extract coal – a solid fuel that often required blasting with dynamite to break it up, extraction by digging manually with picks and, more latterly, with giant machines like underground moles – were very different to those used today to get at the rich deposits of shale gas my dears.

But, importantly, it’s the below ground impacts and depths involved that matter the most.

When fracking takes place, the well diameter is no more than eight-and-half inches in the production zone, which might one day include a horizontal spur between 5-10,000 feet below ground. So not exactly a tunnel or cavern like those previously created in coal mining and very far removed from surface properties cherubs.

The risks of subsidence, that were common in coal mining and the chief public worry, are therefore very remote indeed.

As I’ve said before, the fracking itself works at a molecular level – tiny cracks with a diameter the size of a water molecule. No risk of the shale collapsing in on itself there either.

Do we need protecting from these very remote, almost none-existent risks using laws that were created in a bygone age and that are now very much out of date? Would the public really be less protected if, as has been suggested, the law is changed to remove the old undermining rights for landowners under whose properties horizontal shale wells might one day pass?

No, dears, not really.

Until next time xxx

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