Fracking is “not without risk”
- EPA report calls for more research and monitoring

THE EPA preliminary report into fracking, released last week has stated that the process is “not without risk” and recommends further research, monitoring, transparency and best practices to be established.

THE EPA preliminary report into fracking, released last week has stated that the process is “not without risk” and recommends further research, monitoring, transparency and best practices to be established.

The report has been welcomed by almost every sector as a balanced study, but it’s conclusion has been condemned by local anti fracking groups as “incorrect”.

The study by Dr David Healy in the University of Aberdeen concluded that “there is a low and probably manageable risk to groundwater from fracking.” This statement has been criticised as “incorrect” and “misleading” from some anti fracking groups.

The report introduces the environmental aspects of fracking including regulatory approaches used in other countries and areas for further investigation and research. According to the study, the integrity of the well is vital for minimising potential impacts, particularly with regard to groundwater contamination.The research notes that knowledge of local geology is important in order to assess the potential for impacts on groundwater quality and tremors/earthquakes. The study makes clear that EU Directives on Mining Waste and water protection will place significant constraints on shale gas extraction activities in Europe which do not exist in the US, with regard to disposal of wastes and waste fluids.

The report says “injecting large volumes of fluid into the sub surface is not without risk.” But also says there is a wealth of “misinformed” studies out there and “there have been relatively few published, peer -reviewed scientific reports into the potential environmental impacts of fracking.” It says, the few legitimate studies show “that risks primarily depend on the quality and integrity of the borehole casing and cement job, rather than the fracking process itself.”

It also claims if chemical free frack fluid can be used “then many of the alleged contamination risks associated with fracking could be reduced or eliminated.”

Tamboran Resources Pty Ltd, the company currently exploring the prospect of fracking in North Leitrim welcomed the study calling it “balanced” and “in line with our own views on how gas can be safely extracted.” Richard Moorman, CEO of Tamboran said, “The report’s conclusion that ‘mechanical fracking process itself does not pose a significant environmental risk’ is noteworthy.”

To better understand the local geology, Moorman said the company “will be using advanced 3D technology” to ensure comprehensive seismic data analysis is undertaken.

“We have already committed to chemical-free fracking, an approach this report advocates. The report’s recommendations on well casing and monitoring of ground water are fully in line with our proposals. Transparency and full engagement with the community are recommendations we as a company support. We have taken such an approach from the outset and continue to do so,” he stated.

Senator Paschal Mooney also welcomed the preliminary report and has urged Minister Pat Rabbitte not to issue any fracking licenses until a more comprehensive study is carried out.

Mooney, a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has called on the committee to invite the EPA, anti-fracking representatives and experts from the European Commission to present evidence before the Committee.

The North West Network against Fracking said the EPA conclusion that ‘there would be a low and probably manageable risk to groundwater from fracking’ is “refuted by every anti fracking group in the country, as it does not take into account the geology of the region, the intended depth of the wells.”

According to the group a recent report released by Dr. Gallazzi, a hydrogeologist has shown “that running directly below the shallow layer of shale, runs the Ballyshannon Limestone, an aquifer of regional importance.”

Director of Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Dr. Aedin McLoughlin from Ballinaglera said “the Aberdeen report was incorrect because there is a risk to groundwater.”

She said Ireland has a unique geology and in the case of the Lough Allen Basin, there is an aquifer underneath as well as above the shale layer which would be threatened by the process.”

The information provided by this project will now be used to assist the scoping of a more comprehensive study, to be developed in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Commission for Energy Regulation. The EPA expects to commission this second study later this year.