Waste Injection Coming for Shale? It's already here!
The Independent printed an article today suggesting that waste water from drilling and extraction in Yorkshire had a permit approved by the Environment Agency for injecting the waste water back into the ground. IE a waste water injection disposal well. As at other sites in Yorkshire, it is suspected that conventional development will lead to shale gas extraction with full fracking. At other Yorkshire sites certainly mini-fracs are being performed.
This is a very worrying development. Although the Third Energy well has not been fully fracked to the degree we mean it in the current debate, it offers a dangerous precedent and shows which way the government;'s mind is working. IE it will grant permission for wastewater from fracking to be reinjected into wells. Waste fracking fluid disposal has widely been seen as one of the biggest problems facing a developing UK shale gas industry.
Waste injection wells have been the main culprits in the US for not only triggering seismic activity but resulting in wells leaking to the environment. For a UK government to allow this to happen here would be in some people's view far worse than allowing fracking itself.
It would also be a turn-round of policy and a reversal of all the assurances we have been givern in the past.
Here, for example, is a tweet from MP Dan Byles, an active and influential pro-fracking member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, 11th September 2013
"we won't have disposal wells in the UK."
Here's our pro-fracking ex-gas salesman Greasy Grealy displaying his ignorance and capacity for muddled thought in July 2013
"One point relevant to the UK, or to be exact not all relevant to the UK, is that injection of shale waste water via disposal wells is not allowed under EU law."
This and more was said to persuade us there was no chance due to law and regulation of our suffering waste fracking disposal wells.
But the reality is different.
The government said in December 2012
"The use of disposal wells is not regarded as good practice by the
environmental regulators or DECC.
This came from the response to the Pro-Frackers' bible, the Royal Society and Royal College of Engineering reprot into shale gas. In fact this report admitted that it had not considered the disposal well question, although acknowledging there were problems in the US. The report said
“The construction, regulation and siting of any future onshore disposal wells need further investigation.”
Also in December 2012 DECC said - as part of its response to the seismicity report which resulted in the lifting of the shale moratorium
"C4. Will shale gas production (as against exploration) cause subsidence or earthquakes large enough to cause damage at the surface?
There are no documented cases of shale gas operations, whether exploration or production, causing subsidence or earthquakes large enough to cause damage at the surface (although large scale re-injection of frac disposal fluids poses a recognised earthquake risk and, if proposed in the UK will be closely scrutinised). Shale gas production does not remove large quantities of rock from underground (by comparison with coal mining where subsidence does occur).
Yet in February 2014 in their document Fracking UK Shale : Water, DECC make no mention of wastewater injection being an option for disposal.
SO there you have it, the usual assurances from politicians, half-truths and omissions from government agencies, when as we suspected, this government will do everything it can to facilitate shale gas development. Now it seems that the EA is paving the way for injection well disposal of fracking waste.
What of the insistence on "Best Available Techniques" - one cornerstone of the argument that says we have adequate - indeed superlative - regulation in the UK?
We only have to see the Environment Agency constantly allowing flaring at fracking and other gas well sites when it is FAR from a best available technique. And with water disposal wells we are now seeing again the falsehood in asserting any such insistence. The Environment Agency say
"Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EA) – require waste management plans and Best Available Techniques
Clearly another fraudulent claim perpetuated by the government agencies.
Frankly, here's a big puzzle. If injecting fracking wastewater into a well is seen as a problem or even a no-no -
How is this different from reusing returned wastewater "recycling" ha ha and injecting it back down a well for another frack? Like Cuadrilla say they are planning to do at Preston New Road and Roseacre.
And moreover, how is this different from stuffing fracking chemicals into a well for fracking in the first place? Whenmaybe up to 80% of the gunk stays down there, having accumulated radioactivity and all sorts of stuff from the shale? This is why Cuadrilla and others have to apply for a waste management "facility" - ie down the hole. The EA grant these permits - allowing storage of fracking wastewater underground.
If one's bad they are ALL bad. If EU regs will ban injecting wastewater (which they won't) why don't they ban fracking altogether?
The writing is on the wall. If it is found economically convenient for the cowboys, wastewater disposal wells WILL be allowed in the UK. Effectively IT IS ALREADY BEING PERMITTED.
The Independent article can be found here
And warnings on the potential risks iof injection wells here.