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Britain should avoid deep injection shale wells

By Nina Chestney
Britain should steer clear of using deep injection wells in shale oil and gas “fracking” and take extra steps to reduce the technique’s environmental and health effects, an industry-funded task force examining the sector said on Wednesday.
The oil and gas industry uses deep injection wells to dispose of wastewater when drilling for shale, but some have been linked to earthquakes in the United States.
The hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology required to release gas trapped in rocks has been used at only one well in Britain.
A Cuadrilla Resources project near Blackpool, northwest England, was abandoned after it triggered an earth tremor that resulted in an 18-month fracking ban, which ended in 2012.
“The disposal of wastewater by deep injection … should be avoided in the United Kingdom … particularly where the nature of the geology is unsuitable,” said a report by the Task Force on Shale Gas examining environmental and health effects.
The task force was set up last year to examine the risks and benefits of shale gas extraction and says it is independent of its funders – Cuadrilla, Centrica, Total, Weir Group, Dow Chemical and GDF Suez E&P UK.
The task force said a national advisory committee should be established to monitor data from shale gas operations, oversee issues related to public health and advise the government.
This should be separate from an independent shale regulator proposed by the task force in March.
In addition, shale companies need to disclose fully the chemicals used in their operations and monitor surface water, air and soil quality when a potential site is identified.
“Green completions” – whereby firms capture gas at the well head instead of releasing it into the atmosphere – should also be mandatory to minimize methane emissions.
“The evidence shows that many of the concerns associated with fracking are the result of poor practice elsewhere in the world, such as poorly constructed wells,” said Chris Smith, chair of the task force.
“It is therefore crucial that stringent regulations are established in the UK, as set out in our recommendations, in order to meet these legitimate concerns.”
Last month, local government officials rejected two fracking projects in northwest England due to the noise impact, dealing a blow to Britain’s government-supported shale gas sector.
Other countries, such as Scotland, France, and most recently the Netherlands, have banned shale gas drilling.
The task force will publish two more reports this year covering climate change and economics. A final report on the potential risks and benefits of shale gas for Britain will be published next spring.

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