BGS to keep an eye on UK shale gas exploration

The British Geological Survey revealed it plans to expand its existing national environmental monitoring programmes by carrying out independent detailed research in areas of the UK that may see shale gas exploration and production.

This will include independent monitoring during hydraulic fracturing, subject to planning approvals at two proposed shale gas exploration sites in Lancashire. All results of this research will be open and made freely available to the public, BGS said in a statement.

The BGS has existing national environmental research programmes that include seismic and groundwater monitoring. This research will be enhanced in selected areas where shale gas resources have been identified to gain vital ‘baseline’ information. In addition, if planning applications for shale gas exploration are approved in Lancashire, this research will include monitoring during hydraulic fracturing. This research will provide the UK scientific community, with unique real-time data from a shale gas operation over its whole lifecycle – before, during and after hydraulic fracturing has taken place.

As part of the enhanced research programme, groundwater, regional air quality, seismicity and ground movements will be independently monitored at two proposed hydraulic fracturing sites in Lancashire. This will be carried out by a UK consortium led by the BGS with university partners (Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Loughborough and Manchester). This work is different to the operator’s own monitoring and that required by the regulator. It is designed to enhance the scientific understanding and knowledge of the effects of shale gas operations on the environment and support peer-reviewed science.

In December 2012, Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, gave the green light for shale gas exploration to resume. Cuadrilla currently has two planning applications (Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood) before Lancashire County Council and intends to commence shale gas exploration if these are approved.