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To be really concerned that it looks like fracking is going ahead in West Sussex

(98 Posts)
frazzled1772 Thu 13-Jun-13 12:16:42

I have been learning more about fracking (due to Cuadrilla proposing to frack just up the road from me). It seems that there are so many risks attached and the impact of fracking is not fully understood yet. The impact of fracking is far greater than being just on one small Sussex village. The whole area will potentially be transformed by numerous wells and drilling pads. The proposed site is close to Ardingly Reservoir - which provides drinking water for thousands of people in the area and is surrounded by streams which feed the River Ouse. There are many reports of fracking contaminating water supplies - rendering tap water undrinkable and harming wildlife and farmland. But it looks like the government thinks it's ok! I need to know that my water will be safe and not full of radioactive waste, heavy metals or methane and I am not convinced that Cuadrilla or the government can say that they 100% sure that it will be yet it looks like they may get the go ahead - surely that can't be right?

frazzled1772 Thu 01-Aug-13 08:48:39

Been a long time... but Dr Snowman - if you're still there - should Cuadrilla undertake soil testing before they drill? This is their baseline water and air testing - have they covered it all?
They have only just released this in response to media pressure.

frazzled1772 Tue 02-Jul-13 22:21:54

Dr Snowman, Cuadrilla have replied and said they will not be using biocide in their proposed exploratory drill at the Balcombe site. They will be drilling vertically then horzontally and then "washing" the bore hole with a 10%hcl solution. They did not disclose to me the biocide used in Blackpool. I will continue my pursuit of this information. Cuadrilla are applying for a waste removal permit from the EA for the Lower Stumble site in Balcombe which is now available online to comment on. This seems like an appropriate opportunity for me to raise some of the questions again as they have to respond.

frazzled1772 Fri 21-Jun-13 16:52:25

This has cheered me up a little - tighter regulation is required to make sure that fracking is done safely.

frazzled1772 Thu 20-Jun-13 18:44:29

I thought is was interesting programme - reasonably balanced, it explained some of the findings (including the flammable drinking water) and posed some interesting questions. I think the question of long term impact on a local and a global level was interesting and the fact that the health impacts on people living near fracking sites was very difficult to fully understand at this point in time. Leaky wells seem to be the key issue in the states. In the UK he pointed out that we have tighter regulations however there is no one regulatory body concerned with fracking. It is currently overseen by the EA, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Health and Safety Exec, with the local county councils being responsible for planning permission for drilling sites. It's a lot of agencies and I am not sure where the real expertise regarding fracking lies.

Sallyingforth Thu 20-Jun-13 17:45:36

If anyone missed the TV programme on fracking last night it's being repeated later tonight.

complexnumber Thu 20-Jun-13 14:44:13

I may not agree with frazzled points of view, but I am loving the way she is argueing.

So many of us could learn to provide evidence before opinion.

frazzled1772 Thu 20-Jun-13 10:55:13

I have had a blanket response to my email as the EA are getting a lot of enquiries at the moment.

Sallyingforth Sat 15-Jun-13 19:10:55

So the tap water - that we drink - is not clean enough to be pumped into the ground? That's incredible. It's already been chlorinated.

DrSnowman Sat 15-Jun-13 17:56:03

The environment agency document stated that the biocide was used when the tap water used for the fracking needed to be purified before use. I still have no idea what biocide it was.

frazzled1772 Sat 15-Jun-13 10:55:37

Just so you know what I'm up to, I intend to compose letters and emails with those questions - I'll come back when I've heard back. Thank you again.

Sallyingforth Sat 15-Jun-13 09:55:54

Why is the biocide needed? Is it to stop some form of fermentation below ground, or to clean up the effluent?

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 23:20:46

Dr Snowman - we crossed again....

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 23:18:46

Sallyingforth - apparently the rock around here is more porous - I think it's a lot of limestone. Apparently this poses a greater risk of fractures lengthening, which in turn presents a greater risk of the fracking chemicals seeping into the aquifer. I am sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong about that.
There are rumours that Cuadrilla have "lost" a lot of fluid somewhere from the Blackpool site i.. I have no idea if this is true or part of a drive to discredit the company... more research!

DrSnowman Fri 14-Jun-13 23:15:03

You need to find out which biocide was used, biocides range from some harmless pussy cat ones to some raging tiger nasties.

I suspect that the will not have altered the rocks much with a little hydrochloric acid. But in east Germany at one uranium mine they used so much sulphuric acid that it got into the ground water (back in the days of communism). They added so much acid that it was not consumed by the reactions with the rocks in the mine.

You should ask the question of what is the buffering capacity of the minerals in the area which is being fracked, this will give us an idea of how much acid the rocks can absorb / tolerate.

If you add so much acid that it overcomes the buffering capacity of the rocks then metals can become mobile and escape from the minerals into the ground water.

Sallyingforth Fri 14-Jun-13 23:11:20

All very interesting. It's astonishing the vast range of chemicals being used in the US.
To my less than expert mind the output from the North West test doesn't sound unacceptable if properly treated, but it would be wrong to extrapolate this to Sussex if your geology is different.

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 23:01:10

Dr snowman - I hadn't seen your previous post before I posted the link. Thank you for your input. That's all really really helpful.

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 22:51:59

Hi Dr Snowman

The documentation I have about what goes in is as follows:
99.75% is water and sand
.075% polyacrylamide friction reducers
.0125% hydrochloric acid
.005% biocide (used on rare occasions when the water provided from the local supplier needs to be purified further.

I'll see what I can find out about oil levels and other organics ..

DrSnowman Fri 14-Jun-13 22:44:02

I have looked at the data in the link, the radioactivity level in the water is low. One of the water samples did have radium in it, I expected that radium would be one the radioactive things to look for.

It is below the 400 Bq per kilo which is the UK lower limit for radioactive waste rules for many types of waste.

The water which came out of the well is very saline, I am glad it is being stored in double walled tanks. This greatly reduces the chance of a spill.

The document did not give any details of which additives were used for the fracking operation, I think that these details should be released to the public.

I would be interested to know what the level of oils and other organics are in the water which came back out of the gas wells.

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 22:23:09

Here 's what's in flowback frack fluid:

There will be approximately 40-60% of 10,000 to 30,000 tonnes of this fluid coming up out of the well over a period a few weeks to a few months. It is to be stored on site and then moved (somewhere?)

DrSnowman Fri 14-Jun-13 22:17:02

I have to disagree with LessMiss, it is not the case that you can do a little general reading and be able to deal with the matter. I am strongly in favour of the general public empowering themselves by learning about issues such as fracking, GMOs and nuclear technology.

But to expect the general public to deal with it on their own is not reasonable, I am a university academic so I regard myself as one of the few truly neutral experts. I am neither in bed with the "Greens" or "industry". I have dealings with both sides but I am very much my own man, nobody ever gets to tell me how to think !

The problem with fracking is that a wide range of different chemicals can be used to do it, also the stuff which comes out of oil / gas wells ranges greatly from one gas / oil field to the next.

If I recall correctly fracking tends to use a mixture of sand (or some other inert solid) and some other chemicals, the problem is that the list of chemicals is long and contains a host of things which range from innocent and playful to some real nasties.

I think that you should make an environmental version of a freedom of information request to your local authority. Use the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 to ask the local government for details of what substances will be used for the Fracking, also ask what will be discharged as waste. Also ask how the waste will be managed.

If the local authority have not got data for the oil level in soil and water, I would suggest that they should start looking for it or requiring the oil / gas company to give them the data.

If they do not have the data then for petrol and other oils in soil/water I would suggest that if the local authority / oil company do not have data then they should go for gas chromatography. I would suggest for benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX) that they test river water and soil with headspace GC (this is to petrol in soil as the breath test is to a drunken driver). While they should extract soil samples and test these by GCMS. Water is not a good place to look for oil but soil from a spill site is a good place to look.

A paper was written about BTEX and fracking related spills (S.A. Gross et. al., Journal of the air and waste management association, 2013, volume 63, issue 4, pages 424-432).

If you are concerned about the radioactivity, then ask how much radium, uranium and other radioisotopes will be released during the fracking operation.

If nobody knows then I would suggest that either ask the oil company to find a reputable lab which can test drinking water for radioactivity. Then get them to test the waste water.

My first guess would be

If I was in the lab, I would shake 1000 ml of waste water with small volume of a solvent extraction reagent in a glass bottle. I would then use a sample of the extracted liquid for the LSC measurement. If you use a long counting time per vial then it should be possible to detect radium at low levels in water.

For heavy metals in water released by the frackers, I would suggest that ICPMS or ICPOES should be used to look for the heavy metals. If anyone wants to collect a water sample, I would suggest a precleaned polyethene bottle. The bottle needs to be washed out many times with super pure nitric acid before use, also shortly after taking the same some super pure nitric acid should be added to keep the metals from sticking to the walls of the bottle.

For a list of chemicals used in fracking see

fromparistoberlin Fri 14-Jun-13 17:07:50

noone wants fracking
noone wants windfarms

so just pay for more Russian and Saudi gas then?

we need energy, altough I am keen to know what long terms risks really could be

Sallyingforth Fri 14-Jun-13 17:06:08

I would love it if someone could categorically say there is no real risk
Well that won't happen. Of course there is risk.
There is risk from coal mining, oil drilling, conventional gas extraction, nuclear power, wind turbines...
There is risk crossing the road.
The best you can hope for is that the degree of risk is quantified and found not to be excessive.

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 13:23:16

LessMiss I do understand that gas is different to water. I like a gin and tonic, the bubbles in it are gas the stuff around it is liquid. There are incidents of methane bubbling into water supplies. It travels through fracking faults into the aquifer or the ground water. If you pour the liquid into a glass it is bubbly - not quite like a g and t but tiny little gas bubbles. It happens. You can prevent that by making sure you drill deep enough - there is mixed information about how deep Cuadrilla a drilling and how far away it will be from the aquifer.

And returned frack fluid is a huge volume of industrial waste which will need to be disposed of somewhere somehow.

Morgan Mummy - that's what I am trying to do now - finding out. It's a minefield. I would love it if someone could categorically say there is no real risk - someone who wasn't attached to the industry or the government, who has examined both sides and who really knows what they're talking about!

LessMissAbs Fri 14-Jun-13 12:04:27

Frazzled I am absolutely not some kind of scientific academic (my field is a type of social science) - this is simply basic science knowledge that I gained at school. Its not my job to educate you about things like gas and air being different or the entire potential chemical reactivity of a range of substances. I don't have the time, but I suggest if you are interested, you do some general reading about the basic chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen and hydrogen and their properties, and then consider the issue of fracking.

My viewpoint remains that the small risk of potential harm can be managed and tested sufficiently so as to be outweighed by the potential benefits, that progress always involves some slight step into the unknown but these days plants and processes are so sophisticated compared to the past, and that fracking is a process that has been around for years.

frazzled1772 Fri 14-Jun-13 07:59:56

LessMiss and Dr Snow. You obviously have a lot relevant academic knowledge. I am going to look further into the chemicals that are used (by the thousands of gallons, to wash into the wells and also try to find out what comes back out again and how Cuadrilla manage this waste. If you would care to apply your scientific expertise to answer this particular question I would appreciate an educated view on the safety of these fluids. Thank you.

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