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Government gives green light on shale gas extraction

03 January 2013

December 2012 saw health, safety and environmental risks of shale gas extraction given the all clear by George Osborne in his Autumn 2012 Statement.

The released news now means that the temporary ban on fracking has been lifted. Fracking work carried out by UK companies with a license can now continue as planned. It is the company's responsibility to monitor the effects of the fracking process that is being carried out as well as various UK agencies who are assigned with the task of regulating shale gas extraction.

The statement outlined plans to allow for new gas-fired power stations to be built across the UK, a consultation on tax break for shale gas operators and the establishment of a new 'office for fracking' as part of the Gas generation strategy. It has been estimated that the new gas stations across the UK will generate thousands of new jobs and that the country could be £20bn better off because of the strategy.

There are many concerns regarding the process involved in fracking and the impact that it has on the environment, however now that the ban has been lifted, focus now turns to how companies monitor the safety of the processes and the gases involved.

The Environment Agency (EA) in England and Wales, and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are the regulators  who are responsible for monitoring the environmental aspects of shale gas fracking. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) monitors aspects from a health and safety perspective, which includes well integrity and site safety and regulate operators using the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The HSE and EA are now working closely together in order to effectively to regulate unconventional oil and gas developments within the UK. A joint approach to inspecting  new exploratory shale gas operations has been developed between the two organisations. The HSE and EA will be inspecting the next series of hydraulic fracturing in England and Wales and will meet with first time shale gas operators to advise them of their duties and to conduct joint inspections.

In a recent report, The UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington FRS, asked the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to review  the scientific and engineering evidence surrounding shale gas extraction.

The key finding is that the health, safety and environmental risk can be managed effectively in the UK by employing operational best practice and regulation.  To this end a list of recommendations were made where the GasClam would be a perfect technology fit.

Recommendations Include:

•    The UK’s environmental regulators should work with the British Geological Survey (BGS) to carry out comprehensive national baseline surveys of methane and other contaminants in ground water.
•    Operators should carry out site-specific monitoring in groundwater before, during and after shale gas operations.
•    Operators should monitor potential leakages of methane or other emissions to atmosphere before, during and after shale gas operations.
•    The continuous monitoring of ground gas and regular sampling of near surface groundwater can provide evidence of well failure.
•    Continuous monitoring of ground-gas emissions can be implemented using monitoring wells around the well pad to detect any gas migrating outside the surface casing in to the surrounding ground thereby indicating well casing failure.
•    Monitoring for abandoned wells need to be developed.

View the report: Shale Gas Extraction In The UK: A Review Of Hydraulic Fracturing – Royal Society & Royal Academy Of Engineering

What is GasClam?

The GasClam, a new emerging piece of technology has been used within the fracking industry to monitor the movement of gases below ground. GasClam monitors for CH4, O2, CO2, CO, H2S and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) as well as collecting data on temperature, borehole and atmospheric pressure.

GasClam technology is set to be a key piece of technology involved in shale gas extraction (also known as fracking) due to its ability to continuously monitor ground gas movement, VOCs and ground water level data. The system provides users with the unique ability to gain a further insight in to the gas regime over longer periods of time, compared to that of traditional spot monitoring techniques.

Shawcity are the UK's exclusive supplier of the GasClam and IonScience product range. Arrange your complimentary product demonstration below or request a quote.

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