Fracking - dispelling some controversies

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The two letters in your paper (9 Aug) highlight the basic problem that the actual associated facts are hard to come by.

Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is referred to as “controversial”.

This is largely due to totally different descriptions of the method and its effect and in many cases an unwillingness to research and a preparedness to listen to what they want to hear.

So the problem is, who do you believe?

A good start for research is the independent report by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering on fracking, commissioned by the government, published 29th June, 2012, addressing the “risks” including water contamination, well head failure, seismic activity and health and safety.

Their conclusion was that these could be safely accommodated under the enforcement of the strict Health & Safety Executive and other regulatory bodies - requirements already invoked for onshore and offshore oil and gas fields.

It is recognised that the UK regulations and their enforcement are the strictest worldwide. Of course a visit to the Cuadrilla web would help and check their Elswick gas field that has been operating continuously since 1993 powering a small power plant feeding 1MW by underground cable to the grid.

This information can then be compared with the alternative provided by the non local full-time any issue campaigner experts (who funds these people the tax payers?) and the “frack off” groups.

With respect to the complaint by the Balcombe residents against the police presence,

I understand that peaceful protests are acceptable but that obstruction of any sort is illegal and the police have a duty to uphold the law and to prevent injury.

Anybody who doesn’t understand this must be naïve. With regard to excessive force I’m sure one policeman could remove a cwt (8 stone) sack of cement from the road but a non-cooperative body is an entirely different matter.

If Cuadrilla went away and a wind or solar farm was to be considered, what would be the reaction of Balcombe residents? Also do they drive cars, cook meals and use electricity?

Now a look at some of the “controversies”:

1) Fracking fluid- Marina Pepper 5,000,000 gallons of drinking water laced with 100,000 gallons (2%) chemical cocktail including 650 known carcinogens.

Cuadrilla 99.7% water with small amount of sand 0.3% chemicals.

2) Water contamination during test operation – The test bore hole, fully lined with continuous oil standard piping, drilled to a depth of 3,000 feet will provide samples for the company to assess the viability of the field followed by the decision to go ahead or abandon and make good the site.

3) There will be further wells drilled every mile – not so. This is the point of lateral drilling which accesses further gas/oil sources. The Witch Farm oil field in Dorset has been operating since 1970 and they have just completed a lateral drill from the field of 4.8km and hence no visual impact.

Corfe Castle residents have no problems. In fact it has provided local labour, improved trade and had no effect on tourism (BBC 12 Aug).

4) Earthquakes – the Blackpool tremor was no greater than the number of natural tremors that have occurred since and there was not even damage to house hold china or glass.

5) Explosions – there are no explosions in the lateral pipework. Prior to fracking, the operators use a device that fires “bullets” that pierce the lateral pipe at the furthest point from the down hole. This is repeated long the entire length. These holes provide access for the high pressure fluid to start fractioning the rock. In the Balcombe case, there will be about 2,000 feet of rock between the fracking and the aquifer.

I would urge readers who care to find out as much as they can and Google the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report for a start.

Brian Beck

Lewes