The vast amount of water used for hydraulic fracking has been highlighted by DECC as one of its main environmental concerns over shale gas in extraction in the UK.
The department today kicked off its consultation period for the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round – releasing a regulatory roadmap for potential frackers as well as a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
Under a ‘high activity’ scenario for shale gas extraction, that would see 1,440 to 2,880 wells being drilled, the assessment predicted 57.6 to 144 million cubic metres (mcm) of water would be needed overall.
As much as 9 mcm would be used every year – the equivalent of 18% of the mains water supplied to the energy, waste and water sectors annually but less than one 1% of total for Britain as a whole.
The consultancy firm AMEC put the report together. Associate Director Pete Davis said those drilling would have to make arrangements with water companies to ensure they weren’t putting strains on the local water table.
Much of the water used would end up being contaminated by the hydraulic fracturing process and up to 108 mcm would have to be treated under the high activity scenario. Most of this would happen off site, meaning plenty of trucks going and back and forth from the drill sites, found the report.
During the ‘production development’ phase the report predicted vehicles would come and go 16-51 times a day, for as long as 145 weeks.
Recycling some of the water could help alleviate any problems. Based on figures from the US, the report claimed demand for water could be lowered by 13.2 – 33.1 mcm in this way.
Greenpeace Energy Campaigner, Anna Jones was alarmed by the amount of water needed by fracking.
She said: “[Energy Minister] Michael Fallon is desperate to put a positive spin on this report but what it actually shows is that the Government wants to open two thirds of England up to fracking, with all the associated risks. Enough waste water to fill 40,000 Olympic sized swimming pools could be created and tiny villages could experience up to 50 truck movements per day.”