Fracking-related industrial growth could lead to a sharp increase in emissions of greenhouse gases.
That’s according to a new report which dismisses claims that shale gas is a relatively clean fuel that can help tackle global warming.
It claims 44 hydraulic fracturing projects proposed or permitted in the US last year are expected to pump 86 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution a year.
That’s equivalent to the emissions of 19 coal-fired power plants and an increase of 16% over the industry’s total in 2014.
Many of the new industrial projects being built “because of the fracking boom” are in Louisiana, which could see its greenhouse gas emissions grow by a third, the report adds.
It focuses on emissions from industrial developments spurred by the development of fracking fuel as the US has seen an increase in shale gas exports across the world which is turned into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
Last week petrochemical giant INEOS started shipping shale gas from the US to Europe.
The new report – led by a former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Enforcement who now heads the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) – claims some of the petrochemical projects will release “far more than a coal-fired power plant”.
It states: “A 500MW coal plant running at full capacity around the clock will release about 4.6 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year.
“By comparison, the Cameron LNG Liquefaction plant in Louisiana, which received a permit in January on January 14, 2016, is authorised to emit twice that much – up to nine million tons of greenhouse gases per year.”
The report suggests emissions from new and expanded chemical plants, fertiliser factories, liquid natural gas export facilities and refineries that rely on cheap fossil fuels must be taken into account when calculating the climate impact of fracking.
Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director at EIP said: “This growing greenhouse gas pollution from the petrochemical industry suggests that the fracking and natural gas boom is not as good for the climate as people think. Policymakers will have to take this growth into account and may have to require larger emissions cuts from other sources of pollution to make up for this increase.
“One answer to the problem of this increase in pollution from the petrochemical industry might be to require more efficient operations from industry. More energy conservation could have the dual benefit of reducing greenhouse gas pollution and also – over the long run – saving money, which the businesses could reinvest in their workers and the environment.”
A report last month suggested the UK is “moving in the right direction on fracking but risks remain”.