Water Protection & Usage
The quantity of water required to frack an onshore shale well is broadly the same amount used to irrigate the typical British golf course each month. There are over 7,500 golf courses across the UK. This is also equivalent to the amount of water needed to run a 1,000MW coal-fired power plant for just 12 hours.
99.5 per cent of fracking fluid is composed of water and sand. The remaining 0.5 per cent is made up of chemicals familiar to most of us from household consumer products, including citric acid, guar gum (a common food additive, used to suspend sand particles within the fluid) and even common table salt. The majority of fracking fluid is used once during the drilling period, and most of this is recovered and recycled onsite in secure water tanks, before being transported by road to a water treatment plant.
The geology of the UK means that contamination of water is extremely unlikely, as there is typically a vertical mile of solid rock between the shale beds where gas deposits are found and the aquifers we rely on for drinking water. There have also been more than one million wells drilled around the world, and in no case has there been a single proven instance of water pollution. The process is highly regulated, and the global nature of today’s gas industry means there are skilled personnel, experienced in the safe drilling and operation of wells.
Nevertheless, we take the protection of the water table very seriously and each well site is protected by an impermeable membrane which prevents fluids escaping into the subsurface or the local environment. Likewise multiple layers of steel and concrete ensure well head integrity to protect groundwater and ensure isolation from the surround rock formation. The integrity of each section of the well head is tested to confirm it is robust before further operation takes place and continues to be tested throughout the full life cycle of the well.