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Fracking research sets distance limits to protect water supplies

Durham University research has found that fracking should take place at a minimum distance of 0.6km from sensitive rock formations to eliminate the risk of water contamination.

Fractures have been cited as possible underground pathways for deep sources of methane to contaminate drinking water in underground reservoirs.

Prof Richard Davies, director of Durham Energy Institute at Durham University, told The Engineer: ‘The chances of a rogue fracture extending beyond 600m are exceptionally low. Therefore, a distance of 600m should be seen as an absolute minimum vertical separation distance between the fracking depth and shallower aquifers.’

The analysis is based on thousands of fracking operations in the US and natural rock fractures in Europe and Africa.

‘Where shale fracking in the US has been carried out with vertical separations significantly higher than 600m (for example, 1–2km) then contamination of aquifers cannot be the result of fracking,’ said Davies. ‘We should look for other mechanisms such as poor cementing of casing or even natural seepage.’

During fracking operations, fractures are created by drilling and injecting fluid into the rock strata underground to increase oil and gas production from fine-grained, low-permeability rocks such as shale.

A UK government report recently backed the drilling for shale gas onshore, lifting a temporary ban on the method that was brought into force following fracking-related earthquakes in Blackpool last year.

The researchers hope that governments and shale-gas drilling companies will use the analysis when planning new operations.

Readers' comments (4)

  • At the moment I am not for or against fracking, but about a hundred years ago in the USA, ploughing up prairies that were thousands of years old was thought a good idea - the dustbowl proved them wrong.

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  • You Tube Fracking Hell: The Untold Story. A University study is coming out proving natural gas drilling is dirtier than coal energy. View- Gasland: Can you light your water on fire? That documentary is scary. The radon and radium blowing out of those gas wells is making everything radioactive. That can't be fixed. Gas drilling is contaminating this nation. Where does the produced waste water go for storage? Where is the hazmat dump for that toxic water?

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  • It sounds an awful lot like the result of a poor education when someone like a director of Durham Energy Institute at Durham University confuses facts with ideas.
    "chances are exceptionaly low"
    does not alter scientific method to allow for statements like "therefore...600m should be seen as an absolute minimum vertical separation" and "then contamination of aquifers cannot be the result of fracking,’ said Davies."

    The statements are wildy speculative. Therefore all statements should become industry regulatory standards.

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  • It beggars belief at just how far the perversion of an education system can distort truth and enable unaccountable corporate entities to profit from the destruction of the natural environment.
    Time after time, the media (this publication included) obfuscates the real issues and guides/corrals the arguments to suit the approved meme.
    Enough is enough, all that you need to know is available within the alternative media.

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  • We'd be interested to hear which issues you believe we're obfuscating.

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