Do not underestimate ‘massive’ water consumption in fracking process warns expert

The excessive use of water in the process of hydraulic fracturing must not be underestimated given the unpredictable nature of water in the UK, according to head of climate resilience and adaption at civil engineering firm Jacobs, Steve Thompsett.

Talking to delegates at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) annual conference, Thompsett said that following the Government’s recent approval for fracking exploration in the UK, water issues featured high on the list of public concerns.

Thompsett claimed that the public concern was well founded because not only was fracking extremely water intensive but also 20% of the water, which is recoverable during the process, is contaminated and requires extensive processing.

“Whilst the existing regulatory arrangements are very robust, the importance of water in the process should not be underestimated, and given the 2012s ‘drought to flood paradigm, the earlier we plan the better,” added Thompsett

A typical shale production pad, about the size of a football pitch, may contain up to 16 wells, with each well running a series of lateral wells into the shale play for up to 2 km. Each lateral may be fracked up to 20 times with each frack using up to 800m3 of water.

“That is a massive industrial level of water usage. We need to understand what this industry might look like in the future and therefore what the demands on water might be,” said Thompsett.

“In most senses its drinking water that is used and the water that you do get back contains trace NORM, heavy metals and is mildly radioactive so must be processed and disposed of at the surface,” he added.

Conor McGlone

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