Fracking could hinder renewable energy targets warns CIWEM

Shale gas from fracking should not be encouraged in the UK until there is evidence that operations can be delivered safely and robust regulatory controls are implemented, according to the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

The organisation today warned the government to proceed with caution in a new policy position statement ‘hydraulic fracturing of shale in the UK’.

The statement says: “It is time for sound, evidence-based objectivity coupled to a renewed and long-term government commitment to a renewables-centred energy mix.”

CIWEM have reviewed the potential environmental impacts of the use of hydraulic fracturing, known as ‘fracking’ to access natural gas reserves in shale rock, and discusses whether it is an acceptable method to produce gas in the UK.

According to CIWEM, fracking for shale gas has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts from induced seismicity, the degradation of landscape, water contamination and the release of methane emissions.

Along with stricter regulation, CIWEM is calling for Environmental Risk Assessments to be made mandatory for proposed shale gas operations. The organisation claims this would ensure that each site is individually assessed, with the likelihood for a specific impact and its cumulative impact taken into account.

CIWEM fears suggestions that fracking will lead to a drop in energy prices similar to the fall in the US are unfounded. Differences in geology and mineral rights, it claims, and stricter regulation in the UK, would prevent a similar situation occurring. Furthermore, it argued, there remains limited understanding about the commercial viability of shale gas reserves in the UK.

CIWEM’s executive director, Nick Reeves, said: “As a carbon based fuel shale gas is not a sustainable energy source. Onshore reserves estimated to only be capable of providing the equivalent to two years of the UK’s gas supply and fugitive emissions that could seriously undermine any carbon benefits of using shale gas over coal.

“Pursuing shale gas will make it more difficult to reach our climate change commitments and renewable energy targets; its development must not become a distraction from the necessary drive for energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.”

Conor McGlone

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