Fracking for shale gas can be safe if strictly monitored, claims UK report

A report published by an independent body funded by oil and gas industry, Task Force on Shale Gas, has claimed that fracking can be safely performed in UK provided there is 'rigorous regulation' in place.

The report proposes that UK should thoroughly monitor air, land and water around shale gas fracking operations over concerns associated with the process.

Authorities are also expected to inform the public about the chemicals used for the fracking process.

Task Force on Shale Gas chairperson Lord Chris Smith said: "We highlight four essential ingredients for safe operation: full disclosure of chemicals; baseline monitoring from the outset; strong well integrity, independently regulated; and 'green completions' to contain the gas that's created and minimise emissions.

"We have not yet concluded that fracking is a good idea for the UK. We still have to look at climate change and the economics."

Fracking has been facing a lot of opposition over concerns of water contamination, methane leakage, earth tremors and disruption to local communities.

However, the report claims that fracking can be 'safe' under tightened regulations if it is supported with a National Advisory Committee for monitoring data derived from any shale gas operations.

Chris Smith said: "Our conclusion from all the evidence we've seen is clear.

"Only if the drilling is done properly and to the highest standard, and with rigorous regulation and monitoring, can shale gas fracking be done safely for local communities and the environment."

However, the report did stress that injecting waste water back into rock formations should be avoided, as similar actions have been the reason behind earthquakes in the US.

Smith was quoted by BBC as saying: "We have not yet concluded that fracking is a good idea for the UK. We still have to look at climate change and the economics. It would be premature to make conclusions yet on whether it is a good or bad thing."

Meanwhile, the UK Government released a draft regulation defining rules for underground fracking in protected areas.

Under the new draft, fracking activities have been banned from wells that are drilled in the surface of National Parks and other protected areas in such a way as to not impact on conventional drilling operations.

The new regulation allows for fracking below 1,200m in areas such as national parks, areas of outstanding national beauty, the Broads and World Heritage sites.

The UK Government claims that the new draft seeks to protect groundwater, saying that drinking water is not normally found below 400m.

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