Shale Myth Buster

Myth: #1 We no longer need gas

Fact: Last year 40% of our electricity was provided by gas and over 85% of the UK population use gas for heating and cooking. We also need gas to make petrochemicals which are used in everyday items such as plastics, fertilisers, synthetic fibres, cosmetics and medicines.

Myth #2: Using gas is incompatible with our climate change commitments

Fact: Every scenario proposed by the Committee on Climate Change to meet our legally binding carbon reduction commitments includes demand for natural gas. A mix of gas and renewables will enable us to meet our climate targets and the Government continues to invest billions into renewable energy through the Contracts for Difference programme.

Myth #3: Shale gas extraction will industrialise the countryside and our national parks

Fact: There will be no hydraulic fracturing in national parks. In 2016 we confirmed that shale wells will not be drilled in protected areas. Based on current examples, a shale gas site in the UK is likely to be between 1 and 2 hectares, or the size of 1 to 2 football pitches, and sites can be returned to their pre-drilling state in as little as 3 years. Drilling only takes 4-8 weeks and once the wells are drilled the large equipment is taken away.

Myth #4: Noise from shale gas sites will disrupt communities

Fact: Noise is carefully managed and regulated by the local authority. The planning process considers and regulates noise impacts to local people and authorities can impose restrictions – for example, Mineral Planning Authorities are able to impose limits on truck movements, or the hours of drilling. Shale gas operators will also use noise abatement fencing to further minimise any noise.

Myth #5: Extracting shale gas will contaminate the water supply

Fact: The Environment Agency will not permit any activity where there is a risk of contamination of our water supplies. Furthermore, high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is banned at depths of less than 1000 metres. This depth is far below drinking water supplies which are typically found up to about 250 metres deep.

Myth #6: Shale gas extraction is incredibly water intensive

Fact: A typical shale well uses less water over a decade than a golf course uses in a month and a coal-fired power plant uses in 12 hours. Companies will only be allowed to use water for hydraulic fracturing if there is enough supply locally without affecting drinking water supplies or the environment.

Myth #7: Shale gas extraction causes earthquakes

Fact: Shale gas extraction is very unlikely to cause a seismic event which would be noticeable without the most sensitive equipment.  The process of disposing of fluid in wells, which has been linked to seismic activity in other countries, is not permitted under our world-leading regulations.  But to ensure the process is entirely safe, the Oil & Gas Authority who regulates on-site seismicity (and earth movement measurements) have designed a traffic light system with different actions at each level.  If a magnitude 0.5 event is detected, the operator must immediately pause and review activity.  This is below the level of vibration you would feel if you stood next to a passing bus.  Indeed, even seismic events up to magnitude 2.0 cannot usually be felt at the surface. To put this in context, we have on average more than 29 events above 2.0 in the UK every year which are naturally-occurring or due to other industrial processes such as quarrying.

Myth #8: Shale gas extraction requires the use of nasty chemicals

Fact: The chemicals that will be used in the UK are non-toxic and won’t harm the environment and are similar to those found under a typical kitchen sink. Under EU and UK regulation operators are required to publish all of the chemicals they are going to use on site.

Myth #9: Local communities don’t get a say in the decision

Fact:  Local communities must be fully involved in planning decisions and any planning application – whether decided by councils or Government – will continue to require a full consultation with local people.

Myth #10 Shale gas extraction is harmful to human health

Fact: The UK has world class regulation to ensure that shale exploration can happen safely. Regulators, operators and Government are working closely together to ensure there is no risk to public health from any shale gas extraction or associated works