+ What is your response to criticisms and concerns about how shale gas is drilled, and concerns that it has detrimental effects on the environment?
Shale gas exploration techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, have been used in the oil and gas industry for many years; fracking is an extremely common practice in North America and has also been done in Europe.
The science-based evidence, reflecting extensive experience in the US and research by government and independent bodies, is that fracking is not harmful to the environment. As responsible operators in Europe, we will follow best industry practice in all our operations and we are committed to providing governments and local communities with transparent responses to any concerns.
One public concern is that fracking may affect local water sources. Out of the hundreds and thousands of US fracking operations over the past sixty five years, regulators have confirmed no cases of hydrocarbons or fracking fluids leaking into shallow-water aquifers. The fracturing takes place thousands of meters below aquifers, at 3000m – 4000m deep. In addition, casing technology is employed to isolate and preserve water sources from contamination. This is a large steel pipe that is inserted into the drilled section of a borehole and then held in place with cement.
A second concern surrounds the fracture stimulation fluids – both what is contained in the fluid itself and the volume of water used.
Fracture fluids are composed almost entirely of water and sand (99.5%), with trace amounts of salts, mild acids and detergents added to reduce friction in the well bore. Most of the chemical additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids can be found in everyday household products such as laundry detergents, cleaners and beauty products.
+ Aren’t Frac Fluids a secret?
Before the shale gas boom fracturing fluids were considered proprietary and due to competition in the industry, operators were hesitant to release their “secret formulas.”
However, operators now freely disclose the components of fracturing fluids and they are widely available to the public. In the US, FracFocus.org was developed by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission to act as a database of hydraulic fracturing fluids. It includes information on a well-by-well basis, with complete information on how much water was used and the exact breakdown of fracturing fluid.
A number of leading companies are also developing Green programmes to identify chemicals which can be removed and test alternatives for remaining additives. Chesapeake in particular has been a leader in this technology and they have been able to eliminate 25% of the additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluids in most of their shale plays
Halliburton also has created a new hydraulic fracturing solution made up of ingredients sourced entirely from the same acids and enzymes present in the food industry, which they claim is the most innovative and environmentally safe fracture solution ever conceived. (http://www.halliburton.com/public/projects/pubs-data/HydraulicFracturing/CleanSuiteTechnologies.html).
Hutton is committed to using the most environmentally friendly solution which delivers the technical objectives of the fracturing job.