Thursday 15 January 2015

Baseline Monitoring in Lancashire

BGS is about to begin an enhanced baseline monitoring programme across the UK at locations with a potential for shale gas and oil. This will take place at sites where an operator's licence is held and planning permission has been approved for testing shale gas extraction. BGS plans to start field work in the north-west where the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has approved the Lancashire Monitoring Programme as Public Good research.

We intend to monitor
  1. Groundwater – including baseline and ongoing groundwater monitoring for chemistry, dissolved gases (such as methane), stable isotopes, organics, residence time indicators, and naturally occurring radionuclides (NORM) 
  2. Induced seismicity related to fracking 
  3. Baseline for operational fugitive emissions and air quality assessment 
  4. Ground motion (subsidence and uplift) - through iSBAS ground motion inSAR 
  5. Fluid flowback from the fracking process 
All data and interpretations will be made available through new webpages on the BGS website which are currently being developed.

Initially, two operators, Centrica and Cuadrilla, have agreed to provide access to their data and operations for the science-based monitoring programme, from baseline measurements through to hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and production tests to post operation (abandonment). We will do this with a consortium involving the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Loughborough and Manchester and the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) operated by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS).

Our scientists and those of our partners have already started planning field activities and will be intensifying actions in the region in February 2015.

We consider that this programme will:
  • Help regulators refine their protocols for the UK shale industry 
  • Inform the public, concerned groups and operators on baseline levels in the immediate area of a shale gas extraction site 
  • Provide the public with information and understanding on the effects of shale gas extraction 
  • Improve scientific understanding of the UK sub-surface environment for unconventional hydrocarbons which is significantly different to that of the USA and Canada 
  • Facilitate new sensor technology development for environmental monitoring 
  • Help establish good practice for industries involved in the development of unconventional hydrocarbons
  • Establish world-leading expertise

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