Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fracking firm targets Wrecsam for Coal Bed Methane

A fracking operation could be set up on Wrecsam's doorstep if a mining multinational succeeds in getting planning permission for a test operation.

 GP Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian-owned mining giant Dart Energy (Europe), is based in Stirling, Scotland. They want to drill a test hole in land 400m west of Commonwood Farm, off the Holt Road behind Wrecsam Golf Club. It's two miles from the town centre and a couple of miles from the Dee River at Holt.

 It wants to bore to test for mineral exploration in the north-east Wales coalfield. In its submission it explains that the aim is to explore whether exploitation of coal bed methane (CBM) is commercially possible.

Dart Energy (Europe) has interests in Poland, UK, Germany and Belgium. It owns the licence to exploit PEDL187, a 80 sq mile block of land that covers Wrecsam.

The planning application confirms no local consultation has taken place.

Coal Bed Methane extraction has many consequences - here are some of the impacts:
  • Produced Water
    To get methane out of coal seams the groundwater trapping the methane must be continually pumped out. The water contains a cocktail of chemicals including carcinogenic hydrocarbons such as benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. In Australia 10% of coal bed methane wells are hydraulically fractured to increase the flow of water and gas.
  • Water Disposal
    Millions of litres of produced water has to be disposed of from each well. Over time this represents a huge volume of water and toxic material released into rivers, estuaries and the sea. In most cases the industry claims that the water does not require treatment or detailed monitoring. Picture shows a “designated outfall” taking untreated water from a CBM site at Airth, Scotland into the Firth of Forth.
  • Lowering of Water Table
    Continuous removal of water from coal seams depletes ground water and may eventually lower farmers boreholes and surface water flows (streams and rivers). It can also change the flow of groundwater drawing fresh water into the coal seams. Lowering the water table has allowed methane and other gases to be released indiscriminately in Australia.
  • Air Pollution & Flaring
    Methane, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen oxides (Nox) and other aromatic hydrocarbons are emitted from sites. Noise pollution and further emissions of methane and airborne pollutants occur as the gas is processed and pressurised in sprawling temporary infrastructure. Flare stacks burn off unwanted gasses and cause noise and light pollution and more toxic emissions.
  • Methane Migration into Aquifers
    The Coal Bed Methane (CBM) process along with hydraulic fracturing is designed to extract methane from coal seams. The gas wells themselves are the most common pathway for methane migration (leakage). This can lead to high levels of methane in streams, aquifers and eventually drinking water. Methane is 100x worse (on a 20 year time frame) than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Picture shows the Condamine river in Queensland bubbling with gas.
  • Leaking Wells
    6% of gas wells leak immediately and 50% of all gas wells leak within 15 years. CBM exploration requires many thousands of wells to be drilled. These wells can never be removed or recycled, the steel and concrete structures plunged deep into the geology will decay slowly over time. All gas wells will leak eventually.
  • Sites & Enclosure
    Many wells require many sites which in turn require access roads, foundations, floodlights and enclosures. This pattern of development divides countryside, threatens rights of way and damages and slowly destroys the natural beauty and diversity of an area. Picture shows site at Airth near Falkirk, Scotland.
  • Pipelines
    Pipelines will inevitably be used by the industry to transport gas. They create the additional danger of leaks and explosions. Pipelines may also be used to transport waste water to processing plants and there is already evidence of these leaking. Pipeline construction cuts scars across the countryside and blights surrounding areas with planning restrictions.
  • Compressor Stations & Flaring
    A sprawling temporary gas infrastructure is needed to connect thousands of sites across the landscape. Flare stacks burn off unwanted gasses on every site and cause noise/light pollution and toxic emissions. Noise pollution and further emissions of methane and airborne pollutants occur as the gas is processed and pressurised.
  • Industrialise Countryside
    The result of this type of industrial development on the countryside is catastrophic. Wildlife corridors are disrupted. Edge effects created by the cutting up of habitats into smaller and smaller pieces threaten biodiversity and the release and distribution of toxic compounds adds to the cumulative impact.
  • Corporate Profits vs Community Costs
    If this industry is allowed to get a foot in the door in the UK the number of communities under threat will increases massively. The impacts and dangers are acute and borne by local communities who find themselves living in a gasfield. The rewards go to an elite of shareholders, directors and investors. Stopping this industry in the UK will send a clear message to other countries that the impacts and dangers are unaceptable.
  • Subsidence & Underground Coal Fires
    As the water table is dropped by continuous pumping of water the geology can experience subsidence. This subsidence can damage homes, roads and other infrastructure including the wells and sites themselves. Once coal seams are dewatered it is possible for the coal to burn underground. All that is required is a point of ignition and an air source.
  • More Coal Extraction
    Coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and 70% of UK coal is considered un-mineable. Companies are already speculating that once coal seams are de-watered and degassed the coal can be extracted using other techniques. Open cast mining or burning the coal in situ (Underground Coal Gasification) will increase our use of coal and have devastating impacts for our land and climate.
  • Damage to Existing Industries
    Farming and food production, recreation and tourism suffer at all stages of coal bed methane exploration, production and legacy. An areas reputation and landbase are exposed to long term dangers that exist long after the industry has gone.
  • Boom & Bust
    Many areas of the country bear the scars of previous industrial development. Extractive industries destroy long term sustainable jobs and create unsustainable booms and busts. Any short term gains are far outweighed by the long term losses and resulting regional instability.
  • Heavy Vehicle Traffic
    Just removing drilling mud and waste from wells will require many tanker/truck movements for each site . This is in addition to construction vehicles and drilling and fracking equipment when the site is commissioned. Because the lifetime of each CBM well is short (2-5 years) this armada of heavy vehicles will roll across the countryside.
  • Road Damage, Subsidence & Earthquakes
    Road damage is an inevitable consequence of CBM exploration due to intensive transportation of materials and machinery. Subsidence and earthquakes may be caused by the process and are quite common in conventional coal mining.
  • Property Blight
    Home owners in CBM extraction areas can find themselves trapped in a house they can not sell, re-mortgage, insure or develop. An area already suffering from a decline in existing industries is further impacted by industrialisation (sites & pipelines), air and water pollution and the resultant health impacts.
  • Direct Threat to Renewable Energy Investment
    Further investment in fossil fuel extraction and a new wave of extreme energy undermines investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. It perpetuates our dependence on finite resources and sabotages the life chances of future generations.
  • Climate Change
    CBM will not replace other fossil fuels, it will be burned in addition to the oil, coal and gas that has already been discovered. By developing these new energy extraction techniques we are expanding global reserves of hydrocarbons and increasing emissions. The chemistry of the atmosphere is changing and due to drought, flood and starvation the death toll already stands at 450,000 annually.

Fracking is banned in several European countries because of the dangers.

Still not sure about fracking? Here's a report by the US Environmental Protection Agency into drinking contamination caused by fracking in Wyoming:
 EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the Agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time. 
Local anti-fracking activists will be gearing up to oppose this dirty and dangerous process. They are linking up with fellow activists in the southern Welsh coalfield, Scotland and England. Watch this space!

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