Wastewater from fracking will be discharged to sea

The Guardian reports, 15th June 2016: A UK shale gas company is considering dumping waste water from fracking in the sea, emails from the company show.           

Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery and holds 21 shale licences, many in the north-west, North Yorkshire and the east Midlands, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry.

In an email sent in March to a resident in Ryedale district, North Yorkshire, where councillors gave the go-ahead to a fracking application by another company in May, a senior executive said that water produced during fracking could be discharged in the sea after being treated. It has not previously said where treated water would be released.

“We will capture and contain it, treat it back to the standards agreed… with the Environment Agency and discharge where allowed under permit, most likely the sea,” wrote Tom Pickering, director for Ineos Shale, responding to concerns over where such “flowback” water would end up.

Green campaigners and people living near prospective sites have highlighted the potential environmental impacts of fracking, such as contamination of water supplies, minor tremors and local air pollution. But the issue of where the huge quantities of resulting waste water is disposed has received less attention.

Shale companies pump water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas within, but each well can use as much as 6m gallons of water. Between 20 and 40% flows back to the surface, containing salts, chemicals and naturally occurring radioactive material which the Environment Agency (EA) says is likely to be classified as radioactive waste.

Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

A report on the environmental impacts of the technique by the Natural Environmental Research Council last year warned that: “A huge uncertainty, given the immaturity of unconventional oil and gas development [ie shale gas fracking] in the UK, is how much wastewater will be produced and regulatory and technical mechanisms for cleaning it or directly reusing it.”

It added: “One of the most important concerns for the development of unconventional resources is the appropriate management of flowback and produced water.”

In March, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which represents water professionals, said in a consultation response to the EA that “we are concerned about the ability to treat flowback fluid at the present time”.

It noted: “Advanced treatment technologies may not be able to treat the levels of dissolved solids in produced water which would limit the ability to treat produced water on site. Dilution at a treatment works may be able to reduce the salinity, however it may not be appropriate to dilute to the level required to dilute the radionuclides present to regulatory levels.”

Two years ago, shale firm Cuadrilla withdrew an application for a permit to frack in Lancashire after the EA tightened up the rules over safe disposal. The change came after 2m gallons of wastewater had already been discharged into the Manchester ship canal.

Dr Paul Johnston from the Greenpeace Science Unit argued that discharging “huge quantities of water loaded with metals and radioactivity and chemical constituents” into “sensitive marine environments” is “a retrograde step as far as environmental protection”.

But the industry said the water could be treated and disposed of safely.

Ineos did not directly address plans for dumping in the sea but a spokesperson said: “Ineos’ wastewater will be enclosed in double skinned storage tanks before being recycled. An environmental permit from the Environment Agency… will be required where we need to dispose of any process water according to an agreed waste management plan. We will employ licensed water treatment companies to process our wastewater.”

A spokesman for UK Onshore Oil and Gas, which represents the shale industry, said: “In the exploration phase operators will send all flow back fluid to EA permitted treatment facilities for safe disposal… When the industry moves to commercial production it will want to recycle flow back fluid and reuse it for the next stage of operation.”


Source: The Guardian, 15th June 2016.  For further details, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/15/uk-fracking-firm-plans-dump-wastewater-in-sea-ineos?CMP=share_btn_fb


Marinet observes: We have no more recent information on this subject (i.e. since June 2016) but when we do we will report upon it.  If any reader can provide more up to date information, please let us know.


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One Response to “Wastewater from fracking will be discharged to sea”

Comment posted on 25th September 2018

Hi, I think that was immediately challenged. Wastewater from fracking does provide the industry with issues – the nature of it makes it very difficult to deal with. currently it has to be taken to “specialist treatment facility” to be dealt with, often not specified. At the PNR Public Inquiry held in Blackpool it was argued that there would not be enough capacity to deal with this and the EA office in Nottm pointed out that there is no such facility in southern England. In the US cos have been allowed to tip it down boreholes…..and this has led to an increase in seismic events or earthquakes. SO Far, this has not been permitted in the UK but is something to keep an eye on.

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