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Environment and Public Health Issues related to Coal Gas Extraction.

Professor Andrew Watterson of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group and Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research units of Stirling University gave a presentation on the Environmental and Health & Safety aspects of coal gas extraction at the December meeting of the SNP Dunfermline Constituency Association Meeting.

The main thrust of his presentation was on the environmental and public health risks associated with coal gas extraction and not on the process itself.  However, as a reminder a diagram of the process can be seen below.

ucg how it works

Various interested parties i.e. industry, politicians, investors etc have stated the following:

ARE THE CHEMICALS AND MATERIALS AND PROCESSES USED IN UGE SAFE AND HEALTHY?

The water injected into the borehole is added to with various lubricants including sand and other “additives”.    What are these “additives” and in what quantities are they used.  Some examples of these additives are:  Bronopol, Chlorine Dioxide, Dazomet, Glutaraldehyde, TMO (degrade to Formaldehyde),TTPC.

The following slide shows that some 10,000 to 40,000 gallons of “additives” can be added each time a well is drilled and each well can be drilled up to 8 times.  The quantities are substantial.

quantities of additivesOut of 81 common compounds used in fracking, there’s very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third of them. This research was presented in August 2014 at the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. APHA found in US up to 100,000 gallons of chemical additives could be used in the life of a well.

What chemicals come out of the ground following coal gasification?

Post-processing water (Polish study by Pankiewicz-Sperka M 2015)
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene (btex), phenols and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) including anthracene, pyrene and benzo(a)pyrene
+ at very low levels, mesophilic, thermophilic, psychrophilic, spore-forming, anaerobic and S-oxidizing bacteria were identified
+ hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria were metabolically active in the water samples
+ Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity testing of the water samples uncovered strong cytotoxic (toxic to cells) and mutagenic effects

Are these chemicals safe and what health risks do they pose?

Health risk slideUGE HAS BEEN FULLY ASSESSED

PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT SLIDEIt was noted the there are have been no pre and post public health assessments undertaken and there have been no public health expertise regulation nor regulatory legislation in place.

REGULATION AND INDUSTRY PRACTICE WILL ENSURE SAFETY.

Fracking

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It was also pointed out that the PHE admit their report did not contain:

  • anything on wider public health impacts,
  • anything on global climate change and public health
  • anything on socio-economic and hence health impacts
  • anything on work environments.

BMJ editorial 2014. Adam Law et al

  • The report is a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence in claiming US public health problems would probably not apply in UK.
  • Conclusions that shale gas presents a low public health risk “is not substantiated by the literature.
  • it ignores the inherent industry risks whatever regulation applies (casing failures, cement failures, waste water spillage
  • it ignores UGE in heavily populated areas

Total Science and Environment paper 2015. Jake Hays et al
Failures of fracking and its control in USA.  ‘UK policy’ should be informed by experience not ‘theoretical solutions’ and ‘purported best practice’ lacking empirical evidence.

It was also pointed out that even if our regulations are best practice and the safest they can be, the relevant authorities are cutting back on environmental and public health staff so there are questions on how these regulations will be monitored and enforced in the future.

4 KEY QUESTIONS STILL UNANSWERED ON UCG.

  1.  Can the UCG industry prove that it has been well regulated and can be effectively regulated in the future with regard to established and likely future hazards and related risks?
  2. Can the industry show its practice is not just ‘good’ but ‘very safe’? The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of risks from established hazards.
  3. Can the industry answer its critics on the global climate effects of the technology, on contaminants, on waste water and air pollution threats (what evidence is there that aquifers used for UCG under the sea won’t cause a pollution problem – for the environment and for humans in the future), on its capacity to fully control the processes, on middle and long term benefits to local and wider communities that outweigh damage and risks, whether there are better alternatives to UCG etc etc?
  4. With Australian assessments that UCG activities in that country cannot be decommissioned safely, and hence some UGC developments there were refused , can the industry show rather than simply claim its schemes can be decommissioned here?

Dr Wattersons full presentation can be viewed below.     We thank Dr Watterson for allowing us to use his presentation on this website and thank him for his generosity.

[gview file=”http://www.westfifesnp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/AEW-Dunfermline-2015-11.pptx”]

What will be included in the Scottish Government’s Moratorium on UCG?

The moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas was announced by the Energy Minster Fergus Ewing in January 2015, when he set out plans for a full public consultation and outlined a programme of research work including:

  • a full public health impact assessment
  • further work to strengthen planning guidance
  • further tightening of environmental regulation.

Since then the Government has undertaken a series of meetings with the key stakeholder groups including environmental NGOs, industry, local government and community organisations. Those meetings have helped inform the government’s decision to extend the planned work which will also now also include:

  • transport impacts research,
  • seismic monitoring research,
  • consideration of decommissioning and aftercare,
  • climate change impacts research,
  • and economic impacts research

Ministers published the planned research and public consultation timetable today and confirmed that the public consultation will begin once the research process has been finalised and the results published. This will give the public a chance to study the research reports before taking part in the public consultation. The detailed evidence-gathering phase will take place between now and next summer, with the consultation phase, covering engagement, public consultation and analysis, due to conclude in spring 2017.    scot.gov

Note:  Prof. Watterson’s presentation consists of 42 slides which is too large a document to in He has agreed that we could use this information as we see fit in relation to this website and we thank him for his generosity.

December 2015.


 

Cluff Energy

It was announced in The National that Cluff Energy is postponing, for an Firth of Forth gas licenceindefinite period, its underground coal gasification project in the Firth of Forth offshore Kincardine.

This decision was made based on:

  • the moratorium placed on coal gas extraction by the Scottish Government
  • underground coal gasification being raised as an agenda item at the SNP National Conference
  • local community objections along both sides of the Forth
  • awaiting the publication of the review of Scotland’s energy requirements which is due in 2016.

Fantastic news.

imageDunfermline and West Fife MP, Douglas Chapman said

“All the local SNP MPs met with Cluff Natural Resources earlier this month and I felt there were significant gaps in their approach, especially around the geology of this part of the Forth and whether an environmental appraisal would meet the strict guidelines already in place through local councils and SEPA.

“The Scottish Government has already placed a moratorium to stop fracking and, although UCG offshore is outwith our government’s powers, Cluff have said that the SNP’s direction of travel with regard to these unconventional activities was a major contributory factor in the company shelving their UCG project in Fife.
“I am delighted with the Cluff announcement and hopefully we can find ways of making this “postponement” permanent.”

image

Read Friends of the Earth views at www.foe-Scotland.org.uk


 The Scottish Government has today (8/10/2015) put in place a moratorium on underground coal gasification (UCG) in Scotland.

This is separate to the existing moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas, including hydraulic fracturing – and comes as ministers have also informed Parliament that the Government will carry out a thorough and wide-ranging research process into the potential impacts of such onshore techniques.

The moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas was announced by the Energy Minster Fergus Ewing in January, when he set out plans for a full public consultation and outlined a programme of research work including:

  • a full public health impact assessment
  • further work to strengthen planning guidance
  • further tightening of environmental regulation.

Since then the Government has undertaken a series of meetings with the key stakeholder groups including environmental NGOs, industry, local government and community organisations. Those meetings have helped inform the government’s decision to extend the planned work which will also now also include:

transport impacts research,  seismic monitoring research,  consideration of decommissioning and aftercare,  climate change impacts research and economic impacts research.

This work comes further to an independent Scientific Panel report on unconventional oil and gas which has already been undertaken.

Ministers published the planned research and public consultation timetable today and confirmed that the public consultation will begin once the research process has been finalised and the results published. This will give the public a chance to study the research reports before taking part in the public consultation. The detailed evidence-gathering phase will take place between now and next summer, with the consultation phase, covering engagement, public consultation and analysis, due to conclude in spring 2017.

In line with the cautious, evidence-based approach adopted by the Scottish Government, a separate moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) will allow the necessary time for full and careful consideration of the potential impacts of this new technology. Ministers have been clear that these are two separate technologies, subject to different licensing regimes, and hence will be considered separately. The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Campbell Gemmell, former CEO of SEPA, to lead an independent examination of the issues and evidence surrounding UCG. This will include working closely with communities and stakeholders to understand the issues of most concern to them.

To read the full article, see Mr Ewing’s comments and see the research and consultation timetable go to Scotgov.com


The First Minister insisted she would continue to take a “cautious” approach to fracking and unconventional gas extraction until all the evidence is in.

At First Minister’s questions on 17 September 2015, Nicola Sturgeon refused to take a side on fracking as opponents pushed her to rule it in or out.

The comments came at First Minister’s Questions as she confirmed the timetable for the conclusion of evidence gathering and public consultation on the subject will be published before the parliament breaks for recess on October 10.

Following a question from Labour’s Sarah Boyack on the release date, Sturgeon said the current moratorium on such practices will last “as long as it takes for this government to have all the information, the health information, the environmental information, the information from public consultation to allow us to take a decision”.

Sturgeon added: “We are determined to lead a precautionary, careful, cautious, evidence-based approach to this.   I think that’s what the people of Scotland want.”


Biggar Economics Report

A study commissioned by Cluff Natural Resources claims UCG could be worth £12.8bn for the UK economy, 45 per cent of which would stay in Scotland.

The paper, by Biggar Economics, also claims the industry could create up to 11,900 jobs directly and through the supply chain in peak years, including almost 5,000 in Scotland with more than 1,000 centred on the Firth of Forth.

However, politicians have urged caution and green groups said adopting the practice could derail efforts to adopt renewable technologies.

To read the full story click here.


Unconventional gas and ‘fracking’ – a Scottish perspective.

What is SEPA’s role and stated view on unconventional gas and fracking and who do they work with to ensure tight environmental and health regulations.   The following link takes you to their March 2014 newsletter SEPA View which answers some of these questions.