Fracking in the Dock

Bristol residents put fracking in the dock as UK Methane announces plans to drill in Keynsham

The safety of fracking will be challenged at Preston Magistrates Court today, as 3 people from Bristol go on trial (1) following a protest at Cuadrilla’s Hesketh Bank site, Lancashire, in December last year.

On 1 December 2011, protestors from Bristol Rising Tide occupied the test drilling rig, shutting it down for 13 hours. (2) (3)

UK Methane have announced their intention to apply for planning permission to drill a Coal Bed Methane borehole at the Hicks Gate Roundabout in Keynsham. (4)

UK Methane and Eden Energy, an Australian company, own PEDL (Petroleum Exploration and Development License) licenses for an area covering Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Peasedown and Chew Magna. (5) Reservoir Resources own PEDL 225, covering Wells, Shepton Mallet and Bruton. (6) This area also includes a large number of villages, farms and water catchments for several areas, including the city of Bristol and water for areas in the Mendip such as Glastonbury & Street.

Rachel Greenwood from Bristol Rising Tide said: “If this goes ahead in Lancashire it could happen throughout the UK. We’ve just heard that UK Methane plan to drill a Coal Bed Methane borehole in Keynsham. We don’t want our water to be polluted. Once fracking takes place contamination of land and water, and the devastation of local ecosystems, is inevitable. You cannot do it safely. The regulation of fracking is totally ineffective, and Cuadrilla were able to continue drilling after their planning permission had expired.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting gas in shale rock. Huge amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals are forced into the ground at high pressure, a large proportion of which are never recovered. This fluid also leaches arsenic out of rocks, creating a dangerous cocktail that’s difficult to dispose of. In the United States numerous spills of these fluids have contaminated irrigation water, affecting food supplies, and the health of surrounding communities. (7) (8) (9)
There are twelve licenses to frack for shale gas in the UK, five of which are held by Cuadrilla resources in Lancashire. (10)

Coal Bed Methane involves drilling into coal seams to extract gas in a similar manner to fracking. A wide variety of techniques are used depending on the nature of the coal seam. If the seam is permeable enough, pumping water out of the seam will be enough to start gas flowing from the well, but if not, some sort of stimulation will be needed. Often this is hydraulic fracturing.

Because the coal seams tend to be relatively close to the surface, and because such large quantities of water are pumped out of the coal seam (water that has been marinading in coal for thousands of years), problems with water contamination and leaking methane tend to occur regardless of whether fracking is performed. (11)

There is currently planning permission for around 60 Coal Bed Methane wells in Britain. (12)

Frack Free Somerset, a coalition of concerned groups in Somerset, will hold a public meeting at Wells Town Hall on 25th September. This will be an opportunity to ask questions & listen to speakers both for and against fracking and its potential affects on communities and ecosystems across Somerset. (13)

Notes for editors

1. Two of the defendants are charged with aggravated trespass (section 68 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). The other is charged with an offence under section 69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which is failing to leave land as soon as practicable when directed to do so by the senior officer at the scene.
3. Photos of the action are available at:
4. UK Methane have contacted Transition Keynsham to announce that they will apply for planning permission to drill a Coal Bed Methane borehole in Keynsham:
7. ‘Cracks in the Façade: EPA Traced Pollution of Underground Water Supply to Hydraulic Fracturing’ (Aug 2011 – EWG)
8. ‘Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing’ (May 2011 – Duke)
9. ‘Shale gas: a provisional assessment of climate change and environmental impacts’ (Jan 2011 – Tyndall Centre)

For more information see:

Posted on: September 3, 2012