Top geologist warns fracking hearing of the dangers of shale gas drilling. “Proposals for pilot fracking under consideration by West Sussex County Council have been attacked as “incomplete, incompetent and “disingenuous” by a leading academic.”
“The risk of leakage, odds of contamination, scale of congestion, and potential for house-price erosion are among the various factors that merit rejection.
Professor David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University and an academic regarded by many of his peers as a world-class star of geological research, gave his devastating assessment of plans by drilling company Celtique Energy at a hearing about proposed oil and gas extraction in Sussex.
Celtique Energie has applied to drill a test vertical borehole, based on the results of which it may submit a laterapplication to frack. Prof Smythe points to basic geological errors in the application that warrant its rejection even as a vertical unfracked hole.
Some details, such as the absence of seismic coverage for the exact proposed drill site (meaning essentially that the well would be drilled “blind”), expose what Prof Smythe views as “contempt” for the planning process, and could invite a judicial review.
But Prof Smythe further argues that the Council should view the application as an application to frack, for there is no other possible end purpose to this test. Here major risks would be run. Among them, faulting in the rocks of the Weald is up to 400 times greater than in US shale drilling regions.
Gas and oil can and do migrate along faults, contaminating groundwater and leaking methane – a potent greenhouse gas – to the atmosphere. “No faulted basin like the Weald has ever been fracked,” Smythe warned. “Therefore the Weald would be a guinea pig for testing the safety or otherwise of such operations.”
Smythe has modelled truck movements in a small sample area of West Sussex, if Celtique were to find oil and remove the oil and waste water by tanker during the life of the production process. At one bottleneck on a B road, he found that there would be one 30 tonne 3-axle truck passing in each direction every 3 minutes, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 20 years.
The strain on countryside infrastructure would be intolerable, he concludes. Based on this and other amenity considerations, erosion of house prices would be considerable.”