More research needed on ‘fracking’ and other gas extraction methods, AMs urge
MORE evidence is needed on “fracking” and other ways of extracting large gas reserves in South Wales, Assembly Members have said.
Representatives from the energy industry gave evidence to AMs about the potentially lucrative bounty contained within the South Wales Coalfield, which stretches from Carmarthenshire to the Vale of Glamorgan.
But environmental group Friends of the Earth challenged Welsh leaders to impose a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction, as has happened in some parts of Europe.
Exploration of unconventional gas is at a very early stage in the UK, and there are no commercially active sites at present.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Unconventional gas is an umbrella term referring to shale gas, coal bed methane and underground coal gasification. Each has a different method of extraction.
Test drilling for coal bed methane - found naturally in seams - has taken place north of Swansea, with another test scheme planned for land at RSPCA Llys Nini, Penllergaer.
Underground coal gasification, which involves igniting sections of a coal seam and piping the resulting gas to the surface, has been proposed for Swansea Bay and the Loughor Estuary.
Shale gas extraction, known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure to fracture shale rock, allowing gas to flow to the surface.
Keith Davies, Llanelli AM and member of the Environment and Sustainability Committee member, which took evidence at a hearing, said: “Fracking seems to be working in America. We thought it happened in wide open spaces, and South Wales is quite densely populated.
“They (Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, present at the hearing) said they would drill on mountain tops, where people didn’t live.”
Members were told that chemicals made up no more than half of one per cent of the hydraulic fracturing solution, but that this would still mean 20,000 gallons of chemicals being used at one drilling site.
“We would like more research on fracking to find out that it’s a safe way of doing things,” he said.
Mr Davies also said he had reservations about any plans to drill under the Loughor Estuary, given ongoing concerns about water quality in the area.
Aberavon AM David Rees said he wanted to know more about how underground coal gasification in Swansea Bay would be controlled, whether there might be seismic issues, and what guarantees there were about the make-up of the gas that came out.
He also wanted information about the potential for capturing and storing the greenhouse gases associated with gas extraction.
“It’s fair to say the committee felt this was an issue that needed further clarification, particularly on the more technical areas,” said Mr Davies.
With pressure for the UK to secure energy for its future needs and the cleanliness of gas - relatively-speaking - compared to coal, he said gas extraction was going to be an issue for the communities of South Wales.
Mr Davies said: “I have had questions from constituents about this, particularly about fracking,” he said. “At the end of the day we are valley communities - fracking in one valley would have an impact on another.”
Gerwyn Williams, director of Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd – the group applying to test drill in south Wales - said a report from one US consultant suggested there is over 50 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying under one part of South Wales.
Mr Williams said: “The UK currently uses around 3.5 trillion cubic feet each year so we already know that we have 16 years of energy lying under south Wales. But we have only just scratched the surface.
“We now know that through similar methods America has a 100-year gas supply, there is no reason why we cannot be in the same position.
“There is a big prize for everyone in Wales if this works.”
Fracking is widespread in the USA but has caused pollution controversies. In Japan, engineers are now looking at drilling frozen methane on the Pacific seabed.
The British Geological Survey has estimated that the UK shale gas resources may be 50 per cent larger than its conventional gas resources.
In June 2012, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded the health, safety and environmental risks associated with the technique can be effectively managed.
Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, chairman of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, said the argument was raised at the hearing that unconventional gas should be left where it is to give the UK a better chance of meeting legally-binding emissions targets.
He added: “It’s got to be done on the precautionary principle.”