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Exploiting Shale Gas: A Realistic Assessment Of Environmental Hazards In UK Add in library

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 Exploiting shale gas: a realistic assessment of environmental hazards for the UK”

 The assignment will meet the following learning outcomes:

Critically assess concepts within Environmental Pollution and Control by reference to causal factors and incident history, legislative responsibilities, geology/ hydrogeology and contaminant transport, risk management, remedial options and environmental liabilities.

Compare and contrast the remits of the client, environmental consultants and other practitioners such as contractors, other potential stakeholders and regulators with regard to Environmental Pollution and Control.




UK is one of the main sources of shale gas. Shale gas actually is a natural gas which can be resourced for many purposes. Shale gas can replace coal and oil for generating electricity and is a heat resource. Thus, it can reduce the greenhouse effect in the environment. On the other hand, if it is not managed properly, it may become a reason of water and soil pollution as it emits various pollutants. Thus, these resources should be managed properly. This can be reason of small earthquake also.


This essay is basically on the Shale gas. Shale gas is actually a form of natural gas which is generally found in the porous of the sedimentary rock. Shale gas has various importance and dark side also. UK is a most important source of shale gas. UK is producing shale gas since 1970. Thus, this report is basically a study on the Shale gas production in the UK. It contains a short description about the shale gas and its importance, Shale gas in the UK, impact of shale gas environment, legislative responsibility of shale gas producers towards its production, risk factors involved, its geological and hydrogeological syntheses in the UK and the remedial options in case of any accidents (White, 2014).

Thus, this essay will outcome with various knowledge and points about the shale gas, how it should be treated etc. It’s really important to discuss this topic, as Shale gas can be very much beneficial if handled and managed properly and can be worst if treated lightly

Shale gas

Shale gas is a form of natural gas which is actually filled in shale. Shale is a sedimentary rock which is grained finely (shale tec, 1995). The shale contains mud silt, organic matter and clays as raw material. The main compound of shale gas is methane. Other compounds in the shale gas are propane, ethane, butane, Carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen.

Importance of shale gas

The importance of shale gas is as follows:

  1. Shale gas can be used as the energy source. This can replace the coal and oil.
  2. Shale gas can be a best source of electricity generation.
  3. Shale gas generates more heat in comparison to other sources.
  4. The shale gas is reducing the problem of unemployment in the U.K.
  5. 5,000 companies and 2,000 drilling companies are associated with it in the U.K (Stuart, 2014).

The above block diagram is showing how shale gas is used. As shown in the diagram, shale gas can be used in many ways like for making ammonia and methanol. This can also be used as a feedstock and feedstock fuel. This is a form of ethylene, gasoline and olefin feedstock (British geological survey, 2014).


Effect Of shale gas on environment

Shale gas is one of the causes of water pollution. According to the research, the most of the ground water is threatened by the gas emissions from wells which can’t be prevented for a long term. On an average, about one quarter to half of the water used in the hydraulic fracturing becomes waste as it contains the hydrocarbons with benzene and aromatic compounds.

Greenhouse gas emission

Oil and coal are getting replaced by the extracted natural gas from Shale for energy used in generating the electricity. Thus, the impact of fossil fuels on the environment is reduced due to shale gas and it also prevents the environment from anthropogenic change in environment. Actually, these effects depend on the sources that are getting replaced by the shale gas.


The extraction of shale gas causes the digging of wells. These are affecting the land at a very large scale. For developing the shale gas, various types of infrastructures are required like roads, compressor station, pipelining etc. which causes the harassment of the land and causes the land pollution. The shale gas development is affecting the large amount of land.

Human Health and social Impacts

Shale gas is economically beneficial but on the other hand, it is also polluting the water and air. Thus, it is affecting the health of the human being. These are causing various diseases like cancer and the disease related to breathing. According to the experts, it may be a cause of various new diseases in the environment related to skin and breathing. But these impacts depend on the amount and quality of the shale gas development (Seinmore, 2014).

Air Contaminant

Shale gas emits various air pollutants in the environment. The pollution due to emission of shale gas is similar to the conventional gas, but if higher units of the shale gas are produced than it will require greater efforts. The main pollutants emitted by shale gas are volatile organic compound, hydrocarbons and the diesel use emission (Council of Canadian academies, 2014). It also has the risk of generation of ozone which mostly affects the air

Seismic Events

The shale gas production requires hydraulic fracturing which may result in the earthquake. The main reason behind the earthquake is due to waste water re-injections rather than the hydraulic fracturing. Thus, it may affect for a long term. These risks may be minimized by selecting right site for hydraulic fracture.

Shale gas exploitation in UK

The U.K. started drilling for shale gas since 1875. It was first drilled by a group of academics; they were researching on geology and Palaeozoic rocks (Selley, 2011). Petroleum exploration began in the U.K. after 1890. At that time the oil shale deposits were exploited but the quantity was very small. The actual production of shale gas started from 1970 in a Witchy farm field but a large sale of production started from 1997 nearly 110,000 barrels per day. These fields were in the highly restricted areas like “Jurassic Coast World Heritage site”, “Site of special scientific interest” etc. Even in these restrictions, the U.K. govt. has allowed the researchers to drill after every 10 kilometres.

Currently, U.K. is on the top in producing the shale gas. There are various stations of producing shale gas in the U.K (Talbot, 2013).

Legislative responsibility

The legislative responsibilities for shale gas are as follows:

  1. The shale gas should be used as a balanced energy portfolio. It should be used in generating electricity and heat at a balanced energy. The excess use of shale gas for these purposes is against the legislative responsibility criteria (Elsyvere, 2013).
  2. Before the use of shale gas, a wide range of tools should be available to the workers to effectively control the shale gas and the tools for controlling the effect on environment should also be used.
  3. Currently, the regulatory tools are providing high level of protection but for the future evidence, the tools should be researched and invented to control the shale gas.
  4. The shale gas is contained in the porous reservoirs which are interconnected and raises the permeability that causes the gas to flow easily inside the rock and well boreholes. Thus, these reservoirs may be miles away from the original source of the shale gas.
  5. The different technology may require exploiting the shale gas as it is contained in the reservoir of lower permeability. This may require a high amount of investment.
  6. The exploiting of shale gas may require 1000 meter of digging or drilling thus it may cause various effects. It is the responsibility of the driller or the digger company to choose the safe part of land.
      7. The maximum fracture length is provided in the following figure. This chart should be followed while exploiting the shale gas.
      8. Fracturing for shale gas may involve injecting a gas, foam or fluid into the well. This gas should be injected at high pressure to create fracture
      9. The environmental effect should be minimized. The resources and solutions should be found to reduce the effect of these Shale gas on environment
      10. Water pollution and land pollution should be minimized. The shale gas should be replaced by the resources which is creating more pollution than the shale gas (Myers, 2013).

Thus, above are the legislative responsibilities of the companies while producing the shale gas.

Geological and Hydrogeological syntheses

Geologically and hydro geologically Carboniferous, Jurassic, Lower Palaeozoic and Precambrian have the resources of shale gas in the U.K. If we go in more detail, Carboniferous includes the area of Northern Britain and Ireland, Jurassic includes the Wessex Basin and The Weald, Lower Palaeozoic includes Wales, and Precambrian includes Midland Microcraton. The other areas are Cuadrilla, NW Eng, South Wales, Yorkshire, Somerset, West Sussex, Kent, Northern Ireland, Lincolnshire and Manchester.

Risk Management

Risk management of shale gas includes the risk identification and assessment, using risk management information in decision making, personnel competence, baseline surveys and emergency prevalence (Veritas, 2013).

Risk Identification and Assessment

Risk identification and assessment process includes identifying all the risks present in the shale gas production. These risks can be divided into various categories like human health and safety, well and gas containment, environmental resources and values, impact on local community including infrastructure, regulatory compliances and use of water, land and other resources. These types of risk should be identified and assessed at the time of production.

Use of Information

This step includes using the risk associated with the information for taking the proper decision which means researching the safety options for those risks and finding the solutions for the risks. These solutions should be implemented before starting the work and also the equipment and resources should be arranged in case of any emergency during the processing of shale gas (golder’s associates, 2014).

Personnel Competence

Personnel competence include identifying the training related to the risk associated with the workers working for the project. These training should be provided to each worker before worker starts working. These training should include the safety options, preventions and actions during any emergency. The training program is designed according to the risk identified for the workers while working or in case of any emergency.

Baseline Surveys

Baseline survey in case of shale gas processing include surveying the land, environmental and water in the surrounding before commencing the project. These surveys help in reducing and finding the more appropriate solution for any risk or in case of any emergency. The land survey in case of shale gas processing helps in reducing various risks like earthquake and environmental survey helps in reducing the explosion of pollutants (UK govt., 2013).

Emergency Prevalence

Emergency prevalence includes the training of workers in case of many emergencies like:

  1. When leaks in the well occur and this will flow to the surface and ground water (Ward, 2014).
  2. If various toxic gases starts releasing.
  3. If hydrocarbon liquid starts releasing.
  4. If fire catches at the work site, there may be various reason for this like forest fire, fire at the site, etc.
  5. There may be any type of natural disasters like earthquake, storm etc. Earthquake training is most important as the process itself may become the reason of small earthquakes.
  6. Various types of accidental releases of chemicals.
  7. Well spills at the site.
  8. If the shale gas starts releasing during transportation of shale gas (TCP, 2014).  Remedial Options

Exploration and production of shale gas is most growing sector in the U.K. Till now, more than 50 wells are drilled for producing the shale gas. Exploration and production of shale gas requires various technical equipment and chemicals, if these equipment fail, it may result in leaks of drilling mud, waste of fuel, hydraulic oil and various other materials. These types of situations may occur in both, at the well pad or during transport, which may also cause the environmental impact due to emission of barite metals, hydrocarbons and other chemical and gases. This may cause various health problems and safety issues. Thus, remediation is the process of cleaning the environment, including land and water. The remediation can be done as follows:

  1. By removing or degrading the pollutants due to the emission of shale gas.
  2. By transforming the pollutants into the less toxic form. The transformation may be done into mobile or reactive form also.
  3. The pathways should be eliminated which are constituent through the environment.

The remediation process has various steps. The process starts from analysing the affected sites through remedial investigation. The investigation includes the analysis of chemicals and properties of the environment so that the remediation plan can be prepared efficiently. Then the remediation technique is selected by considering the following points (Nawrot, 2013).

  1. The selection of remediation technique is done by considering the human health and the environment.
  2. The government rules and regulations can be followed properly during the remediation process.
  3. Both short term and long term effectiveness can be achieved.
  4. The toxicity in the environment should be reduced.
  5. The plan and technique should be effectively implementable.
  6. The cost should be minimized.
  7. The communities should accept the technique and process of remediation.
  8. The site can be used in the future (CCA, 2014).

The scale of the remediation should also be defined. When all the factors are defined, then the appropriate technique can be chosen. In all the technologies, the common processes are Bioremediation, stabilization, Landfill disposal, thermal desorption and land farming.

Bioremediation includes the removal or transformation of the organic compounds like hydrocarbons, chlorides and aromatic compounds. Stabilization includes the protection of spreading of heavy metals, inorganic components in the well pad area.

Landfill method is filling the land and environment with proper chemical components required in the environment. Thermal desorption is the process of maintaining suitable temperature required in the environment and land farming is the process of reducing the petroleum derivatives by biodegradation.


Above essay is the result of various studies and research on shale gas. Shale gas currently is a big issue as it is causing a high amount of water pollution and also soil pollution. U.K

has been producing the shale gas since 1970. U.K. has found the risk associated with the shale and reduced its production very much since the last few years. Shale gas is a real issue for consideration as this can be used in place of various resources. Shale gas can be used in producing electricity and as a source of heating. At the starting stage of shale gas production, it seemed to be a very beneficial deal to produce the shale gas. Thus, the U.K. government allowed to drill even the most restricted areas for producing the shale gas but at the later stage, it was found that the shale gas is very much threatening for the environment (The Royal Society, 2012). Thus, various solutions and laws were entertained in respect to the shale gas.

There are various risk factors in the shale gas, like threatening of environment, various risks for the workers like explosion of toxic material, fire etc. These risks should be managed for the safety of workers, surrounding area and environment etc. Various remedial options are also found in case of any threatening of the environment or any other sources.



Shale Tec (1995). What is shale gas and why is it important. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Council of Canadian academy (2014). Impact of shale gas extraction. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

SEPA (2011). Regulatory guidance coal bed methane and shale gas. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Nawrot, Barbara (2013). Remediation in shale gas projects. 3 (10) pp. 1-2

Veritas, Det(2013). Risk Management of Shale gas development and operations DNV database 3 (1) pp. 15-16

Selley R.C. (2011). U.K. Shale gas story so far. Marine and Petroleum geology 10 (1) pp.

Talbot, Simon (2013). UK shale gas- The role of base line and operational continuous ground gas monitoring. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].


British geological survey (2014). Transport properties of shale. [online] available
at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Ward, Rob (2014). Ground water or hydrocarbon change. [online] available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Stuart, Marianne (2014). Hydrological Aspects of shale gas extraction in UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

White, Adward (2014). Shale gas and freaking 2 (5) pp. 10-15

Sejourne, Stephen (2014). Geological and hydrological synthesis of the Utica Shale and the overlaying. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Elsevier (2013). International Journal of Coal geology. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January2015].

Myers, Tom (2012). Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale To Aquifers. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

Golder Associates (2014). Remediation in shale gas projects. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

UK govt. (2013). Why is shale gas important? [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

UK groundwater forum (2014). Shale gas Exploitation. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

TCP (2013).Shale gas exploration and production- Key issues and responsible business practises. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

CCA (2014). Environmental impacts of shale gas extraction in UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].

The Royal Society (2012). Shale gas extraction in UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 6th January 2015].





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