Edited by Brigit Beemster and Ron Beemster BSc MSc,
Fracking Research and Information Centre, Sligo
15 December 2011
Table of Contents:
Licences in Ireland
Introduction to shale gas extraction
by means of hydraulic fracturing
Effects on the environment
Greenhouse gas emissions
Economic effects of shale gas extraction in Ireland
Revenue and markets
International financial markets
This report is intended as a first attempt to summarize the effects that shale gas exploitation may have on the Irish environment and economy. It is meant as a discussion document and as a basis for further research in these fields. Currently, three companies hold a Licensing Option in Ireland to research if there are viable gas reserves under Irish soil. If successful, they intend to use hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to exploit these resources.
To date, there has been no proper discussion about the possible consequences that this method of extraction may have in Ireland. Gas companies point out that it is perfectly safe, while environmentalists and action groups stress the negative effects and accidents. On top of that, there are no Irish or European regulations specifically for hydraulic fracturing.
To ensure that these different viewpoints will not lead to entrenched polarization of the issue, we recommend that before giving out any licences, the government should thoroughly investigate the effects that shale gas fracking will have on all aspects of the environment, the economy and our health, and put legislation in place to prevent any deterioration.
Equally important, the government should share the results of this research with the rest of the population to make sure everybody can make an informed decision on whether or not this process should be allowed in Ireland.
If we do decide to go ahead with shale-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in Ireland, there should be a mandatory Life Cycle Analysis of new projects including an Environmental Impact Analysis. Only a full cost/benefit analysis provides a proper base for a judgement about the relevance of individual projects and their justification. Although hydraulic fracturing can and has been carried out safely and successfully for many years in both North America and Europe, accidents have occurred and have been widely reported. Therefore there are many concerns about the possible environmental effects of accidents, especially on water and air quality. There are also concerns about the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction of more fossil fuels. Both these accidents and the emissions from shale gas exploitation can be mitigated by proper well construction methods, “green” completions and good regulations and enforcement. However, these will make the exploitation more expensive and possibly non-viable, while enforcement of new regulations will put an extra financial strain on government and local councils. There are also some unavoidable impacts on the environment, specifically the use of large amounts of water, the construction of wellpads and roads in rural areas and forestry and the large amounts of truck traffic and its associated air pollution. The economic effects largely depend on those environmental effects. Job losses in tourism are likely when wellpads are constructed every few kilometers in tourist destination areas and heavy traffic causes both nuisance and air pollution. If pollution or major accidents occur, job losses would be...