A report on the possible environmental impacts of “fracking” for gas has found the method “does not pose a significant environmental risk”.
However, the University of Aberdeen study stressed there were potential risks to ground water from poor well design or construction.
The report’s author, Dr Dave Healy, said there was uncertainty surrounding the “carbon footprint” of natural gas extraction from shale.
Fracking, or hydraulic extraction, involves using water to fracture rocks to drill for natural gas. It is concerning people in the Mid and North-West due to environmental and health considerations related to the activity.
The research notes that knowledge of local geology is important in order to assess the potential impact on ground water quality and tremors/earthquakes. European geology is generally more complex than in the US, where many such projects have taken place, and detailed knowledge of local geology may be of more importance in Europe.
Countries have taken a wide range of positions towards regulation of the activity, ranging from France, where it is banned, to the USA and Canada, where extraction is permitted on a commercial scale.
Fracking has allegedly caused huge water pollution problems in the US. Fracking activity has also been linked to several earthquakes near Blackpool in Britain.
Early last year, the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources awarded two-year petroleum licensing options to three firms in respect of areas in the North-West and Mid-West. A licensing option gives the holder first right to apply for an exclusive exploration licence.
On foot of this, Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte asked the EPA to commission a study on the environmental considerations and impacts of fracking on a budget of €6,000. Further studies are expected before any further activity is licensed.
However, chairman of the Good Energies Alliance Ireland Miriam Hennessy said the report was “too little, too early” and did not even scratch the surface of the studies required.
She pointed to the US EPA’s study of the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, published Nov 2011, which predicts that it will take three years to produce a final report.
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