Where will all the fluid go?
One of the key questions that needs to be answered if fracking were to be given the go ahead relates to the water treatment facilities in the UK capable of processing waste water from shale gas extraction.
A question was put to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in July 2014
Tom Greatrex: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the number of water treatment facilities in the UK capable of processing waste water from shale gas extraction; and what the (a) name, (b) location and (c) capacity is of each such site. 
Dan Rogerson: There are a large number of waste treatment facilities across the UK that could potentially treat flow-back fluid, including water produced from shale exploration and hydraulic fracturing, subject to holding the relevant permits.
The response is not very helpful especially in the light of the revelation on the subsequent written reply that only 3 are currently suitable.
17 July 2014 : Column 773W
Currently, in England there are three facilities with permits that would allow for the treatment of such waste water:
Castle Environmental in Stoke-on-Trent;
FCC Environment at Knostrop in Leeds; and
Bran Sands in Middlesbrough (owned by Northumbrian Water).
Core DEFRA does not hold information on the treatment capacity of these facilities. (our emphasis)
The distances involved from Preston are:
To Knostrop – 70 miles
To Bran Sands – 130 miles
To Castle Environmental – 61 miles
It can be seen therefore that waste fluid from fracking will have to travel some distances over our congested road network, even if the plants had the capacity to deal with the waste.
However, it seems from the Inquiry at BFC that even just the two 4 well fracking pads proposed by Cuadrilla would use up 65-68% of the waste treatment capacity available. It seems therefore that either there will need to be new waste treatment facilities created or Cuadrilla will have to look further afield.
Of course the other possibility is that they will simply re-inject the produced water – the Environment Agency appears to encourage this in its new guidance either as recycling or for disposal. They are are marginally less accommodating as regards flowback fluid, but given that as recently as two years ago they stated “the re-injection of flowback fluids at shale gas wells is not allowed” the direction of travel is pretty clear.
Unless anybody can explain where previously undisclosed treatment centres might be, then it seems we can look forward to fracking wells (or any other convenient “site into geological formations from which hydrocarbons have been extracted, or which for natural reasons have been designated by us as permanently unsuitable“) being used for re-injection.
We all know how well that’s been going in Oklahoma don’t we?