Why do they need to lie to us?
We were struck recently by a page on the IGas PLC website which makes 2 highly misleading and exaggerated claims in the space of a couple of paragraphs.
It is interesting that the shale gas companies do not seem to observe the same standard of honesty to which they seem to believe opponents of fracking should be held.
The claims are:
The quantity of water required to frack an onshore shale gas well is broadly the same amount used to irrigate the typical British golf course each month. There are over 7,500 golf courses across the UK. This is also equivalent to the amount of water needed to run a 1,000MW coal-fired power plant for just 12 hours.
There have also been more than one million wells drilled around the world, and in no case has there been a single proven instance of water pollution
They can be found on this page
The claim that the amount of water required for fracking can be equated to the usage of a golf course was earlier made on page 20 of the Royal Society’s report “Shale Gas Extraction in the UK: a Review of hydraulic fracturing” where the authors write:
“Overall water use is important. Estimates indicate that the amount needed to operate a hydraulically fractured shale gas well for a decade may be equivalent to the amount needed to water a golf course for a month; the amount needed to run a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant for 12 hours;”
You will notice, of course, that the Royal Society do not state which country the golf course might be in.
If you trace the provenance of the quote you will see The Royal Society report refers to page 50 of a report by Simon Moore from 2012 where the same claim is made.
In this report Simon Moore references a document from the fracking industry where this claim seems to have originally been made.
This document is no longer available at that URL but we do have a screen shot taken from it, which clearly shows the reference in question.
The same document is still available here . The fact that this is the source of the quote is indisputable given the additional reference both on the IGas page and in the quote in question to the 1,000 MW coal fired powerstation.
5 million gallons is approximately 19,000 cubic metres. If a golf course were to use 19,000 cubic metres in one month it would use 228,000 cubic metres in a year. That is simple maths.
To suggest that “the typical British Golf Course” uses this amount in a year is a ludicrous misrepresentation of reality.
The facts are that according to the Environment Agency the average (dare I say “typical”) English golf course is licenced to abstract in the order of 11,000 cubic metres a year. The actual volumes abstracted are considerably lower (average 5,848 cubic metres)
Page 15 of this document explains this:
This report also tells us that “Environment Agency data suggest that three quarters of all water for golf course irrigation is abstracted” so we can deduce that if the typical (average) abstraction volume was about 6,000 cubic metres then actual water usage would average about 8,000 m3 per annum. This is some way short (only 3.5%) of the 228,000 m3 suggested here by the claim being made by IGas.
IGas may try to claim that they don’t mention a specific figure for usage but they should not be allowed to get out of jail that way. They cannot have the golf course and the powerstation without the accompanying quantity in the Chesapeake paper being included as well.
It is broadly accepted that water usage per well (19,000 m3) referenced in the Chesapeake document is a reasonable estimate
“Average range in water requirements between 8000 and 19,000 m”
“with each well requiring 10,000 to 25,000 m3 of water for hydraulic fracturing”
For their claim that the water used for fracking is the same a month’s usage at “the typical English Golf Club” to stand up then they would have to be claiming to be able to complete a High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing operation to frack a well with just 666 m3 of water.
For your reference, Cuadrilla’s frack at Preese Hall in 2011 used about 8,400 cubic metres for the fracking operation with a further 900 cubic metres for drilling. A total of 9,300 cubic metres or 14 times what IGas’s claim here would suggest.
The fact that these figures and examples simply don’t apply to the UK is bad enough, but , as can be seen below they have compounded the fault by adding the extra “information” about the golf courses in question being British, and the number of golf courses in Britain, in an attempt to make fracking water usage look artificially inconsequential.
“The quantity of water required to frack an onshore shale gas well is broadly the same amount used to irrigate the typical British golf course each month. There are over 7,500 golf courses across the UK. This is also equivalent to the amount of water needed to run a 1,000MW coal-fired power plant for just 12 hours.”
The statement that There are over 7,500 golf courses across the UK is quite inexplicable. Golf Club Management state on http://www.golfclubmanagement.net/2012/02/uk-and-ireland-lost-42000-members-in-2011/ that
“Golf clubs in the UK and Ireland suffered a net loss of 42,700 members in 2011, according to a new survey.
The drop of 3.1 per cent from 2010 brings the number of club members in the British Isles down to 1,326,700, spread among 2,989 golf courses (a drop from over 3,000 in 2010).”
Although the number of clubs may vary a little year on year, the claim that there are over 7,500 golf courses across the UK is clearly deliberately misleading.
So in summary, it is clear that IGas have taken figures from the US which bear little or no relationship to the reality in the UK and then tried to claim they are relevant to the UK, adding exaggerated and incorrect detail, in a way which is totally incapable of substantiation.
Further down on the same page IGas make the claim that
“There have also been more than one million wells drilled around the world, and in no case has there been a single proven instance of water pollution.”
Whilst the extent of water pollution is open to question its existence is certainly not.
In June 2015 the US EPA published its draft report “Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources” in which it unequivocally stated:
“Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells.”
Later on in the executive summary we can read:
Impacts to drinking water resources from subsurface liquid and gas movement may occur if casing or cement are inadequately designed or constructed, or fail. There are several examples of these occurrences in hydraulically fractured wells that have or may have resulted in impacts to drinking water resources. In one example, an inner string of casing burst during hydraulic fracturing, which resulted in a release of fluids on the land surface and possibly into the aquifer near Killdeer, North Dakota. The EPA found that, based on the data analysis performed for the study, the only potential source consistent with conditions observed in two impacted monitoring wells was the blowout that occurred during hydraulic fracturing (U.S. EPA, 2015j). In other examples, inadequately cemented casing has contributed to impacts to drinking water resources. In Bainbridge, Ohio, inadequately cemented casing in a hydraulically fractured well contributed to the buildup of natural gas and high pressures along the outside of a production well. This ultimately resulted in movement of natural gas into local drinking water aquifers (Bair et al., 2010; ODNR, 2008). In the Mamm Creek gas field in Colorado, inadequate cement placement in a production well allowed methane and benzene to migrate along the production well and through natural faults and fractures to drinking water resources (Science Based Solutions LLC, 2014; Crescent, 2011; COGCC, 2004). These cases illustrate how construction issues, sustained casing pressure, and the presence of natural faults and fractures can work together to create pathways for fluids to migrate toward drinking water resources.
The fact that fracking wells have polluted water is no longer a matter of conjecture or open to question in any way. It is an established fact, which has been, albeit reluctantly, accepted by the fracking industry, who now hang their hopes on the finding that such events may not be “systemic”. Even this is being questioned now by EPA scientists.
Accordingly the claim made here by IGas that “There have also been more than one million wells drilled around the world, and in no case has there been a single proven instance of water pollution.” is totally misleading.
Why are they allowed to get away with making statements like this?
Given that the Advertising Standards Authority are now on record as stating that they can not regulate statements which are not “marketing communications as defined by the Code” or are on web pages which do not “allow consumers to buy any service or product from the website”, can these companies really get away with saying just any old thing, secure in the knowledge that there is nobody to stop them?
Anyway – IGas get our first Pants on Fire award of 2016.
It probably wont be the last one.