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Environmental studies begin in British shale areas

British Geological Survey setting a baseline in area said to be rich in shale natural gas.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Environmental studies begin in British shale areas
Baseline studies set for Lancashire, where industry pioneers are looking to begin British shale gas campaign. Photo courtesy of the British Geological Survey.

LONDON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The British Geological Survey said Thursday it started setting an environmental baseline in Lancashire County, a proposed area for hydraulic fracturing.

"This monitoring is independent of the industry and regulators and represents the first independent, integrated monitoring program to characterize the environmental baseline in an area subject to interest from the shale gas industry," BGS said in a statement.

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The British government in July published draft regulations that would place groundwater aquifers, as well as parks and heritage sites, off limits to potential hydraulic fracturing activities.

Shale energy is in its infancy in the country. Cuadrilla Resources is among the early industry leaders, petitioning to launch a hydraulic fracturing campaign in Lancashire, where it estimates there may be as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas

BGS said local residents approved the drilling for boreholes to collect samples to establish the baseline. Drilling rigs will be used in the agency's surveys.

"We have already undertaken a number of groundwater and surface water sampling campaigns, and are extremely grateful for the support provided locally to allow us access to privately-owned boreholes and wells that has made this possible," it said.

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Lancashire in June voted to refuse permits to Cuadrilla to start drilling in the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites. The council said it refused the applications because of noise and visual impact concerns, and "potentially severe" impacts on road infrastructure and traffic, respectively.

Cuadrilla said it plans to appeal the decision.

BGS estimated shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.

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