A university study suggests that deficits in waste processing capacity are hindering growth in the industry.
The researchers used data from wells in the US to model the needs of shale gas operators in the UK, where there is currently only one well in operation. The report found that over the lifetime of a well, its waste management needs could reach over £1 million.
The paper noted the costs of legislative compliance on top of the costs of waste disposal that will affect the economic feasibility of fracking in Britain:
“Significant expansion of the shale gas industry resulting in simultaneous FP water [fluids used in and produced by fracking] production from multiple wells would critically stress the current capacity to receive, treat and dispose of NORM [naturally occurring radioactive materials] contaminated, highly-saline wastewaters.”
Waste from shale drilling can include salt water at a far higher concentration than sea water, as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials. Each of these by-products needs different treatment solutions, a fact that could drive up the overheads of potential shale operations.
Missteps by the shale industry in the US need to act as cautions to the industry in the UK, says the report. Fracking has reportedly affected water of residents near shale operations, drawing criticism of the practice.