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Wastewater and coalbed methane

World Coal,

An Independent Expert and Scientific Panel (IESP), convened by the Scottish Government to report on the scientific evidence relating to unconventional oil and gas, suggests fears over effect coalbed methane (CBM) development may have on ground water could be unfounded.

The IESP report noted that “Normal CBM extraction methods do not require significant volumes of drilling water – unless the extraction method is hydraulic fracturing. Shale therefore produces far more wastewater than CBM extraction. Any water produces during CBM extraction is also generally much more saline than fracking fluids – with far fewer additives and produced solids. Generally the water only ever contains natural organic compounds, salts, low levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials and microorganisms.”

Fears had been raised by a number of activist groups, protesting against potential unconventional gas extraction in the UK, who claimed CBM drilling could contaminate groundwater and produce water high in chemicals and additives.

The report did stress, however, that there would be need for appropriate wastewater disposal should further CBM drilling and development take place. The authors pointed to the US, where, on occasion, CBM sites and companies did not always carry out appropriate wastewater disposal.

The report said that any development of CBM resources in Scotland would require storage, clean up and transportation of wastewater, as well as its treatment and disposal. Yet it added that this is already heavily regulated in the UK, so operators would know to operate within these regulatory constraints, should they decide to proceed with CBM development.

According to the IESP, the regulatory environment would be unlikely to present technical challenges to the CBM industry, but may increase costs to the operator.

As evidence mounts in support of drawing gas from coal seams in Scotland, the IESP report stresses how vital it is that companies, scientists, engineers and politicians engage with the public over the development of the fledgling UK CBM industry. The report noted: “Public engagement is necessary for the development of unconventional oil and gas resources in Scotland and there is a growing body of evidence showing that sustained and meaningful community engagement has beneficial outcomes for communities, operators and policy makers.”

To view the entire report, please click here

Written by Sam Dodson

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