UK: Wasting Opportunities On Shale

Last Updated: 29 August 2014
Article by Sam Boileau, Laura Mackett and Roy Pinnock

The press often focuses on the risk of fracking but fails to address waste issues. Sam Boileau, Roy Pinnock and Laura Mackett look at how the waste sector can bring expertise on technologies, on-site recycling and disposal.

In January David Cameron pledged to go "all out" for shale. In April a government-supported study by EY, previously Ernst & Young, estimated shale in the UK could generate 64,500 jobs and stimulate an investment of £33bn. Then in May the House of Lords economic affairs committee asserted exploration and development of UK shale should be an "urgent national priority".

At the same time, investors and objectors are beginning to test whether the legal framework is fit for fracking. The government believes so, but continues to reform key areas, while the European Commission has voiced concerns over potential gaps in EU legislation. NGOs meanwhile think we should be firmly putting the brakes on.

The press often focuses on the environmental risks associated with fracking. But a point that few commentators pick up on is that waste and planning regulation is likely to play an important role in the regulation of shale projects.

These projects are likely to generate a wide range of wastes. These include drill cuttings, spent drilling muds, flowback fluid mixed with produced water, sand removed from flowback fluid, well stimulation fluid remaining underground, waste gas including fugitive or transient emissions and any condensates or contaminated residues that are discarded.

Added complications

The oil and gas industry is not unfamiliar with the waste management regime. Indeed, onshore oil and gas facilities frequently have their waste processing facilities on site. That said, for shale gas projects, there are some added complications and issues that distinguish them from conventional oil and gas projects.

Fracking involves the injection of large volumes of water. This water is likely to pick up naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) from underground strata. This means that, upon returning to the surface, fracking fluid may contain sufficient NORM to be classed as radioactive waste and require an environmental permit for its storage and disposal.

The Environment Agency will not accept storage of such flowback fluids in open- surface lagoons as often seen in US projects, so waste fluids will need to be piped or tanked away for treatment.

Whether treated on or off site, end-of-waste issues arise around the recycling and reuse of fracking fluids. If flowback fluid can be treated to the point where it performs the same function as fresh injection fluid, the agency considers it to no longer be a waste and can therefore be reused in well stimulation.

Operators are unlikely to be granted a permit unless they show a clear strategy for disposing of radioactive flowback. This is significant because of the limited number of installations available nationally to treat waste containing NORM. The December 2013 DECC and AMEC Strategic Environmental Assessment report concluded that volumes of flowback waste water could range from 3,000 to 18,750 cubic metres per well.

Under a high-activity scenario, that could mean a potential wastewater treatment and transit requirement of up to 108 million cubic metres, which would place a substantial burden on existing infrastructure.

Any well-stimulation fluid remaining in the ground is likely to be considered a waste and subject to regulation under an environmental permit at the point it no longer serves a useful purpose. For example, when drilling is suspended or a well is abandoned. At that point, the agency considers the fractures in the target formation will form an area designated for the deposit of waste.

Waste from fracking operations will be "extractive waste" under the Mining Waste Directive (MWD). This requires extractive waste to be managed in accordance with certain mining-specific rules and is implemented via the environmental permitting regime.

There is also the possibility that fracking sites could be 'category A' mines under the MWD if they handle hazardous waste above certain thresholds or if an operational management failure could lead to severe environmental harm. If so, this would result in a more onerous permit application process as well as the need for a major accident prevention policy, an off-site emergency plan and a financial guarantee to ensure funds are available for aftercare costs.

Finally, there is the issue of waste gas disposal. The Environment Agency prefers the use of enclosed flares. Alternatively, waste gas may be vented in a controlled manner where flaring is not a safe or practical option. Waste management plans should address waste gas as well as detection and prevention of fugitive methane emissions. An environmental permit and consent from DECC may also be required.

The planning regime is well used to dealing with onshore minerals development. However, shale development poses some challenges for those involved in securing the necessary permissions. Weaknesses in environmental impact assessment materials continue to threaten the robustness of decisions.

Get off my land

Land ownership in England and Wales extends to significant depth, at least the depth of fracking operations. Because of the need to drill horizontally, fracking operations are likely to pass through multiple ownerships. Without consent, such drilling operations can be restrained via the law of trespass.

Petroleum exploration and development licence holders can obtain wide-ranging 'ancillary rights' secure from third-party owners via section 7 of the Petroleum Act 1998, but the process is not quick and is subject to some level of compensation. Although the regime is, arguably, fit for purpose in its current form, the government is committed to controversial reforms to the law of trespass.

These involve default rights once one-off payment for each unique lateral (horizontal) well that extends by more than 200 metres laterally has been given to affected landowners. This will speed up the overall consenting process but will do little to address the wider issues of planning permission in terms of social licence to operate and the ways that community benefits are structured.

In the absence of bespoke legislation, existing regimes will form part of a complex patchwork of regulatory controls that will apply to onshore shale projects. Issues inherent in shale gas projects will give rise to opportunities for the waste sector to add value and bring expertise, for example, in relation to waste treatment technologies and on-site recycling and disposal issues.

Originally published in Waste Planning.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions