Concern in New Zealand has grown in the last year over the engineering technology "hydraulic fracturing" – also termed "fracture stimulation", or “fracking” - of deeply-buried, gas-bearing rocks and coal seams.
Much of the concern has been fuelled by misinformation, accepting that some of the concern in relation to overseas incidents are legitimate. The NZ resource sector has identified the need to assess the issues in a New Zealand context and present factual material to inform stakeholders, the media, and a broader audience.
We believe fracking can be done safely in New Zealand, with a good example of regulation provided by Taranaki Regional Council.
We do note that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has been approached to investigate fracking. We in industry do not believe this is necessary, in light of a report published in 2011 by Taranaki Regional Council, and peer reviewed by GNS Science, and in light of a separate report by GNS Science to the TRC on the links between fracking and earthquakes. If, however, the PCE does decide to investigate, we would fully support that.
In the following web pages. Straterra explains what fracking is, the New Zealand context for fracking, why we do it, how we do it, and how the environmental, health and safety risks are managed. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are appended, as is a short analysis of the "Gasland" documentary, which originated the early concern.
Fracking is not new. It has been used for around 60 years, in the US and elsewhere. The engineering processes, materials and chemicals used in fracking, and related risk management, have evolved and advanced over time.
In New Zealand, there have been more than 40 fracking operations during more than 40 years of petroleum development in our country. No environmental issues have arisen from any of these operations.
Today interest within the industry in fracking is growing, in onshore or near-shore natural gas fields, or coal-seam gas fields. In response to that interest, and public concern, Taranaki Regional Council, and other councils, have been or are modifying their regulatory practices. That is appropriate, and is strongly supported by industry.
Read Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing - The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering, June 2012
Fracking allows the tapping of natural gas where it is tightly held in deeply-buried shale, and coal seams. It is done to improve the economics of resource recovery.
Reuters market analyst John Kemp explains that fracking could push back Peak Oil by a generation, an issue for the global cliame change response.
Read The Shale Gas Shock for an analysis of fracking.
New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals provides official information on fracking here
Taranaki Regional Council gives fracking a clean bill of health in this report, peer reviewed by GNS Science.
The British Geological Survey debunks concerns over fracking in New Scientist
Science Magazine reports that the biggest risks of fracking arise from poor well casings, or poor water disposal, and that both risks are manageable, with good regulations, and best-practice.
GNS Science advises New Zealanders need have little concern over fracking and earthquake risk.
Care when reading the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While this study found methane entering aquifers in the US, it found no fracking fluid contamination. The culprit is likely to be historic oil workings, and nothing to do with fracking. In any event, practices used last century are not suppported now.
A report prepared for the European Parliament often drew conclusions from evidence that is either irrelevant, or contested, or of dubious merit. Our web pages put the issues into context.
A number of reports condemn fracking, e.g. the Gasland documentary by Josh Fox. Access links and our critique here.
The National Toxics Network in Australia has argued fracking chemicals are toxic. This paper is misleading because the chemicals described are either not used in New Zealand, or are not used in their pure form. Read our critique here.