We need to keep ALL fossil fuels in the ground…gas and oil too.

While the campaign to Protect Pont Valley has been largely centered around keeping coal in the ground, we side with all the anti-fracking campaigns that are growing in the country to stop this industry that has the potential to bring us further into the climate collapse and destroy our living conditions forever. While the government has promised a coal phase out to meet its carbon target, this has happened with the backing of another era of fossil fuels, namely the extraction of gas and oil from the ground. But this does not come without fatal impacts both on the local environment and the future of the planet.  Clearly, the government fully endorses an industry that makes profit exploiting the planet and hurting communities.

What is fracking?

The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is basically drilling vertically down several kilometres then horizontally, casing the inside of the drilled hole in steel or cement then applying a mixture of millions of litres of water, silica, and chemicals at a super high pressure to break apart the shale rock to releas the gas (methane, ) trapped inside. Fracking around the world


Some of the known dangers:

Surface spills of contaminated water, groundwater contamination, aquifer contamination, airborne silica, toxic air pollutants, leaking methane (methane is 30 times more potent as an atmospheric heat-trapping gas than CO2), millions of litres of contaminated and radioactive fracking fluid that requires processing or is dumped, increase in number of earthquakes, and of course the effects on climate change from burning fossil fuels.


  • water contamination

Fracking can typically use between 5-10 million gallons ( 19 million  – 38 million litres) of water per well, although there are many wells in the 2-18 million gallons (8 million- 68 million litres) range. Sometimes each frack uses fresh water, sometimes it is reused, increasing the potency of contamination with heavy metals and radionuclides.

Image result for impacts fracking

The exact contents of fracking fluid can be kept an industry secret, so we dont know for sure what chemicals are currently being used in the UK. However, there is more detailed research from the USA, due to the high number of fracking wells nationally – “as of 2016, about 670,000 of the 977,000 producing wells were hydraulically fractured and horizontally drilled”.


There is ongoing research on endocrine disrupting chemicals found in fracking fluid. Some health effects are infertility, cancer and birth defects. In one study, 24 chemicals commonly used in fracking fluids were tested. Of these 24 chemicals, 20 blocked the estrogen receptor, 17 inhibited the androgen receptor, 10 hindered the progesterone receptor, 10 blocked the glucocorticoid receptor – a hormone important to the immune system, which also plays a role in reproduction and fertility, and 7 inhibited the thyroid hormone receptor.

After a fracking well has been injected with the mixture of water, silica, and fracking chemicals at a high pressure, this fluid will then begin to draw back up to the surface – this is called ‘flowback’.

Comparison of fluid volumes use per horizontal well in a variety of US shale/tight oil and gas plays during early 2014, with the average percentage which flows back to the surface in the first few weeks shown in red

Flowback contains various heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, radium, lead, that are extremely toxic to humans and other species of life. Radium and radon are two radioactive compounds found to be  released from the shale rock during fracking which are found in flowback. Other radionuclides are also found with half lives varying from a few days to 1601 years. In flowback they can be found in quantities thousands of times higher than what is considered safe in drinking water. However, research on this is severely limited due to industry and political pressures. The transportation of flowback / wastewater to a processing facility or to dispose of it in a well creates the risk of spills across roads, land, and settlements.

Tests on groundwater near fracking wells have often contained the highest levels of heavy metals and radionuclides, but fracking companies generally do not test groundwater sources before they start working in an area, which makes it difficult to assign responsibility legally.

A huge study in the USA showed the link between fracking and low birth weight babies within a 3km radius of fracking sites: The study was undertaken between 2004 – 2013 in Pennsylvania, and had a sample size of 1.1million births. The researches adjusted for certain factors to increase the validity, such as birth weights within families both before and after fracking started, comparisons of siblings who were exposed to fracking with those who were not, and measuring in 1km intervals from the fracking sites to investigate whether there is a gradient in the effects of exposure.

“For mothers living within 1 km, we find a 25% increase in the probability of low birth weight (birth weight < 2500 g / <5lb and 8oz) and significant declines in average birth weight and in an index of infant health. There are also reductions in infant health for mothers living within 1 to 3 km of a fracking site, but the estimates are about one-third to one-half of the size of those within the 0- to 1-km band. There is little evidence of health effects at further distances, suggesting that health impacts are highly local.”  Some of the compounds in air emissions near fracking sites included nonmethane hydrocarbons, methylene chloride (a toxic solvent), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (known to be carcinogenic), which have been shown to affect fetal outcomes.

  • Air quality and threats to public health

The dangers of silica is mostly around respiratory illness as the greatest risk of this compound during the fracking process is from inhalation in close proximity to the site, so predominantly affects workers. Silica inhalation can cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, silicosis (scarring of the lungs) and increased risk of infections, all of which can be fatal or chronic.

  • earthquakes

There is an emerging clear link between fracking and earthquakes, but many organisations and scientists have been hesitant to draw this conclusion or study it at all. Some areas historically considered to not be earthquake prone become similar in seismic activity to places where it is considered common. e.g. Oklahoma is now similar to California.  After 2 earthquakes in 2011 500m away from Preese Hall fracking site in Lancashire in the UK, the British Geological Survey considered it highly probable that the earthquakes were due to the high pressure injection of fracking fluid.

  • Transnational domination of land, resources, and exploitation:

The Vaca Muerta region in Patagonia, Argentina, has the world’s second largest resources of shale gas and fourth largest of shale oil. They represent an estimated 50 billion tons of CO2 currently locked in the ground. Thirty nine Mapuche indigenous communities find themselves sitting on top of the shale deposits of Vaca Muerta, alongside Argentina’s “pear capital” Allen, and several protected natural areas.

Chevron, Shell, BP, CNOOC, Wintershall, ExxonMobil, Dow Petrochemical, Petronas, Schlumberger, Statoil and Total, alongside Latin American and Argentine transnational companies Petrobras, Pluspetrol, and Tecpetrol have shares in the area.

Banks and foreign governments are also backing the drilling  infrastructure, including loans from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, and private and corporate debt provided by Citibank, ICBC, and Deutsche Bank, among others.

As well as the risks of fracking mentioned above, Vaca Muerta specifically also will potentially take on ten waste dumps and oil landfills; three sand extraction mines, plus sand cleaning facilities and associated logistics; national and international pipelines; LNG plants on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; a 700 km train line for goods transportation; expansion of petrochemicals and refineries; and new roads and highways.

In front of BP’s annual shareholder meeting 21st of May 2018 http://platformlondon.org

One of the companies currently opening fracking wells in Vaca Muerta is BP – formerly British Petroleum – as part of Pan American Energy (PAE) which BP has 60% shares in.  PAE is registered in Delaware – a US haven for corporate secrecy – and is accounted as a Joint Venture. This makes it difficult to find out exactly how much profit PAE makes as a whole, or how much it has transfers in dividend to BP. BP does not carry out fracking in the UK because it would draw “the wrong kind of attention”. PAE has been involved in a number of questionable practices: using the gendarmes to suppress worker unrest, contaminating groundwater, and allegedly paying $300 million in bribes to the Argentinian government.

  • Fracking in the UK

There are several fracking site in the UK. Over the last five years communities across the country (and beyond), from Balcombe and Barton Moss to Belcoo and Woodburn Forest, have took a stand to stop fracking companies from exploiting the ground with impunity.

Further reading:

the impacts of Fracking: http://frack-off.org.uk/mounting-evidence-the-harm-caused-by-fracking/