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Geological Society welcomes ECC report on shale gas

The Geological Society of London1 welcomes the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report on shale gas, and in particular the Committee’s recommendation that there is no case for a UK moratorium on shale gas exploration.

23 May 2011

The report is especially welcome given the present level of public concern about the possible impacts of shale gas exploration and production on the environment and public health.

Recent reports and articles in the press have drawn upon examples in the USA in which significant environmental damage has been attributed to shale gas exploration and production. The Energy and Climate Change Committee concluded that there is no evidence that such harm is due to hydraulic fracturing, but rather that it is caused by problems with well integrity – an equally important consideration in ‘conventional’ hydrocarbons production.

We consider it to be highly irresponsible to alarm the public in Britain through uninformed and misleading use of examples of environmental damage elsewhere. No good is served by arousing public fears on the basis of false information, and that is a real and present danger.

Responding to the report, Geological Society President Dr Bryan Lovell said,

“Geological and engineering expertise in the UK oil industry over the past half century has delivered clean and safe onshore extraction of vital hydrocarbon resources. The industry has an excellent record of collaboration with both national and local authorities to ensure high levels of protection for human health and the environment, as exemplified by the world-leading standards set and maintained at the Wytch Farm oil field in Dorset. There is every reason to believe that this successful collaboration will continue in our exploration for shale gas, and its possible eventual production.”

As with the development of any resource, great care must be taken to minimize the possibility of environmental harm. In the UK, we have a globally exceptional knowledge of the three dimensional arrangement of the rocks and resources that lie beneath our feet. We also have a very effective system for the regulation of industry that protects the environment. Both these factors enable us to minimize the possibility of environmental harm resulting from subsurface production of resources of any kind.

It is also important to recall that public drinking water supplies in the UK are highly protected and of excellent quality. Chances of contamination are minimised by the regulated diligence of the water supply companies. We share the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s commitment to achieving continued high standards of environmental protection, by ensuring that the regulatory regime keeps pace with technological and commercial developments, and to promoting public confidence in such regulation.

• Notes for editors

1. The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body of 10,000 Earth scientists based all over the world, with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. The Society offers advice to Parliament and Government, at individual and corporate levels. Registered Charity No. 210161.

For further comment:

Jonathan Craig (Chair, Petroleum Group, gave oral evidence to the inquiry): [email protected]

David Manning (Secretary, Professional Matters – for hydrogeology/environmental geology aspects): [email protected]

Further information can be found on the Energy and Climate Change Committee's website at