Environmental baseline monitoring in Lancashire

Monitoring of methane in groundwater

BGS, along with partners from the Universities of Manchester, York, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, is carrying out a science–based environmental monitoring programme in Fylde, an area of Lancashire where planning applications for the development of shale gas were submitted by Cuadrilla in 2014, and where a decision following appeals and a public enquiry is expected during Autumn 2016. The environmental monitoring programme is independent of industry and regulators.

The investigation builds on existing national monitoring programmes for groundwater and seismicity. Monitoring and investigation involves:

The study represents the first independent, integrated monitoring programme to characterise the environmental baseline in an area subjected to close scrutiny in anticipation of the development of a nascent UK shale–gas industry.

The need for an effective baseline and independent monitoring

The decision over whether or not to allow exploration for shale gas in Fylde, following planning rejection, appeals and public enquiry, has not yet been made. Over the period from February 2015 and pending the final outcome, our baseline environmental monitoring programme has continued in order for us to acquire a robust set of water, air, soil and ground baseline measurements. This is providing a vastly improved knowledge base for an area recognised as prospective for shale gas but also of significant public concern.

Should any future gas exploration/development take place in Lancashire or elsewhere in the UK, the data acquired will provide us with a strong evidence base against which to assess any future changes in environmental conditions. Such baseline characterisation was not undertaken during the early stages of unconventional oil and gas development in parts of North America, where recent scientific study has highlighted that problems with lack of regulation and borehole integrity have led to environmental pollution. The monitoring in Fylde will be of value in providing environmental baseline data and its temporal variation, even in the event that future shale–gas exploration does not take place.

Independence from industry and regulators ensures that science outputs are evidence–based and impartial. The information collected from the monitoring programme will be made freely available to the public and will also support peer-reviewed science.


Contact

Contact BGS enquiries for further information.