The British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with The Environment Agency (EA) have published a series of maps which show the depth to each shale gas and oil source rock below principal groundwater aquifers in England and Wales.
Groundwater from aquifers provides 30% of drinking water in the UK and up to 70% of the drinking water in South East England.
The maps aim to provide a new way to visualise geological data. BGS said they will help technical and public understanding of the distance between principal aquifers and the shales/clays of interest for shale gas and oil exploitation, an important “factor when considering the potential contamination risks from hydraulic fracturing and oil/gas well operation”.
The Environment Agency also requires detailed geological assessments if hydraulic fracturing for oil or gas is proposed, and requires operators to hold groundwater permits unless there is no significant risk to groundwater.
Developments will not be allowed to go ahead if they are too close to drinking water sources and the Environment Agency will not permit the use of chemical additives in hydraulic fracturing fluid that are hazardous to groundwater.
Dr Rob Ward, director of groundwater science, British Geological Survey, said: “For the first time the public will be able to visualise our nationally important Principal Aquifers in relation to potential shale gas and oil source rocks. This information will help to better understand the risks to groundwater from shale gas and oil.”
Dr Alwyn Hart, head of the air, land and water research team at the Environment Agency, added: “We have strong regulatory controls in place to protect groundwater, and will not permit activity that threatens groundwater and drinking water supplies. These maps will help public understanding of the separation between groundwater and potential shale gas sites.”
- To see the groundwater/shale maps, click here.
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