Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gas drilling at Sandwich 'could lead to water contamination'

From 'Your Sandwich' - Read full article here

"Kent's entire water supply could become contaminated if plans to explore for gas lead to controversial 'hydraulic fracking', according to a leading geologist.

Thanet-based Dr Alasdair Bruce said the risks involved with such activity could affect the whole county and also lead to threat of earthquakes.

His warning followed a planning application by Welsh company Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd to drill an exploratory borehole in land at Woodnesborough, near Sandwich.

Although director of the firm Gerwyn Williams stressed it was a simple test of the coal, experts and activists fear the activity will lead to hydraulic fracking if gas is found in shale rock at the site.

The controversial extraction method was recently halted in Lancashire amid concerns it had caused two minor earthquakes in the area.

The process involves firing high-pressure liquid into rocks to force gas out, but it is believed it could activate fault lines.

Folkestone has been hit by two earthquakes in recent years; one in 2007 measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale and a later one in 2009 measuring 2.8.

Dr Bruce said the targeted rock in Woodnesborough sat below an aquifer and above fracture and fault lines.

He said: "The prime issue when I heard of these plans was of the possibility of water contamination. But it's not just contamination of the aquifer above the rock – our supplies in this county are shared around.

"This is a Kent-wide issue, not just something that would impact the immediate area of Deal and Sandwich."

Dr Bruce, who said the firm had chosen the "worst possible site" to carry out tests due to the small amount of clay in east Kent, added: "Fracking underneath the rock could reactivate faults believed to be the cause of the Folkestone earthquakes."

The geologist, who runs environmental consultancy firm Rock Doc Ltd, said although an exploratory borehole would not lead to a major incident, the fracking process could lead to a health and safety problem.

And Kent Green Party spokesman Steve Dawe said the party believed if gas was found in hard shale rock at the Dover site, the Welsh company could seek to remove it with fracking.

He warned it could lead to earthquakes and contaminate water with methane and hydrochloric acid.

Fracking is banned in South Africa and a major investigation was carried out in America following problems with the method. The French National Assembly's lower house has also voted for a ban.

But Mr Williams of Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd said the public were being misinformed due to the recent earthquakes in Lancashire.

He said: "Shale is absent in Kent, the only type they have is lower limestone shale. We're drilling an exploratory hole to test the coal. This must have happened thousands of times in Kent over the years. As far as everybody's fears are concerned, we wouldn't be able to do anything that isn't safe. ... Continues "

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