YP Letters: Fracking industry’s duty to take potential spills seriously

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From: Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, UK Onshore Oil & Gas, Dukes Place, London.

I HAVE read with interest a number of letters about fracking on your pages in recent days and would like to redress the balance somewhat. On the issue of spills let me be very clear – no spill is acceptable wherever you work, be it farming, petrol stations, petrochemicals or indeed onshore oil and gas sites. All of these industries and many more have to ensure safe handling of chemicals.

But instead of taking the headlines from one report in the US and extrapolating it to the UK, we should actually ask ourselves some important questions: what could be spilled? How are spills contained? Could the spills reach the outside environment? And finally, could it happen here?

In reading behind the headlines, it was interesting to note that the largest spill in the US report was actually a freshwater spill.

This highlights an important point about what we actually use on site and how we mitigate risk – an important element of this is that the chemicals we use must be non-hazardous to groundwater, approved by the Environment Agency and publicly disclosed.

In the UK we have to ensure if spills were to occur that they are properly contained – we have an impermeable membrane on our sites and a system that allows all fluid on site, even rainwater, to be collected. The chemicals we store have to be placed on appropriate bunds and the waste we collect must be put into sealed tanks that sit on bunds which sit on the impermeable layer.

So we do everything to ensure nothing could reach the outside environment. Could spills occur? Yes – just as spills do occur in other industries and also in your home (and let’s not forget many of the chemicals we use are found in things such as cosmetics and cleaners). The important aspect is that we have regulation and industry practise to ensure everything is done not to harm the environment.

I finally note from comments that some believe we are doing this to make profits – yes, unashamedly we are, but I don’t think that is very unusual. It is, after all, an objective of most businesses. What we are also trying to achieve is work for many local companies and jobs but above all with 84 per cent of our homes using gas and a forecast of 80 per cent of our gas coming from outside the UK.

We also have an objective of allowing the country to become more energy sufficient – something we have been doing 
in Yorkshire for many, many years.