Activists warn that the UK government’s current moratorium on fracking does not include acid fracking.
Acid fracking involves the injecting of acid into the ground in order to fracture and dissolve rock.
An open letter by Brockham Oil Watch has been signed by more than 500 campaigners, politicians, and academics. The letter calls on the government to ban acid fracking so that companies cannot use it as a way to circumvent the ban.
According to academics and lawyers, regulation regarding the use of acid in gas and oil wells can be exploited due to it being vague.
One of the signatories of the letter was co-leader of the Green party, Jonathan Bartley. He said: “It isn’t acceptable just to have half a moratorium. The definition [of fracking] needs to be expanded, regulations need to apply right across all forms of unconventional drilling, and local communities need to know what’s going on beneath their feet”.
Acid wash is commonly used by gas and water companies to clean wells, however no permits have yet been granted in England for the utilisation of acid stimulation.
Campaigners argue that the lack of monitoring could lead to ‘fracking by stealth’. This could involve a process called ‘matrix acidising’, in which liquid is injected at low pressure into the ground to dissolve rock, or acid fracturing in which acid is injected at high pressure to fracture rock.
Stuart Haszeldine is a professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh. According to Haszeldine the government’s definition of fracking is partly to blame:
“Most countries define fracking as the intention to fracture the rock, but the UK takes the use of quite a large volume of fluid as the definition of fracking.
“It’s quite possible to use a small volume of fluid to frack the rock, including acid, without actually naming it as fracking and without going through the formal permissions for fracking”.
Haszeldine’s analysis reveals that 89% of the oil wells fracked in the US from 2000-10 would not fall under the UK’s definition of fracking. The same applies to 43% of the gas wells fracked in the US over the same time frame.
“This is a clear opportunity for gaming the system so I argue that acid treatments onshore should stop, until a coherent set of regulations is produced and with clarity about who polices those regulations”.
Activists argue that acid stimulation carries many of the same risks as fracking. These include earth tremors, along with water, air, and soil contamination.
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