Environmental Impact of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

In the course of a research and development project by the Federal Environmental Agency, OECOS Ltd. has carried out a work package on the environmental consequences of fracking - search and extraction of petroleum gas from unconventional natural deposits. The results were presents to the public during a press conference of the president of the Federal Environmental Agency on July 30th in 2014

The research project mentioned above thoroughly investigated the opportunities and risks of fracking with regard to specific environmental consequences of this extraction technology (A preliminary study of the Federal Environmental Agency had already covered more general aspects). Eight work packages were covered by an interdisciplinary project team. Covering the relevant spatial aspects of surface fracking, and its impacts on conservation areas and protected species was part of the OECOS work package. Site-independent, relevant aspects were identified, specified and evaluated on the basis of a compressed literature research, which considered more than 200 international publications. The result make it clear that a systematic exploitation of a reservoir will cause significant environmental impacts, for example through the installation of drilling platforms, fracking procedures, the construction of gas pipelines, the depletion of natural resources, transportation of hazardous material, and water treatments and injections. The accumulation of the separate impacts generates a new level of environmental impacts and risks that stands in no comparison to previously known environmental impacts of conventional gas extraction techniques.

Because of its spatial and regional character and because of the cumulative interaction of numerous individual actions with partially substantial environmental impacts, unconventional gas extraction techniques are a classic case for regional planning policies. In a densely populated country, such as Germany, it is imperative to strengthen environmental evaluations (e.g. environmental impact studies or strategic environmental impact assessments) and coordinating instruments of spatial planning if fracking should be enabled (see ARL, 2012; Schulze, 2013).

Our results were thoroughly discussed in the journal ‘Welt’ (February 1st, 2014).

You can find the download of the entire study here.

You can find a list of the referencing press articles here.