POTENTIAL fracking activity in Scotland is unlikely to pose a pollution danger to public water supplies, according to new research.
A key concern of those opposed to exploitation of unconventional gas in the UK is that fissures created by fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, could allow drilling fluids to contaminate underground freshwater aquifers.
However, a leading academic from the University of Glasgow says evidence shows the controversial technique “would not pose a danger”.
“There may be other reasons for opposing the use of indigenous gas resources, but aquifer pollution due to fracking at great depths is not one of them,” said Professor Paul Younger.
In a new paper, published by Royal Society of Edinburgh journal, he demonstrates that fracturing on a far larger scale and much closer to overlying aquifers than would take place at proposed sites in Scotland has not resulted in contamination of groundwater.
Prof Younger says complete isolation of the drilling site from aquifers close to the surface prevented pollution pathways developing via fractures.
He says this isolation would also apply to shale gas.
“Even where fracture connections were present, contamination could only occur if the water pressures favoured upward movement of fluids,” he added.
“In fracking, upward hydraulic gradients are only created for a few hours at the beginning of the process.”
But campaigners say experiences of fracking in the US should act as a warning.
“These conclusions would be a big surprise for hundreds of families in the US who are living off water that has to be trucked in after fracking operations led to toxic contamination of their water,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland.
“This study also ignores the high failure rate of well shafts, which means contamination can reach groundwater and surface water from much closer to ground level.
“On climate change grounds and because of the danger of local environmental effects, fracking isn’t worth the risk.”
A ban on fracking was put in place in Scotland last year to allow studies of its impacts.