All about Fracking in NZ | The Jackal

25 Feb 2011

All about Fracking in NZ

I hate to burst your bubble, but there’s a major disaster looming on the horizon for New Zealand. It’s called hydraulic fracturing or fracking for short. Haven’t heard of it before you say. Well neither had I, so I decided to find out a little bit more about this somewhat secret drilling technique. Here’s what I have learnt:

Through the Crown Minerals Act 1991, the New Zealand Government controls all oil, gas, gold and uranium deposits. This has allowed them to recently open up the country through a block quota system for onshore and offshore drilling.

Gas extraction in Taranaki is extensive with over forty, (and counting) non-notified resource consents given by the Taranaki council for 2010 alone. That means they don’t tell anybody. Exploration has also been undertaken in the Hawkes Bay, Waikato, King Country, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa and other parts of both the North and South Islands.

Fracking is a process of accessing natural gas and oil by drilling into the Earth’s crust and then forcing large amounts of water, sand and a vast array of chemicals at high pressure down into the shale below.

A blast fractures the shale bed around the well. This allows natural gas and oil deposits to flow freely back up to the surface, but can also allow the chemical slurry to penetrate into the water table below.

Now you might think that I’m an environmental wacko for worrying about this, but here are some facts to consider:

1. When gas is close to aquifers, fracking contaminates ground water.
2. Scientist, have speculated that the process destabilizes the earth.
3. Fracking often makes water from nearby wells undrinkable.
4. Approx one in five wells leaks gas at potentially dangerous levels.
5. Uncontained fracking waste contaminates the land and water.
6. Natural gas extraction even threatens the ozone and the air.
7. Noise pollution is a serious problem for people who live nearby.
8. Drilling pads damage our clean green image and the countryside.
9. Fracking uses up huge amounts of water, which cannot be used again.
10. The wastewater seeps into the earth and evaporates into the air.
11. Re-injecting into disused wells can contaminate aquifers.
12. There's no proper regulations governing fracking in NZ.
13. We cannot live without clean drinking water.

When the flowback initially returns to the surface, it cannot be immediately contained. This is sometimes referred to as blowout. After any given frack job, the surface spills or “flowback” of around 50% percent of the fluid used is often not contained.

With up to 20 million litres of water used on any given frack, the contamination is a huge environmental disaster. This fluid waste contains chemicals and “NORM” (naturally occurring radioactive material), salts and heavy minerals. .

Tap water in parts of the USA can be lit on fire, due to methane gas contamination in bore water caused by fracking.  Some people have been evacuated from their homes forever due to the risk of explosion from accumulated methane gas.

Contaminated frackwater is disposed of by injection into disused wells, spraying on ‘landfarms’ and roads, diluting and pumping into rivers/streams and illegal dumping.  During the fracking and disposal processes both accidental and deliberate frackwater spills occur. 

The plastic lining of wastewater pits often fails and contaminated frackwater leaches out, polluting land and groundwater aquifers.  Wastewater pits are bulldozed over with topsoil, leaving contamination in the ground.

Fracking has spread like wildfire across the USA in the past ten years, contaminating water and causing vast air/land pollution. Many people and animals have become unwell. Australia is also under attack, with the Great Artisian Basin being threatened. There is little information about fracking in New Zealand but it is becoming widespread onshore in Taranaki.

With up to 596 different chemicals used in the fracking process (approx.40 per frack job), the highly toxic waste, including hydrochloric acid, benzene, tuolene, hexavalent chromium, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX). Here's a short list by the EPA:

Wastwater also contains many heavy metals and radioactive material (radium 226 [a derivative of uranium], strontium and barium) from drilling through radon-bearing granite and other layers deep underground and from drilling “muds”.  The levels of radiation in frackwater are thousands of times above the safe level limit for drinking water.

What we need to do:

Write letters to newspapers
Write to the Government and Councils
Talk to friends and family about the dangers of fracking
Call for a total ban on fracking in New Zealand Aotearoa. 
Join other concerned people through networking groups online.

We have a chance to stop the horse before it bolts, but time is running out.