ReFINE research consortium into shale gas and oil exploitation launched
The ReFINE consortium is the first of its kind globally and has a great opportunity to generate authoritative evidence to inform the debate around shale gas or oil exploitation in Europe.
7th November 2013, London - ReFINE (Researching Fracking in Europe), an independent research consortium focusing on the issue of shale gas and oil exploitation using fracking methods, has its official launch today.
ReFINE is led by Professor Richard Davies of Durham University, and works in conjunction with Keele, Newcastle and Heriot-Watt universities. It seeks to provide an in-depth scientific analysis of the potential environmental risks associated with fracking and shale exploitation. ReFINE is neutral on whether shale gas and oil exploitation should take place.
The consortium will carry out scientific research over a 24 month period focusing on seven specific areas:
- Induced seismicity (man-made earthquakes)
- Estimation of fugitive emissions
- The potential risks of aquifer contamination
- Increased traffic levels due to drilling and fracking
- Potential health issues
- Water sourcing for fracking and waste water clean up
- Drilling, completion, subsidence and long-term impact of fracking fluids in the subsurface
ReFINE was formed after trans-European discussions between scientists, policy-makers, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the petroleum industry identified the need for unbiased research into shale exploitation.
Professor Peter Styles, Professor of Applied and Environmental Geophysics, Applied & Environmental Geophysics Research Group, School of Physical and Geographical Sciences at Keele University said: "Recent excellent reports by Public Health England and the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering on Hydraulic Stimulation (‘Fracking’!) and shale gas exploration have shown that well implemented processes have minimal environmental consequences, there are research questions which we must understand in a UK/European context where geologies differ from the USA and societal sensitivities are expressed differently.
"The ReFINE Consortium, which is funded by Research Councils UK as well as industry, is addressing these in a neutral and objective manner seeking objective evidence-based answers to a number of important questions.
"Keele University is an important member of this consortium, as research carried out over many decades by the Applied and Environmental Geophysics Group (KAEGG) and its forerunners have unparalleled experience (including monitoring the very first fracking which ever took place in the UK as long ago as 1988) in understanding the microseismic (small earthquakes) which occur during rock deformation. Rather than fearing these small events, Keele has been using them as tools to map, interrogate and manage the stress fields in the earth so that processes such as mining, hydrocarbon extraction and hydraulic stimulation can be carried out safely and in controlled environmentally secure manner. KAEGG also has long experience of numerical modelling of geomechanical processes including environmental aspects of rock failure, mining and wind-farm vibrations.
"The REFINE consortium will work collaboratively across institutions but Keele will lead two current projects addressing the following issues:
‘How far must we be from a fault during hydraulic stimulation and shale gas extraction’
‘How can we maximise the efficiency and minimise impact of hydraulic stimulation’ (Where does all the energy go?)
and will produce peer-reviewed, open-access journal articles on these at the end of the projects to inform the geoscience community."
An event to mark the official launch will take place this evening at the Geological Society in London. Featuring a discussion and audience Q&A around the topic ‘How to get more evidence into the European debate on fracking?’, the panel comprises UK- and EU-based representatives from industry, the government and academia, covering the spectrum of ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ viewpoints.
Professor Richard Davies, project lead of ReFINE, said: “I am delighted to be leading the ReFINE project. Over the past few years, after visiting many countries across Europe, I have met with an increasing number of scientists and academics who are asking good questions about the process of shale gas and oil exploitation. I am convinced that we need to bring scientists from across the globe to work on this and build a better understanding of the science and thereby make a contribution to the quality of information in the public domain for policy makers, industry, civil society and the general public.”
Professor John Loughhead, Chair of ReFINE’s Independent Science Board, added: “The ReFINE consortium is the first of its kind globally and has a great opportunity to generate authoritative evidence to inform the debate around shale gas or oil exploitation in Europe. ReFINE is overseen by an Independent Science Board made up of academics from across Europe which will ensure that the research is high quality, relevant and free from any industry bias.”
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ReFINE is an independent research consortium led by Durham Energy Institute, one of eight Research Institutes at Durham University. The consortium focuses on the issue of shale gas and oil exploitation using fracking methods and its potential risks.
Launched in 2013, ReFINE was formed after trans-European discussions between scientists, policy-makers and the petroleum industry during 2011-2012 identified the need for unbiased research into shale gas exploitation.
The consortium, led by Professor Richard Davies of Durham University, and in conjunction with Newcastle, Heriot-Watt and Keele universities, adheres to strict impartiality with research prioritised by an Independent Science Board (ISB), chaired by Professor John Loughhead.
The consortium is funded by the Natural Energy Research Council, Shell, Total and Chevron with the Environment Agency, DECC and the European Commission Joint Research Centre participating in an advisory-stakeholder capacity. The consortium has the support of organisations such as the Geological Society of London, the Bulgarian Geological Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
For more information, please visit www.refine.org.uk or @ReFINEresearch.