What is hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'?
Fracking is the hydraulic fracturing of tight geological formations to release hydrocarbons. In other words, they shoot water or diesel along with sand and chemicals at high pressure into substrata to crack the rock and get more oil and gas out. It’s a technique used to extract ‘unconventional’ oil and gas which until recently were deemed too expensive, too difficult or too dangerous to extract.
What's wrong with fracking?
Fracking has some very serious potential environmental impacts including health risks to rig workers and local communities, groundwater aquifer contamination, air pollution, surface water/ground pollution, coastal pollution and even earthquakes. Groundwater contamination occurs because the hydraulic fluid used to fracture the rock contains toxic chemicals that can find their way into aquifers through well casing leaks, 'landfarming' of the waste or through the cracks in the substrata caused when fracking.
Also, the mobilisation of hydrocarbons can result in the release of various toxic naturally occurring chemicals that would otherwise be held in place. This is why there is a moratorium on fracking in many places around the world at the moment, including NSW in Australia, Quebec, parts of the USA, South Africa and France.
Fracking in New Zealand
Fracking has already happened in Taranaki and is increasing in popularity among the growing petroleum industry. It has also been proposed for other parts of the country, including the East Coast and Canterbury.
It’s not well regulated by the Government at the moment because Regional Councils (who have limited resources and expertise) are charged with granting the resource consents and interpreting policy around the activity. Most, if not all, consents are non-notified and until recently fracking was deemed a permitted activity not requiring a consent. Very little is known about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing or the disposal of frack waste in New Zealand but examples overseas have seen devastating effects including the depletion and pollution of Australia's Great Artesian Basin aquifer and the destruction of several rural farms.
Fracking shouldn’t happen until we know more about it and we can PROVE IT'S SAFE and have a proper regulatory regime in place.