Periodic Reporting for period 2 - M4ShaleGas (M4ShaleGas: Measuring, monitoring, mitigating managing the environmental impact of shale gas)
Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-11-30
Shale gas is a natural gas trapped in shale, a fine grained sedimentary rock mainly composed of clay, quartz and carbonate minerals. Shale gas source rocks are widely distributed around the world. Many countries have recently started to investigate their shale gas potential, while some have initiated shale gas exploitation. The European Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies gas a critical energy source for the transformation of the energy system to a system with lower CO2 footprint that combines gas with increasing contributions of renewable energy while increasing energy efficiency. It may be argued that in Europe, natural gas replacing coal and oil will contribute to reduction of CO2 emissions on the short and medium terms. The accelerated worldwide development of shale gas is accompanied by growing public concern regarding the impact of shale gas on human health, safety, environment and social acceptance. Local concerns include potential risks of water contamination and induced seismicity that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing operations.
In M4ShaleGas research on potential impacts and risks is clustered in four areas of impact: subsurface, surface, atmosphere and society. Europe has a strong need for a comprehensive understanding of potential environmental, societal and economic consequences of shale gas exploration and exploitation. Knowledge gaps include (1) the understanding of differences between Europe and North America resulting from differences in geological and geopolitical settings, (2) quantitative risk assessments and risk mitigation procedures being specific for Europe, and (3) the identification of best practices in North America and their potential application in Europe. Knowledge should be science-based, should be (co-)developed by research institutes with a strong track record in shale gas studies, and should cover the different attitudes and approaches to shale gas exploration and exploitation in Europe. M4ShaleGas key task was to close knowledge gaps and provide new insights in an accessible scientific knowledge base
Apart from these technical risks, risks associated with absence of a social license to operate have found to depend on complex relations between public perceptions and shale gas operations, and more systematic studies are warranted. Although direct application to Europe is not meaningful due to a lack of data and different settings, the analysis can prioritize regulations and risk mitigation measures.
Risks assessment was based on a framework that consists of three components: (1) a Markov Chain-type approach to describe the transition from a properly operating shale gas well (base state) to absorbing states where incidents have caused contamination of shallow aquifers or problematic seismicity, (2) a bow-tie approach to describe incidents that lead to a transition between states in terms of its causes and effects with associated preventive and control measures, and (3) a risk assessment matrix that classifies risks according to their probability of incident occurrence and effects. Probabilities of incidents occurrence and effects of incidents are based on the review of data from shale gas operations in the U.S.A. and Canada.
The project team will also formulate best practice recommendations which will be provided as short fact sheets. The factsheet collection contains 19 sheets giving a compact but comprehensive overview on shale gas-related issues of subsurface, surface, atmospheric and societal themes.
Knowledge generated in M4ShaleGas has also been published in scientific peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, including: Nature Energy, Global Environmental Change, Energy Procedia, Proceedings of the US Rock Mechanics / Geomechanics Symposium, Science of the Total Environment.