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Environmental responsibility

The energy industry remains focused on making sure every step of the natural gas production process — from set-up to drilling to fracturing to producing — is conducted safely and responsibly.

The industry has used hydraulic fracturing on more than one million wells over the course of 60 years.

Safety and environmental plans are rigorously implemented and the industry seeks continuous improvements. Extra steps are taken to ensure the safety of employees and the members of the communities in which they operate. Throughout the entire unconventional gas life cycle — from exploration to decommissioning — care is taken to minimize the disruption to the communities in which industry operates and to protect the environment.

Protecting the community

European unconventional gas development offers local communities not only security of energy supply, but also significant economic and environmental benefits. In addition, local communities are considered an essential contributor to the unconventional gas development process.

Engaging in a dialogue with local communities in the area of a potential drilling site at every stage of extraction operations is vital to ensuring community confidence that unconventional gas can be produced safely and responsibly. Transparency regarding the exploration and extraction of unconventional gas ensures open discussion about environmental protection and risk management, and the potential benefits of shale development in Europe.

Before any wells are drilled, extensive surveillance, monitoring and seismic analysis are carried out to study the locations of the underground natural gas reservoir and the nature of the local topography to ensure the minimal impact of operations on the local community.

To minimize traffic disruptions, trucks used to carry equipment and hydraulic fracturing fluid are brought in during the day, at off-peak times. Though the noise levels from the site are well within the permitted range, noise barriers are sometimes set up around the perimeter of the area to reduce sound levels even further. Once an unconventional gas well is producing, it is extremely compact and quiet.

Protecting local communities by extracting unconventional gas responsibly means that industry aims to leave as small a surface footprint as possible over the shortest period of time possible, as well as ensuring that local water infrastructure and supplies are not impacted by extraction operations.

The development of better public information related to unconventional gas production and the sharing of industry experience and knowledge with policymakers, regulators and communities are essential elements in the development of unconventional gas.

Protecting the groundwater

Hydraulic fracturing used for the extraction of unconventional gas occurs far below the deepest potable groundwater aquifers; deposits are located one to three kilometers below these and all responsible operators implement a series of precautionary measures to ensure risk is removed. Additionally, fresh water monitoring is conducted before and after operations to ensure that there has been no impact. More about water safety.

Protecting the landscape

Viable sources of unconventional gas can sometimes be found in small, isolated zones within a few meters of each other. During the drilling stage, a vertical wellbore is typically drilled two to two and a half kilometers below the surface. Multiple horizontal deviations can then be drilled to reach the different gas reservoirs.