Hydraulic Fracking Report

Oct 25, 2016 – SWAN launched research on impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water in time for crucial Dáil debate

The launch of “Hydraulic Fracturing ─ Interactions with the Water Framework Directive & Groundwater Directive and Implications for the Status of Ireland’s Waters” took place in Dublin at Buswells Hotel, and was attended by TDs, their representatives, SWAN members and media representatives. SWAN Coordinator Sinead O’Brien chaired, while one of the report’s lead authors, Dr. Kieran Craven, presented key findings.

The report demonstrates numerous documented impacts on water attributed to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, and found risks of water contamination related to hydraulic connectivity, well integrity, disposal and spillage of wastewater, impacts associated with water abstraction, and the potential legacy impacts of abandoned wells. The report also outlined legislative gaps and the fact that Ireland’s regulatory system is not set up in such a way as to properly oversee and control the added risks of a shale gas industry.

Key findings include:

  • There are numerous documented impacts on water bodies attributed to shale-gas activities, including increases in concentrations of salinity, methane, heavy metals, naturally occurring radioactive material and reduction in water body levels;
  • Many impacts arise due to contamination from well-casing leaks; leaks through fractured rocks; transportation spills and disposal and spillage of inadequately treated wastewater;
  • Gaps in legislation and inadequate regulatory capacity mean Ireland would not be in a position to adequately regulate the industry.

SWAN also announced the release of its position paper, ‘Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas on Water Resources’, which concludes that, based on research showing significant risk of serious impacts to the water environment, as well as legislative inadequacies and a regulatory system not fit for purpose, hydraulic fracturing in Ireland should be immediately and permanently prohibited by way of primary legislation.

Speaking at the launch, Dr. Kieran Craven said,

“Our research shows that over the past decade there have been many documented impacts to water bodies arising from shale-gas activities. Degradation of the water environment has occurred in regions of the US, where regulation has typically lagged behind industry. Based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, it is our view that many of these potential impacts would lead to the pollution of both surface and groundwater in the proposed regions of Ireland.”

Sinead O’Brien continued,

“We commissioned this work because we were naturally concerned about potential issues that fracking might pose for Ireland’s waters and wanted an objective review of documented impacts in countries where fracking was already happening. We knew this was an emotive issue and were aware anecdotally of problems in the US, but we were really taken aback by the level and range of risk that this academic study found. And this risk arises throughout the entire life cycle of a shale gas well, at every stage, from the initial hydraulic fracturing to the storage and discharge of wastewater and the enduring problems posed by abandoned wells.”

The launch coincided with the Dáil debate on a Private Member’s Bill to prohibit petroleum exploration and extraction from shale rock, tight sands and coal seams, put forward by Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin. One of the benefits of this was that SWAN’s research could bring to the debate evidence pertaining to the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality.

Following the launch, the SWAN report received media coverage and was referenced in the Dáil debate. On October 27, the Bill passed to the next stage.


SWAN Documents

Read the report in full

Read SWAN’s position paper

Press release


The SWAN report and proposed fracking ban in the media:

‘Fracking poses threat to purity of Irish aquifers’

‘Bill to ban fracking looks set to be voted through the Dáil’

‘With no established industry, let’s ban fracking before it begins’

‘Friends of the Earth press release’

‘Ireland takes major step towards nationwide fracking ban’