International Energy Agency Calls for More Transparency in Shale Gas Extraction

  • Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drill rig used in the Marcellus Shale.

The International Energy Agency has released guidelines for unconventional natural gas extraction, which includes horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing. The report, “Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas,” emphasizes transparency, and the importance of monitoring environmental and social impacts of gas drilling. IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven says drilling can be done without serious harm to the environment.

“But if the social and environmental impacts are not addressed properly,” said van der Hoeven in a release, “there is a very real possibility that public opposition to drilling for shale gas and other types of unconventional gas will halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks. The industry must win public confidence by demonstrating exemplary performance; governments must ensure that appropriate policies and regulatory regimes are in place.”

Authors of the report say following the “Golden Rules” will increase the cost of production by an average of 7 percent. The recommendations include mandatory baseline testing for local water and air quality, along with periodic tests throughout the extraction process that would monitor air and water quality. The IEA says these results should be made public. The IEA has also called for full disclosure of chemicals used, and their quantities.
Drilling sites should also be carefully selected based on geological and seismic surveys. The IEA says governments should implement “robust” rules for well design, construction and cementing. Drillers are also urged to re-use as much frack water as possible, and build water pipes to minimize the use of trucks for transport. Zero venting of methane is also recommended, along with a minimum of flaring. When it comes to drilling in new areas, the IEA says local communities should be given a realistic picture of how the development will progress, and the impacts that will be felt.
To watch today’s full presentation of the IEA’s recommendations on YouTube, click here.
The American Petroleum Institute released a statement supporting the IEA’s “Golden Rules.”
“The release of this draft report offers an opportunity for global conversation on the best ways to continue responsible and efficient development of energy from shale,” said API’s Erik Milito.
Earlier this month, a coalition of investor groups published a guide on what should be done to reduce the environmental and social risks of fracking. The report, “Extracting the Facts” looks at the entire industrial footprint associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking refers to one stage in oil and natural gas drilling that uses high-pressured water, sand and chemicals to break up underground rock formations to release fossil fuels. But the term has also become shorthand for the entire gas drilling process.