Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

The potential for spills and leaks of contaminated liquids from shale gas developments

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah Clancy, Professor Richard DaviesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Authors Rapid growth of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas within the USA and the possibility of shale developments within Europe has created public concern about the risks of spills and leaks associated with the industry. Reports from the Texas Railroad Commission (1999 to 2015) and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (2009 to 2015) were used to examine spill rates from oil and gas well pads. Pollution incident records for England and road transport incident data for the UK were examined as an analogue for potential offsite spills associated with transport for a developing shale industry. The Texas and Colorado spill data shows that the spill rate on the well pads has increased over the recorded time period. The most common spill cause was equipment failure. Within Colorado 33% of the spills recorded were found during well pad remediation and random site inspections. Based on data from the Texas Railroad Commission, a UK shale industry developing well pads with 10 lateral wells would likely experience a spill for every 16 well pads developed. The same well pad development scenario is estimated to require at least 2856 tanker movements over two years per well pad. Considering this tanker movement estimate with incident and spill frequency data from UK milk tankers, a UK shale industry would likely experience an incident on the road for every 12 well pads developed and a road spill for every 19 well pads developed. Consequently, should a UK shale industry be developed it is important that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place to minimise the risk of spills associated with well pad activities and fluid transportation movements.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clancy SA, Worrall F, Davies RJ, Gluyas JG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2018

Volume: 626

Pages: 1463-1473

Print publication date: 01/06/2018

Online publication date: 15/02/2018

Acceptance date: 18/01/2018

Date deposited: 19/03/2018

ISSN (print): 0048-9697

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1026

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.


DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.01.177


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric