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Canadian scientists warn against shale gas

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Cumulative effect of hundreds of wells could be ignored, says report

Researchers from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, have warned that the cumulative impact of shale gas developments is not being considered and guarded against.

In a study published today in ‘Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment’, the researchers conclude that scientists, industry and government must collaborate in order to minimise damage to the environment from shale gas developments.

Viorel Popescu, a research fellow in Simon Fraser University’s Biological Sciences Department, said: “Think about the landscape and its habitats as a canvas. At first, the first well pads, roads and pipelines from shale development seem like tiny holes and cuts. But if you look at a heavily developed landscape down the road, you see more cuts and holes than natural habitats. Forests or grasslands are now islands fragmented by a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads.”

The report also says the prevention of chemical contamination should also be a top priority. According to the study, shale-drilling operations have increased by more than 700% in the last seven years, but accurate data on the chemicals used for fracturing and records of spills and wastewater disposal is lacking.

The researchers reviewed the disclosure statements of 150 shale wells in the three top-gas producing US states and found that two out of every three wells was fractured with at least one undisclosed chemical and that some used more than 20 undisclosed chemicals. 

Maureen Ryan, a biology research associate from Simon Fraser University, said: “Past lessons from large scale resource extraction have shown us that development that outpaces our understanding can have dire unintended consequences. It’s our responsibility to look forward and evaluate ecological impacts holistically.” 
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