Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a type of drilling using cutting-edge technologies which is mostly responsible for surging US oil and natural gas production. But it’s also causing a public health problem.
Noise pollution caused by the fracking industry could cause sleep deprivation, stress and heart disease, according to a study by health experts.
The research was conducted by universities and research institutes across the US and found that the noise levels from fracking operations were causing a public health hazard.
“Policies and mitigation techniques that limit human exposure to noise from oil and gas operations should be considered to reduce health risks,” they concluded.
What’s that sound?
Noise pollution is defined as the distressing noise that may harm the physical/mental activity of human being as well as animal life.
It may be continuous or intermittent as well as may be of high frequency or of low frequency.
Drilling horizontal fracking wells makes a continual loud noise for four or five weeks while gas compressor stations produce a low rumble. Using large volumes of water at high pressure results in pump and fluid sounds.
Hydraulic fracturing is the biggest single reason America is having an energy revolution right now, one that has changed the US energy picture from scarcity to abundance.
Fracking is letting the US tap vast oil and natural gas reserves that previously were locked away in shale and other tight-rock formations.
Up to 95% of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.
Strike a balance
Right now, fracking is causing a storm in the UK.
Energy companies want to frack for underground shale gas across a large part of central Scotland but their plans have been obstructed by a moratorium imposed by the Scottish Government for the last two years.
This week Scottish ministers are expected to launch a public consultation into fracking, with a decision due on its future before the end of the year.
Campaigners are calling for a permanent ban, but the industry is pushing for a go-ahead.
Unwanted noise is likely to form part of the debate.
One of the main companies keen to frack central Scotland is the Swiss-based petrochemical giant, INEOS, which operates plants at Grangemouth.
Richard Longden, the company’s communications manager, said: “Noise is a feature of any construction activity and the impacts and mitigation measures are assessed within the planning system.”
Keep it down
UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), which represents the fracking industry, has pointed out that operators are subject to noise limits and prepared plans to manage noise.
One option to reduce the impact of noise on nearby communities would be the use of acoustic barriers.
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