Friday, September 19, 2014

Study on health effects: power Fracking sick? – Business Week

Marc Etzold

U.S. researchers warn in a new study from the health risks posed by fracking. The results are controversial. But what does the American investigation for Germany?

For Fracking opponents of the study is another argument why the technology should be banned. However, the researchers

But one doubt yourself, what are the causes of the complaints by:. For the study the diseases of 492 people in 180 randomly selected households in Pennsylvania were statistically verified. In the southwest of the federal state, there are about 600 gas wells.

In the hydraulic fracturing process briefly Fracking, rock is in 1000 to 5000 meters depth using a mixture of water, sand chemicals and broken under high pressure and gas recovered from the deep layers. In the United States, the technology has led to a boom of these so-called unconventional promotion.

What behind “fracking” plugged

  • “fracking” – controversial production of natural gas

    The controversial “fracking” has been used for several decades for extracting natural gas from rock pores. In the “hydraulic fracturing” rock is broken up in 1000 to 5000 meters depth with high hydraulic pressure.

  • Artificial flow paths

    In order to extract the gas, artificial flow paths are created. To a liquid mixture of water, sand, chemicals, and is pressed into the ground, so that cracks occur in the rock. Through them, the gas escapes and finally comes to the surface.

  • risk for groundwater

    Among the chemicals are also hazardous substances that may endanger people and the environment if not properly used. Critics point out that the chemical cocktail in Bohrpannen or piercing of water tanks can reach the groundwater. Also, the Federal Environment Agency expresses concerns.

  • controllability of the process

    energy companies such as ExxonMobil other hand, emphasize the controllability of the process: Each intervention (” frac “) will separated by a stable coating of the bore of the environment

  • deposits in Germany

    In Germany the gas is “unconventional deposits” before especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, North Hessen and the Upper Rhine Graben suspected.

  • … and in the world

    the world’s largest mineral reserves, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s China, then come the USA and Argentina. In the United States, energy prices have collapsed by the massive development of gas reserves – but there are reports of massive ecological consequences

39 percent of those who live less than a kilometer from fracking wells had to fight with respiratory diseases – including cough and itchy eyes. Those who live two kilometers away, lamented to 18 percent over the symptoms. Also skin irritation occurred frequently. 13 percent of those who live within a radius of two kilometers had to fight with it. For those who lived further away, it was only three percent.

The authors of the study are aware of deficiencies in the study. So the residents were examined around the drilling sites not by doctors. They reported the health problems themselves – without verification by professionals. Moreover, it is possible, as the scientists that the disease can be attributed to other causes.


The controversial extraction of shale gas is intensively discussed. Now the Federal Environment Agency wants to make the so-called fracking virtually impossible. The risks of technology are considered to be high.

Dietrich Borchardt from the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research had in the years 2011 and 2012 a large-scale study on the environmental risk of fracking technology performed. He questions the validity of the U.S. investigation. In view of the small data base they could “be understood as an indication of the maximum,” says Borchardt. The health problems may have come from other factors materialize, for example by smoking or allergies: “We do not know simply.”

Frank Umbach by the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security, King’s College in London also criticized that the regulatory conditions and requirements for safety and environmental protection in the individual gas fields are not specified. Most risks were not related to the fracking technology itself, but with the production of oil and gas in general. “The health problems may also be due to conventional oil and gas subsidies or other mining activities.”

Ulf Sieberg from Naturschutzbund Nabu do not want this argument can apply. “If we are not sure hinbekommen conventional gas production, we can not allow fracking,” he says. For him, the U.S. health study is a further argument why fracking is not allowed in Germany.

For Frank Umbach from King’s College emerge, however little evidence for Germany. “In this country, the risk that the groundwater is contaminated by chemicals, much lower than in the United States.” This shale gas befände is usually far deeper below the water table than in the United States.

The “Handelsblatt” had recently reported that it was the American oil company Exxon succeeded in producing a fracturing fluid without toxic chemicals. New laws (both SPD) are currently drafting of Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel would, however, amount to a prohibition of commercial shale gas production in Germany.

Fracking expert Dietrich Borchardt can not understand: “Under certain conditions Fracking is a technology that can be applied without major risks,” he argues. However, there is a large discrepancy between the scientific and the political assessment of the technology

With regard to the security of supply Borchardt warns of a fracking ban. “If the energy change is to succeed, Germany is dependent on domestic gas resources. “According to estimates of the Federal Institute for Geosciences are about 1300 cubic meters of natural gas in the ground, which could be promoted by fracking. So that could be something for 13 years, the total gas demand in Germany cover.

Later this month, want the Federal Minister Gabriel and Hendricks their bill on Fracking submit. That the underground gas deposits are exploited in the future is not likely.


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