Critique of ‘What is Fracking’, written by Dr Tim Thornton

(By Ken Wilkinson BSc and 12 years experience as an engineer on oil rigs. comments in red italics)

Available on


  • ‘Each white spot is frack pad the size of around two football pitches’
  • and ‘The industry standard for frack pad spacing is 8 per square mile’

Incorrect. This is nothing like what is proposed, anywhere in the UK. Wellpad spacing of 5km with 2.5 km laterals (horizontal wells) mean a very small surface impact. If there are 20 or more wells on a pad, all the better. Huge amounts of gas from a small pad that will produce for decades.


  • ‘Flaring. If the gas leaks are of high volume it will trigger flaring, noisy, bright and capable of liberating chemicals’.

Incorrect. There will be no flaring at KM, as there is an existing pipeline network to do a ‘green completion’

Any flaring anyway is done in enclosed high efficiency low noise burners that emit water and CO2 and nothing else. Required by EA.


  • ‘in UK there is no regulatory framework for modern style fracking onshore’

Incorrect.  See any number of ‘Facts about Fracking’ leaflets from UK Govt. Also this training PPT for the EA indicates this has been designed for UK onshore shale industry specifically. and this link


  • ‘The Environment Agency neither has the experience, training or staff to monitor’.

Incorrect. There is a dedicated shale gas team set up, and inspection and licencing is done with a joint arrangement with the HSE.


  • ‘The traffic movement for a single frack pad are highly intrusive. Huge lorries and country lanes do not mix. Repair bills for the council or new roads established’.

Really? So how did the 8 wells in Kirby Misperton get drilled with no one noticing?


  • ‘The chemicals that are injected include many that are toxic, some cause cancer and others interfere with hormones in humans’.

Incorrect.  Chemicals are required to be ‘non hazardous’ and they have to be declared. That has always been the case, with all drilling information, for decades in the UK. You are looking at the US experience that is totally different. See para 4 of


  • ‘Heavy metals are hard to clear from the body or environment while the gasses can cause nerve and brain damage’.

True,  re heavy metals but they will not impact anyone! Gases cause nerve damage? Really? Which ones? Total gas security is required. That is why the disposal of these materials is so heavily regulated. Do you really think it will be dumped in a river without licence? No other industry can do that?


  • ‘Hydrogen Fluoride is one of the most dangerous chemicals known’.

And it has been used safely in industry for decades.


  • ‘All gas wells leak given time, gas has the urge to go up. 6% of wells leak immediately after drilling, 60% after 15 years’.

You do not appear to understand the difference between a barrier leak and an integrity leak. Currently in the UK out of 8500+ wells, none are leaking. See


  • ‘At low levels methane and other gasses contribute to smog production. Even rural areas can end up with city centre smog levels and the attendant health impacts’.

None noted in EIAs done for other companies. All indicate ‘low or insignificant impact’


‘Given the methane leaks, the overall carbon footprint of fracked gas is worse than a coal power station’

Nonsense. This is based on the dated Howarth study, funded by the anti-lobby. See a proper review of risks on

There are many other studies that have shown leaks in the US to be a reducing problem.


  • ‘There is no known way to clean up the water that comes back out of the ground from fracking’

Poppycock. Check with Lee Petts of Remsol. There are many ways to clean up the fluid, prior to disposal under licence. Much will be reinjected anyway, on the next frack job. Disposal has to meet requirements of the EA licencing.


  • ‘With fracking you have to guess at the details of the rock formations, faulting and communication pathways. You only become aware of a problem when its too late, but then only if you test, test, test. Which they don’t in USA’ .

Incorrect. You clearly do not have a clue about seismic surveys, well logging, measurement while drilling etc. Are you not aware that microseismic monitoring is carried out? That measures the underground progress of a frack job in real time. 


  • ‘At every step on the way there is real or theoretical risk to the environment, wildlife, animals and humans’.

So it’s a good job that the various agencies (HSE, EA, BGS,  HPE, DECC etc) have looked at this in great detail and in all aspects. There are risks with anything, but these have been looked at and are low risk.

It’s also good that these risks were all identified by the Royal Academy of Engineering report into shale gas. See

Similarly the Scottish Govt also had an expert review, as have dozens of other US States, all of Europes geological societies, the European Science Advisory Council (EASAC), etc .


  • Many believe we should study all the data and conduct further scientific research before experimenting in the UK.

Many may well believe this, but that research has all been done. See above.


  • Do we need to experiment in the UK where the rocks are even more faulted (cracked) than in USA so more likely to connect upwards and sideways?

The experts say it is safe, the science has been done. I gather you have had some of this advice from the discredited and out of touch ex professor and B and B specialaist David Smythe (retired 18 years). See

And a review by a current expert in the field, Dr James Verdon.


There is a lot of other well documented information on many aspects of concern in


Critique by

Ken Wilkinson BSc Hons Manchester University 1971/74. Oil rig engineer, (Wireline) for Schlumberger and Halliburton for 12 years.(74 to 89 with a break). I was the most senior engineer in my last post, dealing with problem wells and customers. 

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