Environmental baseline monitoring in Lancashire

Monitoring of methane in groundwater

BGS, along with partners from the Universities of Manchester, York, Birmingham, Bristol and PHE is carrying out a science–based environmental monitoring programme in Fylde, an area of Lancashire where planning applications for the development of shale gas were submitted by Cuadrilla in 2014. Permission for one of two sites was granted in 2016, following appeals and a public enquiry. The outcome of the second appeal is delayed pending a reopening of the public enquiry in 2018. The BGS–led environmental monitoring programme is independent of industry and regulators.

The investigation builds on existing national monitoring programmes for groundwater and seismicity. Monitoring and investigation involves:

The study represents the first independent, integrated monitoring programme to characterise the environmental baseline in an area subjected to close scrutiny in anticipation of the development of a nascent UK shale–gas industry.

The need for an effective baseline and independent monitoring

Over the period from February 2015 and pending the outcome of final appeals, our baseline environmental monitoring programme has continued in order for us to acquire a robust set of water, air, soil and ground baseline measurements. This is providing a vastly improved knowledge base for an area recognised as prospective for shale gas but also of significant public concern.

Should any future gas exploration/development take place in Lancashire or elsewhere in the UK, the data acquired will provide us with a strong evidence base against which to assess any future changes in environmental conditions. Such baseline characterisation was not undertaken during the early stages of unconventional oil and gas development in parts of North America, where recent scientific study has highlighted that problems with lack of regulation and borehole integrity have led to environmental pollution. The monitoring in Fylde will be of value in providing environmental baseline data and its temporal variation, even in the event that future shale–gas exploration does not take place.

Independence from industry and regulators ensures that science outputs are evidence–based and impartial. Information collected from the monitoring programme will be made available to the public through the website and will also support peer-reviewed science.


Contact BGS enquiries for further information.