Last week the UK Onshore Operators Group (“UKOOG”) signed a memorandum of understanding (“MoU”) with Water UK, its water and wastewater sector counterpart. The MoU aims to minimise the effects of onshore oil and gas activity on the UK’s water resources. UKOOG believes it will lead to better environmental practices and greater public confidence in onshore development, particularly shale gas exploration and production.

The MoU follows a recent review by Water UK of reports on shale gas extraction. Water UK has now confirmed its belief that potential risks to water and wastewater can be mitigated by cooperation between the water and oil and gas industries, combined with effective regulation.

Following the MoU, members of UKOOG and Water UK will work together to identify the risks inherent in onshore extraction, and to form plans for the mitigation and, where possible, removal of those risks.

A Briefing Paper published by Water UK the day before signing the MoU highlighted some “key areas of interest” to be targeted by the industry bodies.
These include:

  • Baseline monitoring requirements for all onshore development, to assess impacts on the quality and quantity of local water resources
  • Plans relating to site water management, especially water reuse, to improve the understanding of local impacts
  • Analysis of onshore development plans, including scenarios for expansion of exploration and development within a local area, to evaluate the impact on short and long-term demand for water at specific locations
  • Expected volumes, and chemical and biological composition, of waste water, including review of preferred disposal routes

The MoU has been welcomed by the Government. Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, described the development as “encouraging”, commenting that: “It is crucial that shale gas is developed safely and the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the water industry and operators today is a significant step forward in ensuring this.”