6 Nov 2011

Fracking not a danger, says industry body

9:00 pm on 6 November 2011

A body representing the minerals and mining sector is calling for calm over a controversial extraction technique.

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, injects a mix of water, sand and chemicals into wells at extreme pressure to break open cracks in oil-and-gas-bearing rocks.

A study in Britain has found it is highly probable that fracking triggered minor earth tremors near the seaside resort of Blackpool.

Community group Climate Justice Taranaki is concerned about the toxic chemicals used in the process polluting soil and groundwater.

Chief executive of industry body Straterra Chris Baker says fracking is a proven engineering technology and there is legislation to manage the risks.

He says there needs to be some informed debate rather than the constant outpouring of ill-informed and misleading comment.

Mr Baker says fracking is not widely used in New Zealand, but it could be in the future to get a greater yield from oil and gas resources.

However, petroleum geosciences expert Rosemary Quinn says fracking operations must be designed and monitored to ensure they do not present an undue risk to people and resources.

She says more than 15,000 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or larger are recorded in New Zealand each year and that induced seismic activity associated with fracking is usually measured at a much lower level, of about 1.5 or two.

"That's not to say that fracking doesn't cause seismic activity, it does and that's understood in the scientific community. But the level of seismic activity induced is generally not significant enough to either injure people or to cause damage to property."