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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Issue 7. The development of fracked wells will increase road traffic with heavy goods vehicles

Yes. But the increase in traffic will normally be a small fraction of the current road usage and in most cases insignificant.

Let me go back to the drilling pad mentioned in Issue 6; the two hectare pad producing up to 126.2 bcf of gas, powering 747,000 homes and using 544 megalitres of water. It has been estimated that such a pad will generate 11,155-31,288 HGV movements over 20 years, depending on whether the water comes from a mains connection or is brought in by tanker (Source: IoD).

It is reasonable to assume that the great majority of vehicle movements are concentrated in the early years of drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity, which averages out at 6.1-17.1 movements per day over five years.

What would be the impact of such an addition?

One way would be to wait beside a road. Not a big road, nor yet a small road, but one that might be considered typical. Wait and count the passing of between 6 and 17 vehicles between the size of a long wheel-base delivery van and a trailer lorry. Then decide what impact their passing had on you on that day. Then consider that you have waited for them to pass you all in one go, and that their passing would probably have less impact spread throughout the day. Of course, night-time movements might have more impact, but it is likely that restrictions would be put on such movements by the exploration company in agreement with local planning and licensing, as has recently been the case at Balcombe.

Balcombe: A case study

Let’s look at the way that Balcombe Parish Council approached the problem of traffic before they allowed exploration there as a case study (Source: Fracking - A report on the risks and benefits associated with the proposed exploration for oil at Lower Stumble, Balcombe, Commisioned by Balcombe Parish Council, May 2012).

Having recognised the possible impact of extra traffic through the village on life in Balcombe, a working party from the Parish Council obtained surveys of the normal traffic through the village and found that about 10,000 vehicles pass per day, of which the morning rush hour provided the heaviest traffic, and the busiest road (the London road) upon which a school stands had about 4000 vehicles per day, of which about 200 were HGVs, which they calculated by using national road statistics.

During the initial seven to eleven week exploration phase of the development, Cuadrilla estimated an extra 30 HGVs per day for two weeks followed by an extra 10 per day for the remaining five to nine weeks. That amounts to an increase of 15% for 2 weeks and 5% for the remainder. In that time there would also be approximately 30 additional light vehicles per day, amounting to an increase of 0.8% in light vehicle traffic over the existing 3800 per day.

If the exploration well shows economically producible gas, further wells would be drilled and then fractured hydraulically. This would require access for tankers to deliver water and to take away waste fluids for recycling, as well as deliveries of fuel and chemicals. Each well would take 6 weeks to drill and fracture, and need 300 to 600 HGVs, averaging about 20 HGVs per day (i.e., a 1o% increase on the background HGV traffic).

After drilling and fracking, there would only be a need for one tanker visit per well per day to take away the oil (a 0.5% increase in long term HGV traffic).

So, increasing traffic does occur, but is generally a small fraction of existing traffic and quite manageable if not insignificant.

Ironically, recent road blockages by protestors at the site have increased the number of HGV movements themselves by up to three fold because arriving lorries have had to be turned away to return when the site entrance has been unblocked.

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