How is flowback wastewater dealt with?


When fracking has taken place, pressure at the surface is reduced and gas flows up the well along with some of the injected fracking fluid. This fluid is known as "returned waters" or "flowback". 

It is possible to clean this up on site and use it again in further fracking operations, but when it no longer has a use, it becomes a waste. As well as the constituents of the original fracking fluid, it will also contain metals and minerals from the shale rock, including a very small amount of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material or NORM. 

Flowback wastewater has to be stored on site in sealed, above-ground tanks fitted with something known as secondary spill containment - so if a tank leaks, the contents are captured. The use of large ponds or lagoons, which are common in the US, are not permitted in the UK and so will not be seen. 

The flowback wastewater will be collected in road tankers and transported to industrial waste facilities to be treated and disposed of in a way that means it can eventually be put back into the water cycle again. 

Fracking wastewater will be securely stored and properly treated for disposal, using tried-and-tested techniques.