In 2012, a ban was lifted allowing the polarising process that is fracking for the first time in the UK. Then, last October the UK government approved plans for fracking in Lancashire in what was seen as a landmark ruling. But what is fracking?
What is it?
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is used to extract oil and gas from shale rock. The process involves drilling down into the earth before water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure. This then allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well, with the term ‘fracking’ referring to how the rock fractures apart by the high-pressure mixture.
Natural gas has become a necessary resource for modern life, with millions of people worldwide reliant on this energy source. Fracking is one of a number of ways to extract gas from the ground and in countries such as the US, has had a positive effect, boosting domestic oil production. Through fracking America has been able to reduce their reliance on imported foreign energy and have become a more self-sufficient country.
The industry suggests that fracking could contribute in the same way to the UK’s future energy needs and ensuring our gas security. For instance, it’s estimated that there could be as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying under 11 counties in central and northern England alone. This estimate would equate to more than 51 years of gas supply for the UK.
The process of fracking could lock the UK into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels, at a time when environmentalists are pushing towards renewable energy resources. The debate rages in the areas local to the proposed fracking sites. Concerns have been raised about the environment being damaged by the impact of the chemicals and pressures used. For example, according the research in the US, up to 16% of hydraulically fractured oil and gas well spill liquids every year.
Whether you are team frack on or frack off, what if there was a compromise? It’s been said that fracking could be done safely in the UK with ‘rigorous regulation’ and that it could help cut emissions by replacing more polluting coal. A win-win situation?
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