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What the frack?

Fracking seems to be a hot topic at the moment as North Yorkshire Council gives the go ahead for fracking plans – the first since 2011.

The council’s planning committee voted seven to four in favour of Third Energy to extract shale gas at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. However, hundreds of protesters voiced their anger at the project, with only 36 out of 4,420 individual representations in support of the application, according to a council planning officer. Although, it has caused a bit of a stir in recent news, the technology is not new, it’s been used by the oil and gas industry for years but we’ll have to wait and see what happens given the large intensification of activities now being heavily encouraged by the Government.

Hydraulic fracking, which is more commonly known as fracking, is a process where a high-pressure water mixture is injected into ‘shale’ rock formations to extract gas and oil. Environmental campaigners are against the process as many have expressed concern about the huge amounts of water needed to carry out fracking (generally 2-8 million gallons per project) as well as the risk of causing small earth tremors and the potential escape of carcinogenic chemicals which could contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.


So, with this in mind should the UK welcome fracking?

Dr Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce said,

“Fracking has the potential to play a part in solving the UK’s energy crunch, and create new energy-related jobs in many areas.”

The Government has also supported fracking by saying that it is going “all out for shale” to help boost energy security and the economy. It has already been heavily used in the US and according to the first-ever estimates published on Brookings (Mar 2015), it is predicted that as fracking grows, natural gas prices will also drop.

What does FCI think of fracking?

Geoff Offen, Managing Director of FCI comments on the pros and cons…

The potential exists for Fracking to pollute aquifers and cause ‘flaming rivers and taps’, and we can all see the cases on the internet, but because of high degree of regulation and control and the likely depth of operations in the UK this sort of thing would seem to be a remote risk. It is more likely that earth tremors will occur in previously mined areas where the strata has already been destabilised and movement has occurred at the surface in the past. But then again, if there are any issues of this nature, they will be taken seriously, seismic activity will be monitored and injection will be stopped if tremors exceeds the low thresholds.

The bigger impacts are more likely to be loss of amenity due to surface construction works and the increased traffic to and from the site during construction and during operations, all which will needs to be taken into account in the planning consultation process and any reasonable concerns addressed. On the flip side the shale and gas and oil industry has put together local monetary community benefits packages as well as community royalty shares, so there are some significant overall inducements for accepting the operations to weigh against the amenity impacts.

The geology in the UK is unique to the UK, so rather than extrapolate from historical bad experiences from the USA and other countries, it seems it would be sensible to wait for the evidence from UK exploration and testing study sites before forming any concrete opinions. However, there is certainly the potential for gas from shale to be a highly valuable new energy resource for greater energy security, growth and jobs…

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