Fracking is a controversial subject, especially in the UK where the government have recently allowed it to take place in Lancashire. So what is it? Basically, it stands for hydraulic fracturing. It’s a technique that can be used to get oil and gas from Shale. The process is pretty effective. It involves drilling into the ground and then injecting various chemicals into the ground at high pressure forcing the gas to the top of the hole for extraction.
It’s called fracking due to the fractures made in the rock caused by the high-pressure mixture that is used. There are two ways of doing this, it can be done horizontally or vertically.
Part of the controversy surrounding the technique is that it can lead to earthquakes. Richard Davies, pro-vice-chancellor for engagement and internationalisation at Newcastle University explained why, stating that the issues arise when it takes place near a geological fault. He explained how the process of fracking is similar to how a hovercraft works, in so much as they pump air in order to make a surface that slips over land easily. This is the case with the fluids used for fracking. They are pumped into the fault and this can cause the rock to slip more easily. This coupled with the extra pressure on the fault can cause shifts which can be felt as earthquakes.
The different political parties all shared their views in their previous manifestos in the build-up to the general election. They were very concise and clear on how they wanted to proceed.
Labour said they would seek to ban the process. Barry Gardiner, Shadow Minister for International Climate Change, told the Labour Party conference that it should be banned in the UK as it will tie us to using fossil fuels for the foreseeable future when the country should be moving towards using more renewable energy sources.
The conservative party have gone in the other direction looking to support fracking:
They cite primarily the positive impact that fracking has had on the US economy. Being able to access gas so readily has driven down the price and therefore had a net positive gain. These costs haven’t just been passed on to businesses either with consumers seeing a reduction in their fuel bills. They have stated that in using fracking we will become less reliant on imports and more independent as a result.
The Liberal Democrats have also opposed fracking due to the effects it could have on climate change and the environment.
So why is fracking being supported by the UK government?
As always it comes down to money. Fracking is an efficient way to get at gas in the US it has had a positive effect on their economy and so Britain wants to follow suit.
Studies have suggested that there is potentially enough gas in the UK (primarily in 11 counties) to keep it supplied for more than fifty years.
Obviously having all that excess gas would be a boon for our economy just like it was in the US. Plus creating a shale mining industry would create thousands of jobs. So why is it controversial?
Shake, rattle and roll
The main concerns are for the environment. During testing in Lancashire, there were two earthquakes and it is generally considered these were caused by the fracking tests. As Lancashire isn’t exactly famed for its earthquakes.
Plus there is a large amount of water used during fracking it is worried that contaminants involved in the process could end up in water supplies nearby and be hazardous to local wildlife.
So there are the arguments for and against. What are your thoughts? Why not let us know?