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Fracking in the UK- Some political players rally behind the technology
The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process has allowed the use of horizontal drilling in shale rock to open up new gas reserves previously presumed to be technically unrecoverable. The process involves blasting fracking fluid into the drill well which splits the shale into fissures. The process requires a large amount of water, sand, and chemicals. Both shale and coal methane beds have become accessible through this technique. Whilst countries such as the USA, Australia and Poland have been pushing ahead with the technology, the UK has been slow and careful in its approach to approving the technology.
The first area in the UK to explore shale gas reserves and frack a drilling site led directly to earthquakes in the local area. After this fairly disastrous start to unconventional gas supplies in the UK from a public relations point of view, the governmental moratorium has been lifted and operations are starting again in a number of regions. The areas approved for exploration and potentially fracking licences, are extensive and expanding as the UK government looks to kick-start the industry. However opposition is strong in the UK and a number of groups, from environmental organizations to local councils, have been fight hard to stop the technology. Their concerns are extensive and cover a number of issues from environmental problems experienced in the US, to dubious benefits of deploying the technology.
To try and combat the bad press that the technology has in many cases for legitimate reasons, government officials such as the UK energy minister, chancellor and prime minister stand behind the technology and push for the development of unconventional sites and fracking to speed up the process. On the 08/05/2014 the influential House of Lords economic affairs committee pushed for the acceleration of the use of the technology and expressed its “disappointment” that it has been slow and difficult to implement in most areas. Their recommendation is to reduce the regulations attached, to make it easier to approve sites and fracking technology. There was immediately a back-lash from the anti-fracking lobby, which suggested that the lords report had hand-picked the facts that they were interested in according to their own agenda.
The issue is increasingly entrenched with issues being simplified to black and white subjective opinions in the media, with little hope of compromise. Government and energy companies demand the process goes ahead and new sites, which are being developed, are subject to direct action protests which slow down their movement. To date, there are a very limited number of sites which have gained the approval needed to frack and even less so which have actually done so. However there are many sites up and down the country which are in the development pipeline waiting for the approval and the opportune moment with which to start their exploration. The UK however is not alone in its pockets of concern about the process, with France declaring a full moratorium on fracking.
For further reading please see our case study on fracking in the UK and elsewhere;