You may have seen fracking in the news a lot lately. A very controversial topic and one with a variety of pros and cons. It has even be described as ‘…perhaps the most important energy discovery in the last half century’ by Forbes and public attitude towards it is varied. However, is this opinion based on hard standing fact or general public hearsay?
What exactly is fracking?
In basic terms fracking is a process of drilling into the earth, forcing a stream of water, sand and other chemicals into rocks at extremely high pressure, this breaks open the rocks holding gas and oil thus releasing this sought after energy source.
Should we be for or against it?
There are two equally compelling arguments, so let’s consider both.
Fracking is common-place in America and as such everyone has access to cheaper gas prices especially in comparison to Europe, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created, and crude production has almost doubled in the last 7 years. It has been highlighted that fracking is also a more energy efficient source and therefore contributes to saving the planet.
However, for all it’s good, fracking has equally bad characteristics. The process itself uses vast quantities of water, which could further put our supplies of it in jeopardy. Millions of gallons alone are needed for just one fracking activity. There is also a possibility these activities could contaminate our water supply leading to potential water pollution. These activities also contribute to seismic possibilities thus increasing the chance of an earthquake occurring.
In America, these concerns are even higher, we all know that the US chances of an earthquake in comparison to the UK is massive and any activities which could contribute to this further worsen the situation. But whether or not our resulting seismic activity would be a lot smaller than the US or not, it is still a high concern for our country. In fact, in 2011 fracking in the UK was halted after earthquakes hit Blackpool, where a test fracking operation was taking place.
Other concerns surrounding fracking include overall pollution as well as a lack of focus on renewable energy sources, should we decide that we want to emphasise our efforts on fracking over green solutions.
House prices may well be impacted too, the Telegraph states ‘Houses within five miles of shale gas sites could face higher insurance premiums due to the risk of explosions and residents’ health could suffer due to noise and pollution, according to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) report’.
What is certain is the fracking will have environmental impacts, but just how much, no one can possibly be sure of yet.
Nowhere in the UK has undergone a prolonged period of fracking as yet – and no one seems able to agree whether it should go ahead or not. A report was released by the Royal Academy of Engineering which recommended that fracking should continue as long as it is properly regulated… ‘There has been much speculation around the safety of shale gas extraction following examples of poor practice in the US. We found that well integrity is of key importance but the most common areas of concern, such as the causation of earthquakes with any significant impact or fractures reaching and contaminating drinking water, were very low risk.’
In conclusion, experts seem to believe that fracking could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs – a situation which we are constantly told, is dire. Weighing up the negatives against the positives, we have a decent case in favour of fracking – jobs, industry and the economy, all of which are in desperate need of a boost.
Whether it is worth the risk, is likely to be an ongoing subject for scrutiny. Currently judgement seems to be reserved and more research needs to be done before the full long-term impact becomes evident.
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Article written by: Michelle Dance, Business Development Executive