Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fracking - extreme energy exploration & resoirce exploitation

Is fracking a game changer?

The Deepwater Horizon disaster proved the dangers of searching for our oil and gas in ever more challenging environments. Oil companies that had been keen to explore in deeper, colder and more isolated waters have been forced to take a step back and reconsider their options.

Their response has been to launch an extraordinary land grab, buying up the rights to explore vast tracts of the US and Europe in search of unconventional oil and gas. From Lancashire to Gdansk and New York to the Rockies enormous reserves of shale gas lurk temptingly close to the centres of population. Recent advances in extraction techniques have launched an industry in the US and persuaded the major oil companies to begin prospecting expeditions throughout Europe.

The advantages are obvious, removing our dependence on the Middle East, cutting back on the costs of transport and transmission. The disadvantages are less obvious but could be fatally insurmountable. In the US shale gas producers are blamed for poisoning water courses and even causing earthquakes.
Exploratory drilling is already happening within sight of the Blackpool Tower so the need to consider the pitfalls and potentially enormous prizes of land-based oil and gas in the UK is urgent.

Feedback comments from various newspaper sources include:


 With respect to fracking, earthquakes are the least of our worries. Fracking involves drilling 1,800 metres down, then horizontally the same distance. Water, sand and chemicals are forced down the hole, the pressure splitting the shale and releasing the gas. The gas forces 40 per cent of the liquid back up the shaft, now contaminated with volatile chemicals and harmful carcinogenic metals. The really negative effects come from contamination of water and soil, as seen in Pennsylvania in 2010: sick animals and people, contaminated crops and air pollution. The promised job creation will be outweighed by job losses in agriculture and tourism: crops will be blacklisted, property devalued and landscapes scarred. An outright ban on fracking, as in France and Germany, is the only sensible answer.

There are hundreds of documented cases in the US of shale gas fracturing leading directly to water contamination, in some cases so severe that domestic water supplies became flammable. If there's even a tiny chance of this happening in the UK, I would expect the Department for Energy and Climate Change to imprison those responsible.


It boosts overall worldwide gas supplies and can help to reduce market cost. Shale is not anticipated to supply a large proportion of Britain's gas needs, but it is contributing to a worldwide flow of gas that has halved gas prices in the US domestic market, and led to a glut in world markets. It's estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal. Exploration companies are also claiming there is a potential £70bn of reserves in rocks deep under south Wales.