Everything You Need to Know About Fracking
Fracking is a term that is banded around the British media a lot these days, but unless it has become an issue in your area or you are an energy expert, you are unlikely to actually know anything about it. Fortunately, the Love Energy Savings team have put together this ultimate guide to fracking which should give you all the information you need about this controversial energy issue.
Fracking in the North of England
If you live in the north of the UK, then you are more likely to have felt the effects of the fracking issue in your area. It is thought that trillions of cubic feet of shale gas lies underneath many parts of northern England and can be recoverable with a degree of ease when drilled effectively.
Debate has continued raged between fracking advocates and environmental camapaigners about the supposed pros & cons of this method of energy production.
In 2011, Cuadrilla attepmted to drill for shale gas near Blackpool but were forced to halt their efforts after causing two minor earth tremors.
However, since the ban was lifted in 2012, numerous companies have sought to revive fracking as a legitimate energy supply.
The tide has since turned on 'green' advocates with Third Energy being the first company, since the ban was lifted, to successfully be granted rights to explore for shale gas at a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire in May 2016.
Cuadrilla have now also applied successfully for planning permission on a further two northern sites; Preston New Road just west of Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood, both in Fylde, Lancashire. These plans were initially thrown out of Lancashire Country Council in the summer of 2015. Since then, the company's appeal against the rejection has been heard, as part of a public enquiry and the decision has now been overturned.
Needless to say, the discord and protests regarding fracking approval have continued and will probably do so for some time.
So, What Exactly Is Fracking?
Fracking, or hydraulic fracking as it often referred to, is a procedure whereby shale gas and oil can be recovered from the surrounding rock, or shale rock. This is done by drilling into the earth where the shale gas may be located and releasing a sort of high-pressure water to obtain the gas from inside. Sand, water and a mixture of chemicals are then injected into the area of shale rock which facilitates the flow of gas out of the earth and into a well for storage.
This process can be completed either horizontally (the most common method) or vertically by drilling into the rock from different angles. Fracking either creates new pathways for the release of shale gas or can extend existing channels that have been made by previous drillers.
Where Did the Phrase Fracking Come From?
It’s quite simple really. The process is effectively hydraulic fracturing so it has developed and become called fracking over the years. The rock is fractured by the drilling and the shale gas is retrieved through the use of the aforementioned mixture of chemicals. Frac Units and Frac Jobs are also terms used in the industry and will be used when describing how much shale gas has been obtained and the particular drilling site in question.
So, Fracking Can Only Be a Good Thing Then?
Fracking undoubtedly has its advantages as we start to face up to the shortage of energy that is emerging. The process allows us to get to areas of the earth we wouldn’t otherwise be able to and generate much needed energy. We only have to look to America to see how much good fracking has done, where oil production and therefore gas prices have been boosted and lowered respectively. Experts say that the process has safeguarded transatlantic gas security for at least a century and allowed the US and Canada to produce electricity at half the carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuels such as coal. As such, it is hardly surprising that many see fracking as key to the future of the UK’s energy needs.
Why Has Fracking Become Such a Controversial Issue?
As with anything which involves drilling into the ground and therefore effecting the natural habitat, environmentalists have voiced their concerns regarding fracking and have protested both here in the United Kingdom and in the USA. Indeed, fracking efforts in the US have transformed the energy industry but have left many areas depleted and barren. Some see this as a small price to pay for naturally sourced energy, others think that the landscape should not have to suffer.
Fracking also uses vast amounts of water which needs to be transported to the drilling site in question. This also has an environmental cost and has been met with fierce opposition here in the United Kingdom in particular. The other major issue with the fracking procedure is that chemicals which could be carcinogenic are used and there is always a risk these could get into the earth and cause serious pollution. Frackers maintain that this would only ever happen in the event if incompetency as opposed to risky technique and the debate continues to rage on.
There are many other concerns that have been voiced by fracking objectors, such as the creation of small earth tremors. Blackpool was hit with two small earthquakes in 2011 as a result of fracking, measuring 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude on the Richter scale. Whilst too small to cause any immediate danger, this kind of thing does not sit well with environmentalists and has not helped the cause of the energy companies who are investing in fracking. This said, experts from the University of Manchester concluded that these earthquakes are extremely unlikely to cause any damage whatsoever.
As a final point, campaigners regularly point out that fracking is not a long term solution to energy shortfalls and is acting merely as a distraction. They feel that instead of investing in drilling for shale gas, energy suppliers and indeed the government, should be spending money on finding renewable energy sources and ending the reliance in fossil fuels.
Where In the UK is Fracking Occuring?
Third Energy was the first company that had been granted exploration rights since the ban was lifted in 2012. But despite securing permission, the drilling has been unable to go ahead pending the outcome of a judicial review.
As mentioned above, Cuadrilla have now been given the go ahead to explore shale gas opportunities in Lancashire and as of November 2016 The Planning and Licensing Committeegave the go ahead for IGas to drill exploritory shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire, on a former Cold War missile launch site.
It remains to be seen exactly how widespread fracking is to become, but if it is proven to be a viable and safe source of energy it may not be long before more sites are earmarked for drilling.
Theresa May has already voiced the possibility of the shale wealth fund, unveiled in 2014, being payed directly to households affected, as opposed to the local council. Green campaigners have labelled this as a "bribe", with £10,000 potentially available to each individual household affected.
While some may see it as a "bribe", others view it as compensation and with the jury still out on the effects of fracking, we can rest assured this debate will not die down anytime soon.
That is everything you really need to know about fracking and how it may affect your domestic or business gas situation. It has many pros and cons and the debate is expected to continue for some time. If you enjoyed this article, why not take a look at another one of our great energy guides.
If you have concerns over your gas supply and think you may be paying over the odds, why not take advantage of our free online comparison tool? Alternatively, you can call 0800 9888 375 to speak to member of the Love Energy Savings team!