The Fracking Debate
The fracking debate is intensifying. Recently, the Lords committee called for the UK government to speed up its development of regulated fracking because of its potential to bring substantial benefits. This group of influential Lords claim that fracking can lift the economy, secure energy nationally and even aid the environment. Environmentalists fought back vigorously, arguing against the evidence cited by the Lords.
Despite the amount of attention the issue commands, many are unsure if fracking is something they need to concern themselves with. Many are asking: what is fracking and why should we care?
Fracking has been used as a term to describe two very different techniques to access natural resources. The traditional form of fracking is a procedure that aims to accelerate the oil extraction of an established oil field. This process carries very different environmental risks compared with the newer form of fracking.
The type of fracking that is causing all the controversy is related to shale fracking. That is, using hydraulic fracturing procedures to extract gas from shale rocks. To put simply, the process involves drilling into the earth to force open rock fissures in order to reach new reservoirs of natural gas. The way the gas is extracted requires releasing high-pressure water to obtain the gas from inside. A mixture including some chemicals is then injected into the area to facilitate the flow of gas into safe storage.
Proponents of fracking claim that it allows access to oil and natural gas deposits which were previously unreachable. In terms of economic benefits, it is thought that the increased supply will lead to reduced prices for these resources. Environmentalists however, argue that fracking is unsafe.
What’s Wrong With The Fracking Process?
Firstly, the process requires drilling into the environment to make new stone fractures. This very act has the impact of creating small earth tremors. Although the typical sizes of tremors that occur as a result of fracking are usually not of concern, there have been instances where the movements of the earth could be felt on the surface. For example, fracking lead to two earthquakes in Blackpool back in 2011; the magnitude of each measured 1.5 and 2.2 on the Richter scale respectively.
Another serious concern involves the chemicals used in the process and the disposal of fracking fluids. If these chemicals seep into the earth for any reason, they could cause serious contamination and pollution issues.
In addition the fracking process uses a lot of water, which means we’re simply depleting one resource in order to extract another. Environmentalists emphasise that efforts to secure energy should be focused on renewable sources and technology instead, as this is the only way to ensure continuous supply in the long run.
So what’s the future for shale gas development? Exploratory drilling to establish its economic potential is still in early phases, but in the face of so much opposition, it will likely take some time before any progress can be made.
Louise Taylor is an environmental and energy enthusiast who writes for Love Energy Savings, an energy price comparison website dedicated to helping families and businesses save money on their energy costs.