Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth by drilling down and directing a high pressure water mixture at the rocks. The process has helped to develop America’s oil and natural gas resources for nearly 60 years. However, fracking has barely been used in the United Kingdom. Recent estimates suggest that there are enormous reserves of shale gas underneath Britain. Extracting the gas could potentially solve the UK’s future energy needs, reduce energy bills, bring in massive amounts of foreign investment and create thousands of jobs.
Preliminary research suggests that fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the future energy needs of Britain. In the US, domestic oil production has been greatly increased and gas prices have been driven down, all thanks to fracking. There is speculation the UK could enjoy the same benefits if it were to use the technique. Large deposits of shale gas have been discovered and if extracted, can help secure energy supplies and reduce energy costs. This presents a massive opportunity to help families struggling with their bills. Shale gas is also more environmentally friendly. According to the Committee on Climate Change, shale gas can have lower emissions than imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) provided that the production is well regulated. It also presents an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.
Cheaper energy is not the only benefit of fracking. Major companies such as Total and Centrica are pouring in hundreds of millions of investment into UK shale projects. According to British Prime Minister David Cameroon, fracking could bring in £3bn of investment and deliver a large economic boost. The industry will require more people such as geologists, engineers, construction workers, business analysts, truck drivers, public relations staff, etc. Demand for cement and steel manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and drilling service companies will also increase. This will result in an increased number of jobs in related sectors. All in all fracking could create 74,000 jobs according to the Institute of Directors.
Every coin has two sides and shale gas exploration is no exception. Fracking is a rather controversial technique which is strongly opposed by environmentalists. They worry that the fracking process can result in small tremors. However, these tremors are unlikely to cause any damage. The other major concern is that potential carcinogenic materials may escape and contaminate ground water near the fracking site. The industry tries to alleviate this fear by stating that pollution incidents are not inherent risks of the technique but rather the result of bad practices. Environmentalist also argue that fracking is encouraging energy firms and governments to rely on non-renewable fossil fuel, and distracting them from researching renewable energy sources.
Taking the risks and benefits into consideration, in the short term, shale gas exploration can provide a much needed boost to economy by creating jobs, bringing in investment and reducing energy bills. The questions is; what if any, cost will there be to the environment.
You can read more about ‘truths and myths’ of shale gas on the Channel 4 website: http://www.channel4.com/news/fracking-shale-gas-hydraulic-fracturing-truth-myth-facts-uk