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UK fracking back on track

25 October 2018

With hydraulic fracturing (fracking) back on track in the UK after a seven year hiatus, there may well now be a light at the end of the tunnel for developers of the country’s onshore gas resources. Recent seismic events near fracking sites in Lancashire should not cause undue alarm - as long as they remain minor. 

Stock image
Stock image

In 2013 the British Geological Survey (BGS) estimated that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas trapped in the rocks under Lancashire, Yorkshire and surrounding counties.

There are as yet no estimates as to how much of this can be recovered economically, but even if only 10% is extracted, it could potentially meet Britain's annual gas demand of 3 tcf for more than 40 years.

Environmental activists have sought to frustrate UK shale development at every turn, using political and legal means, as well as direct action, to hinder drillers.

The irony is that, in the short term at least, the alternative to burning UK-produced shale gas is not, as the green lobby says, using more energy from wind and solar farms. We do not currently have anything close to the electricity storage capacity to cope with a supply which comes exclusively from intermittent sources. For now, the real alternative to shale gas is either coal or imported gas, and both of these involve significantly higher carbon emissions than UK-produced shale gas.

Another problem for companies involved in the sector is red tape, and Government proposals to remedy this by, for example, reducing the powers of local officials to block drilling, may go some way to encouraging further investment.

As production of gas from the UK sector of the North Sea dwindles, development of this resource will be vital in ensuring an element of energy autonomy for the country in future.

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