Fracking in the UK

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The 2013 Ofgem Energy Capacity Assessment report found that the UK's risk of power blackouts has increased, with spare power production predicted to fall to 2% by 2015.

The impending energy crisis means that the UK must look to alternative sources of power in the drive toward self-sufficiency.

If the UK does not develop local fuel sources it is estimated 70% of gas used in Britain will be imported by 2025.

Attention has been directed toward the US, where hydraulic fracturing - or fracking for short - has advanced heavily and transformed the energy industry.

What is Fracking?

Shale rock lies below ground and contains reserves of oil and gas that cannot escape without intervention.

Fracking is the process of drilling into shale rock and directing a high pressure mix of water and chemicals — known as fracking fluid — into the rock. The rock then cracks, freeing the gas allowing it to flow back to the surface.

The average well is up to 8,000 feet deep.

Up to 8 million US gallons of water are used in fracking one well.

Hundreds of chemicals are used in fracking fluid – including hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride & methanol.

After an exploratory drilling period of 2-6 months production of oil from a fracking site can last up to 20 years.

History of Fracking

The first experimental fracking for shale gas & oil was conducted in Kansas in 1947.

17 March 1949 - the first commercial application of fracking takes place in Oklahoma and Texas, spurred on by oil field services giant, Halliburton.

Over 2 million wells have been drilled worldwide – mostly in America.

Onshore shale gas production in the UK was proposed in 2007 when oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla was given a licence for exploratory shale extraction in Lancashire.

Test drilling began in 2011 near Blackpool – subsequent earth tremors in the area caused some controversy.

Fracking & the UK

A number of areas in the UK have been identified as having shale gas potential – The Bowland Basin in the North, The Weald Basin in the South East and Northern Ireland.

Exploratory drilling by Cuadrilla found 5.6 trillion cubic metres (200 trillion cubic feet) of shale oil and gas reserves in Lancashire.

It is estimated that there are 4.4 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil in The Weald Basin in Kent.

The Institute of Directors estimated that UK shale gas could stimulate investment of up to £3.7 billion per year.

The industry is expected to support up to 74,000 direct and wider industry jobs.

Communities hosting fracking wells are expected to receive 1% of revenues associated with drilling and extraction.

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Concern rose about contamination of drinking water - up to 90% of fracking fluid remains underground, leaking in to water reserves.

Arguments against fracking have included the carbon emissions produced as part of the process, the earthquake risk posed by drilling and the high volume of water used.