17 Apr 2012

Fracking for gas given go-ahead

A new report finds that shale gas drilling – or “fracking” – can be extended in the UK, but recommends more monitoring of the risk of earthquakes and structural damage.

A new report finds that shale gas drilling - or

The government-commissioned report recommends several measures to mitigate the risk of any damaging seismic activity from future shale gas operations in the Bowland Basin.

These include an effective monitoring system to provide locations and magnitudes of any seismic events should be part of any future hydraulic fracturing operations. It adds that the traffic light system should feature a red light when drilling hits a magnitude of 0.5, when fracking should stop and remedial action taken.

The controversial gas extraction method is used to fracture rock deep in the earth with a high-pressure jet of water to release shale gas. It caused two minor earthquakes near Blackpool in the area of drilling company Cuadrilla Resources’ Preese Hall operations in April and May last year.

Environmentalists have also warned that fracking can lead to the contamination of ground water.

The report’s authors, Dr Christopher Green, from GFrac Technologies, Professor Peter Styles, from Keele university, and Dr Brian Baptie, from the British Geological Survey, said that further earth tremors were possible, but that they were unlikely to cause structural damage.

The panel’s report is now subject to a six-week consultation period, after which the government will issue a set of guidelines and regulations.

David MacKay, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said: “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts.

“This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”

Read more: What is the UK's energy future?

Environmental group Friends of the Earth remains strongly opposed to fracking for shale gas. “Earth tremors aren’t the only risks associated with fracking – it’s also been linked to air and water pollution and produces gas that causes climate change,” said Executive Director Andy Atkins.

“There should be a full scientific assessment of all the impacts of fracking, a short consultation on one of the problems is completely inadequate. “We should be developing the huge potential of clean British energy from the sun, wind and waves, not more dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.”