Fracking remains a regularly discussed topic in the UK, with many hoping to follow in the footsteps of the US to become a leader in the natural gas supplier industry, whereas others continue to express their concerns on the environmental impact it brings. If you are new to fracking, then the process can seem somewhat complicated, and you are likely to still be figuring out which side you resonate with the most. With this in mind, we have put together a guide to answering the question “what is fracking?” helping you to familiarise yourself with the pros and cons.
What Is Fracking? How Does It Impact The UK?
As suppliers of home and business electricity and gas, we are always interested in discovering the latest innovations in the industry. Although fracking is not a new introduction and has been used as early as the 1860s, it has only become common in the UK in the past few years. With this, there has been a considerable amount of mixed opinions, and the government are still exploring various options to determine whether fracking would be beneficial to the country. Below we have put together information on the following topics:
So let’s begin with the most important question, what does fracking mean? Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is used to extract oil and natural gas from rock. The process of fracking involves drilling into the ground then using fracking fluid (a combination of water, chemical additives and solid particles), which bleeds out into the rocks. This technique has been designed to recover any natural gases and oil from the rock at high pressure. By doing so, it allows a network of small cracks in the rocks to release gas or oil, which is then pumped or carried to the surface.
Why Do We Need Fracking?
We are all more than aware that the demand for fossil fuels is now outweighing the supply, and by as soon as 2060, we may have completely run out. For this reason, countries across the globe have been actively searching for renewable, sustainable alternatives that will not only ensure that we maintain a steady supply of energy but also limit our impact on the environment while doing so.
As fracking offers a significant supply of easy-to-reach shale gas, it can prove incredibly resourceful for our future energy needs. According to Wired, the Bowland Shale alone (this spans across the Isle of Man, Northern England, Northern Wales and the Midlands) could be enough to provide the UK with 50 years worth of gas supply, offering us a reliable source of energy.
As of 2018, over 100 fracking licences were approved by the government, which means that in the UK, we have been actively exploring the use of fracking. To date, there are sites in South East and South West England that are currently going through a planning application, along with one based in West Sussex, which has been approved.
What Are The Regulations Regarding Fracking?
For companies interested in fracking, there are strict UK regulations in place, which have been implemented by the government to ensure that both the public and environment remain safe. To develop the national licensing for fracking, local authorities, the Health & Safety Executive and the three national environmental regulators for the UK all work together with the shared goal of protecting the people and world around us. The effectiveness of these regulations is regularly reviewed to ensure that natural habitats, in particular, are not being harmed.
In order to begin fracking, companies must start the process by gaining a licence and planning permission. Next, all well designs must be submitted to the Health & Safety Executive for approval, which will involve checking each component against the relevant requirements. The HSE will also monitor the well throughout the construction process, and operators must report back on a regular basis. Due to the nature of fracking, the HSE are within their right to visit the site for inspections unannounced and can enforce changes where they feel necessary.
All information regarding the fracking regulations in the UK can be found on the GOV.UK website.
There are many advantages of fracking, from saving money on bills to future-proofing our energy supply. We have put together information on some of the most sought-after below:
Beneficial To The Economy
The UK is now importing a considerable amount of gas from other countries. However, by taking advantage of fracking, we can start to become more self-sufficient and supply both households and businesses with energy sourced from inside the country. In return, the UK will become less dependant on oil-producing countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and China. Depending on supply, we may also consider exporting our gas to other countries, which will be hugely beneficial to the economy and overseas relationships.
Fewer Carbon Emissions
Natural gases release fewer carbon emissions in comparison to coal, and although at first, it may not seem the case, fracking is a more environmentally friendly route. Not only this, but the gas collected via fracking also lasts far longer, meaning that it is capable of powering more homes and businesses. As a result, if there is less need for the use of fossil fuels, we can spend more time looking into how to transition to renewable energy seamlessly, creating a more sustainable future for those in the UK.
Along with aiding the transition to green energy, it is also easy for natural gas to be pumped into the national grid, allowing it to be then transported directly into specific power stations, homes and businesses. Not only does the conversion to heat during this process create hardly any heat loss, but shale gas also does not require a significant amount of infrastructure to put into the national gas grid.
Increased Job Opportunities
According to an article by Financial Times published in mid-2020, the UK had already cut almost 750,000 jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic – a figure that is likely to be still rising. This means that creating jobs has become more important than ever and fracking offers a fantastic solution to this issue. Fracking opens a wealth of job opportunities as each step must be manned by specialists. A single fracking site will require not only skilled workers but office personnel, engineers and other general employees, creating roles that are high in demand.
Reduced Energy Bills
At Ampower, we are always looking for new ways to help our customers to reduce their home and business energy plans, so we were pleased to find that fracking can help towards this. As we will no longer have to source our gas from elsewhere, there will be no need to cover importing costs, lowering the overall energy prices. There will be a considerable amount of gas entering the energy industry, and demand can easily be met, meaning that many households and businesses will notice a difference in their energy bills.
While many believe that fracking in the UK is a good idea, others are still sceptical. Why? Because although shale gas is a cleaner source of energy, it is still regarded as a fossil fuel, which many feel we should no longer rely on. It is encouraging us to continue using fuels that are not renewable and could run out of should the demand rise.
There are also other concerns regarding fracking as, in the past, it has been associated with small earthquakes. Although this can be the case overseas, in the UK, the likelihood of noticeable earthquakes is incredibly low. An assessment carried out in 2011 by the UK Royal Society, and the UK Royal Academy of Engineering concluded that even if fracking caused an earthquake, it would be unlikely that it would cause any damage.
Another reason fracking has become a controversial topic in the UK is that although shale gas does emit far fewer greenhouse gases than coal, it does still contribute to polluting the atmosphere. If we were to rely too much on fracking, it might prevent the UK from reaching its goal of meeting net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2050. It will also cause noise pollution, which will be hugely impactful to those who live nearby to fracking sites.
Do You Agree With Fracking In The UK?
Fracking in the UK is a topic that many as undecided on with regards to whether they agree with the use of shale gas or not. Much like any other new introduction to the energy industry, the use of fracking comes alongside both advantages and disadvantages. Although it does mean that we will still be using non-renewable energy for a period of time, will this be beneficial in giving us time to transition to greener alternatives? Does the number of jobs created and potential benefits for the economy outweigh the potential pollution? These are all questions that are commonly asked when considering whether you support or are against fracking.
If you would like more information to aid your decision, we recommend taking a look at the statistics published on the Brandon Gaille website. Although these relate to the use of fracking in the US, they are far more advanced in using fracking and will give you an idea of how the UK may look after a few more years of utilising shale gas.