Posts tagged ‘natural gas’

May 17, 2012


In the UK media there is more and more talk about fracking and its possible threats. But what is it and why is has it become the centre of attention, while we rarely – if ever – heard about it earlier?

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is primarily used for natural gas exploitation, where water and chemicals are injected into the rock layers beneath at high pressure. This widens existing or creates new fractures, so the gas can flow out easier.

The first so-called ‘frac job’ took place in 1947 in Kansas, and today it’s widely used, even in the UK. Fracking however is very controversial and is claimed to cause more damage to the local environment than benefits for these neighbourhoods.

One of the problems with fracking is that it may cause small earthquakes, as it happened recently in Blackpool, which prompted the company to suspend operations for a few months. According to some US studies however this link is still under debate.
Other concerns include the possible contamination of local water tables with the chemicals or gas leaks, which happened in some areas in Pennsylvania.

A panel was set up in the UK, which has just published its report. According to this fracking does not cause more tremors than coal mining and these are of rather small magnitude, and mostly cannot be felt on the surface. Thus they suggest to resume fracking operations but with regular control checks.

Other countries respond differently to fracking – both France and Bulgaria have now banned such operations, South Africa is currently investigating whether to allow it, while it is widely used in the US and Canada. At the same time a new regulation in the US is about to be implemented – on air pollution from gas wells using fracking.

The question may be however whether it’s worth exploring this controversial method or should we put more focus on developing renewable sources.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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