25th May 2015
Councillors on North Yorkshire County Council have granted permission for UK energy firm, Third Energy, to frack for shale gas at a site called KM8 near Kirby Misperton.
This controversial decision follows on from the Government’s stated intention to increase the UK’s shale gas production. In the 2014 Autumn Statement Chancellor George Osborne announced a range of measures to encourage shale gas development. These included a long term investment fund for communities near shale gas developments, a £5m fund to provide evidence directly to the public about the effectiveness of the existing regulatory regime, and £31m of funding to create a sub-surface research test centre, which would operate through the Natural Environment Research Council.
Third Energy will receive the first UK fracking licence granted since 2011, when a report commissioned by fracking company Cuadrilla in the wake of two minor earthquakes that occurred on the Fylde coast in Lancashire found that “most likely, the repeated seismicity was induced by direct injection of fluid into the fault zone.”
Rasik Valand, Chief Executive of Third Energy, said that the company now has a “huge responsibility to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment.”
In Northallerton, near another proposed fracking site, hundreds of protesters gathered to show their opposition to fracking. The anti-fracking protest group ‘Frack Off’ has warned that North Yorkshire County Council’s decision could pave the way for thousands of new fracking wells to spread across the country. In the wake of the decision to allow fracking at KM8, Frack Off has responded by ‘declaring war’ on the fracking industry, and issued a ‘people’s declaration’ in opposition to future fracking.
‘Fracking’ is when shale gas is extracted from solid rock using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. The process differs from conventional oil and gas drilling, which taps into existing reservoirs. With advances in technology such as improved drilling and increases in the prices of hydro-carbons, shale gas production has become increasingly economically viable.
The USA has been quick to take up the burgeoning industry and already seen a massive increase in the scale of shale gas production. Today fracking in America has become so common that up to 95 per cent of all new wells are hydraulically fractured.
Critics have warned that fracking is a dangerous and an untested technology which has been linked to earthquakes, and could potentially contaminate the water supply.
The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineers have reviewed fracking in the UK, and state that the health, safety and environmental risks can be managed effectively by best operational practise. In a 2013 report DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) said that shale gas emissions where similar to those from conventional gas production, and were lower than coal and liquid natural gas.
In an earlier report, DECC found that there was no evidence linking fracking to contamination of underground water aquifers as long as adequate safety procedures are followed. Fracking takes place many hundreds of meters, or even several kilometres, below the aquifers which limits the potential for contamination. Whilst there have been links between some fracking activities and minor earthquakes, these are the same intensity as those caused by coalmining, and as fracking occurs at a much deeper level the tremors dissipate by the time they reach the surface.