16 January 2014

To frack or not to frack?

Sector Insights

To frack or not to frack? That is the question.

It’s widely recognised that fracking releases large deposits of shale gas. This has the potential to extend the use of fossil fuels for several decades. However, there are several issues every potential investor in the UK’s fracking process will need to assess. These will determine whether or not fracking becomes a reality within the UK.

The Issues

The main issue isn’t environmental concern. It’s the financial implications of the process, especially with the UK’s limited land availability. Every potential site will come across multiple barriers: access, water, ownership and land rights.

Successful sites in the US tend to be in remote areas where the huge increase in HGV traffic, grid drilling and massive water consumption doesn’t affect significant populations, which is where compensation could cause a financial burden.

This is not the case in the UK.

In the UK, the cost-effective grid drilling method is unviable due to the unavailability of large expanses of drillable areas. This necessitates directional drilling, which is far more costly.

Despite the recent flooding, the UK’s water reserves are a limited resource, as demonstrated by our annual hosepipe bans. How will fracking’s water usage be explained or even permitted in such times? And will it mean the drilling can only take place seasonally?

How about the increase in heavy traffic? We can all get pretty irate at traffic problems – especially in rural areas where a sudden influx of HGVs would be met with uproar.

We cannot ignore the environmental concerns either. You may have read about the risk of pollution to the water table or increased earthquake activity. These are concerns that have been refuted but every issue pushes land prices higher and increases the threat of potential legal claims for damages.

To frack, or not to frack?

So to answer the question, I would suggest that it is dependent on the Government. Can it make this a financial possibility for the exploration companies and will it put in place policies that override potential environmental concerns whilst keeping the populace on side?

I am sure most of us see the benefits of fracking – just as long as it isn’t in our backyards. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. 

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