“I don’t think there is any chance of fracking in the UK… It makes good soundbites, but I can’t see anything happening.” Chris Cornelius, geologist and founder of the UK’s first fracking firm, Cuadrilla
Shale gas fracking won’t bring down gas prices
The government has lifted the ban on fracking in the UK. Hydraulic fracking was halted in 2019, amid concerns about earth tremors, but the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has reversed that decision to get fracking going again.
The problem is fracking isn’t the great answer to the energy crisis that Truss claims it is. Many experts have raised concerns about the viability of shale gas fracking, including the founder of fracking firm Cuadrilla.
What is fracking?
Fracking is a method used to extract gas from shale rock. It involves drilling into the earth then blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand into the ground to release the gas trapped inside the rock.
Is fracking safe?
No. Fracking caused earth tremors when it took place in Lancashire. In the US, it has also been linked to earthquakes, air and water pollution, with the toxic chemicals used in shale fracking leaking into the water supply.
Scientists say fracking wells release benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and n-hexane into the air. This is bad for the climate and long-term exposure can cause neurological problems, birth defects, blood disorders and cancer.
A huge rise in methane has also been reported since fracking started in the US and this is contributing to climate change.
The process involved in fracking requires a huge amount of water, which can have a negative impact on the environment. It could also be impractical considering the fact that the country has experienced a drought this year.
Will fracking lower my energy bills?
The answer is no and almost every expert agrees with this. Because the UK is part of a wider energy market, the amount of gas produced by fracking would not make a significant difference to energy prices.
It also wouldn’t supply enough gas to make a difference. Experts say that even fracking across large areas of the country for 30 years would only produce a small amount of natural gas.
Earlier this year, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “UK producers won’t sell shale gas to UK consumers below the market price. They’re not charities.” Kwarteng has since become Chancellor and now backs Truss’s fracking plans.
UK geology isn’t suited to fracking
The founder of Cuadrilla, the UK’s first fracking company, says that fracking would be impossible in this country. Geologist Chris Cornelius said: “I don’t think there is any chance of fracking in the UK in the near term. It’s very challenging geology, compared with North America… In Lancashire, we learned in 2011 that the shale formations are extremely gassy. They are heavily faulted and compartmentalised, unlike the continuous gas-bearing formations [in parts of the US].”
Liz Truss is pitching fracking as a solution to the energy crisis and said she hopes to get gas flowing within six months.
However, Cornelius has doubts about this. “It makes good soundbites but I can’t see anything happening,” he said.
He also believes that, even if the UK did manage to produce a significant amount of gas, fracking would not reduce energy bills.
Renewables are cheaper
Now is the time to be investing in renewables not yet more fossil fuels like shale gas. Not only are sources such as wind power better for the climate, they’re nine times cheaper than gas too.
The energy crisis has been caused by our reliance on fossil fuels, so surely the answer is to move towards renewable sources rather than double down on gas and oil, which are getting more expensive all the time.
It astounds me that our government are prioritising fossil fuels over cheaper and cleaner renewables. It just doesn’t make sense for the climate or the economy.