‘Fracking’. That means hydraulic fracturing. It is a controversial topic in politics; but still many people don’t know what this actually stands for.
With the process called ‘fracking’ it would be possible to recover trillions of cubic feet of shale gas underneath parts of England. You only have to drill down into the earth before you direct a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals at the rock to release the gas inside. The process is carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer.
The Church of England released a statement on 16 August, in which it was said: “The Church of England has no official policy either for or against hydraulic fracturing. However there is a danger of viewing ‘fracking’ through a single-issue lens and ignoring the wider considerations.”
Along with the advantages this process brings, there are some concerns, which addressed the controversial discussions.
Environmental campaigners claim the huge amount of water needed for ‘fracking’, as well as the danger of the potentially carcinogenic chemicals used escaping and contaminating groundwater around the fracking site, raise serious questions.
Even small earth tremors could be expected. “But they’re unlikely to be felt by many people and very unlikely to cause any damage”, said Professor Ernie Rutter from the University of Manchester.
However, environmental campaigners think that ‘fracking’ is just distracting the government and energy firms from investing in renewable sources of energies.
The Chair of the Church of England’s group on Mission and Public Affairs, Philip Fletcher, said: “I would want to emphasise, along with all those that care for the environment, the importance of proper controls in relation to any form of ‘fracking’ – we do not want cowboys and cavaliers digging up the land in a free-for-all exploitation.
“However, as the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded recently in a review on ‘fracking’, this is a procedure that ‘can be managed effectively in the UK’ as long as operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced through regulation.
“There are issues and risks. The answer to those is to treat them seriously and to minimise them. There are examples of how this can be done in other areas. The oil well operating at Brownsea Island demonstrates that oil production in a deeply sensitive area can continue for decades without endangering the environment.
“Clearly all carbon-based fuels contribute to global warming and are less than ideal in terms of climate change. However, it should also be recognised that gas is less damaging than coal and to preclude properly managed technical development is to risk denying ourselves more important, less polluting and less costly options than the energy sources on which we currently rely.”
In the US, ‘fracking’ has been successful: it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices, because it allows drilling firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas.
Now, to contribute to the UK’s future energy needs, the industry suggests ‘fracking’ of shale gas.
A report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee in April said shale gas in the UK may help to secure energy supplies, but may not bring down gas prices.
Fletcher went on in the statement: “Fuel poverty, the creation of jobs, energy self-sufficiency and the development of technology that may reduce the impact of more polluting fuels are just some of the factors that need to be taken into account in any debate alongside the concern we all have about the impact of fossil fuels upon climate change.”
On 16 August, the Energy firm ‘Cuadrilla’, which has been looking for oil near the village of Balcombe in West Sussex, scaled back exploratory drilling on police advice, as more activists began arriving at a nearby protest site.
The company has not ruled out using the controversial technique of ‘fracking’ to release gas.
Still, environmentalists are protesting in front of the exploration site. “We would like to make sure they don’t frack in Balcombe, or anywhere else at all”, explained Luke Johnson.
On the following weekend’s ‘No Dash for Gas’ event about 1,000 extra people were expected to join existing protesters.