Fracking controls announced

Despite the acres of commentary there has been no commercial shale gas production in the UK. Exploratory fracking has been suspended since May 2011 after two small seismic tremors were detected near the country’s only fracking operations in Lancashire.

Now, as we anticipated on Monday, the UK Government has concluded that the seismic risks associated with fracking can be managed effectively with controls. These include:

A prior review before fracking begins must be carried out to assess seismic risk and the existence of faults;
A fracking plan must be submitted to DECC showing how seismic risks will be addressed;
Seismic monitoring must be carried out before, during and after fracking;
A new traffic light system to categorise seismic activity and direct appropriate responses. A trigger mechanism will stop fracking operations in certain conditions.

George Kerevan makes a case for exploiting these reserves in today’s Scotsman. He says;
“Face it: the developing world can’t afford expensive renewables. But it can replace coal with gas, putting CO² emissions on a downward curve, yet maintaining growth. Of course, that plan only buys time till we can fully de-carbonise the world economy – but we are now in the business of buying time.”

Tony Patey in today’s Morning Star makes the opposite case. He quotes Frack Off campaigner Lilly Morse who said:
“The long-expected announcement is the start of a major battle over what sort of world we will leave to our children. The government and industry’s promises of cheap, abundant gas are deluded. In the US the gas bubble has already burst, with fracking companies on the verge of bankruptcy. Fracking is dirty, destructive and extremely expensive, and could never deliver the quantities of gas envisaged.”

The controls announced by the Government will be widely regarded in the industry as sensible. However, there are still question marks over just how much gas is available to exploit. At best it might provide a partial alternative to insecure overseas supplies, but it isn’t a panacea and the US experience will not be replicated here.

  • Posted in: Gas

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