Time for a Little Education

Shale gas has been a game changer for the energy industry in the United States – but things look a bit different in Europe.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 6 - 2012


Cuadrilla rig at Preese Hall near Blackpool, north-west England, where drilling is believed to have caused minor earth tremors. Source: Cuadrilla Resources Drilling by Cuadrilla Resources at a shale gas well in the north-west of England was stopped when minor earth tremors were felt, and an independent report concluded that pressure changes due to water injection during the fraccing process were to blame. One good thing to come out of this is that the average person in the UK, at least, is now a lot more knowledgeable about the process – but also a lot more concerned. Headlines in the newspapers such as ‘we caused 50 tremors in Blackpool – but we’re not going to stop’ do not really help the industry. A group of protesters calling themselves ‘Frack Off’ occupied another Cuadrilla site, causing operations to stop for a day. Questions are also being raised over an increase in seismic activity in an area of Oklahoma which has over 100 injection wells. In France the government banned hydraulic fracturing in May this year due to concerns about the technique’s impact on the environment.  

Cuadrilla have said that they estimate that there is more than 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in its license area in north-west England, and that the development could create over 5,000 jobs in the UK. And as European gas prices continue to rise, the development of a European shale gas industry could begin to reduce those costs, as it has in the United States.  

The British Geological Survey, among others, has pointed out the lack of peer-reviewed research into fraccing and associated issues like potential water contamination. The French ban on fraccing, and by default on shale gas exploitation, was made before any serious assessment of the potential of the resource in the country had been undertaken. If the petroleum industry thinks this is a key resource for the future, it is time to start spreading the word by encouraging research and educating the general public so they can be informed by all sides of the debate.


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