Editorial: Will The UK Dig Itself A Shale-ow Grave?

After a half-decade lull in activity, the greenlight has been given for fracking to commence anew on UK soil.

Third Energy, a firm with a handful of onshore and offshore gas assets in the UK, has been granted planning permission to test an existing well in North Yorkshire for commercial yields.

The hydraulic fracturing process has caused controversy since its widespread implementation in the US shale boom in the 2000s, with reports of seismic disturbances in fracking zones and groundwater pollution. In the UK, the tide of public opinion turned against fracking for shale gas after unconventionals company, Cuadrilla Resources, concluded it was "highly probable" that two minor earthquakes in Blackpool were caused by drilling at their Preese Hall-1 well.

According to the most recent edition of the “Public Attitudes Tracking survey” published by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), barely 19 per cent of British public support exploration for shale gas, an all-time low and 10 per cent reduction on figures released last year. That same sounding affirmed that 67 per cent of people expressed their concern about the UK’s dependency on energy imports from other countries.

According to a British Geological Survey (BGS) analysis produced in 2012, there is an estimated potentiality of 1,300 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas locked in the shale formations underlying the British mainland. If one tenth of this amount were commercially-viable for extraction, it could fulfil the UK’s natural gas needs for almost half a century. As well as creating thousands of jobs in depressed economic zones, investment in this new sector of British energy could well help uncouple the UK from the yoke of foreign hydrocarbons resources a decade after first gas.

Whether this will be embraced or rejected is a matter that will likely be played out in the courts of modern science and public opinion for years to come….