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What is fracking and will it REALLY solve the energy crisis? MailOnline answers your key questions


Liz Truss has set herself up for a brand new struggle with environmental teams and inexperienced Tories, as she confirmed she is lifting Boris Johnson’s ban on fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the method of drilling down into the earth earlier than inserting a high-pressure water combination to launch pure fuel.

Nonetheless, it is proved controversial as a consequence of its use of chemical substances, groundwater contamination, noise, air air pollution and even earth tremors. 

Yesterday, Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed that corporations extracting fuel utilizing the controversial approach can be permitted to trigger greater earthquakes in a bid to kickstart manufacturing. 

The Enterprise Secretary made clear the restrict of 0.5 on the Richter scale can be eased, doubtlessly to 2.5, admitting that in any other case no mining would happen.

Right here, MailOnline solutions all of your key questions on fracking – together with what it’s, how a lot vitality it might yield and if it is going to make your vitality payments cheaper.

Fracking is the method of drilling down into the earth earlier than inserting a high-pressure water combination to launch pure fuel. Water, sand and chemical substances are injected at excessive stress into underground boreholes to open up cracks within the rock, which permits trapped fuel to movement out to the floor

What are the potential reserves of shale fuel within the UK? 

4 areas within the UK have been recognized as doubtlessly viable for the industrial extraction of shale fuel: the Bowland-Hodder space in Northwest England, the Midland Valley in Scotland, the Weald Basin in Southern England, and the Wessex space in Southern England.

In line with the British Geological Survey, preliminary estimates in 2013 advised that the Bowland-Hodder space might have held between 23.3 and 64.6 trillion cubic metres (tcm). 

However a more moderen evaluation in 2019 advised the determine is nearer to 4.0 tcm. 

A 2014 research estimated that the Midland Valley hosts 1.4–3.8 tcm.

Supply:  LSE

WHAT IS FRACKING?

Fracking is a course of used to extract pure fuel – one of many UK’s fundamental vitality sources – from underground shale rock. 

The method includes the injection of greater than 1,000,000 gallons of water, sand and chemical substances at excessive stress into wells.

The pressurised combine causes the shale to crack, and these fissures are held open by the sand in order that fuel from the rock can movement up the properly. 

When pure fuel flows out of the properly, it is stored in storage tanks after which piped to the market for use as an vitality supply. 

Fracking as a method has been broadly used within the US, a rustic with large open areas, however some concern it’s unsuited to a smaller nation just like the UK. 

This is because of geological variations between the 2 nations, in line with Professor Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist on the College of Edinburgh.

‘The British Isles are geologically difficult, by way of many a whole lot of thousands and thousands of geological historical past,’ Professor Haszeldine advised MailOnline.

‘Meaning there are numerous faults and fractures already current – which might be reactivated by injection of fracking waters at extraordinarily excessive pressures. 

‘The a lot easier geological historical past of the US and Canada means that only a few faults and fractures are current and that enormous deposits of layered shale fuel supply rocks stay undamaged.’ 

WHERE IS SHALE GAS FOUND IN THE UK? 

4 areas within the UK have been recognized as doubtlessly viable for the industrial extraction of shale fuel:

  1. The Bowland-Hodder space in Northwest England
  2. The Midland Valley in Scotland
  3. The Weald Basin in Southern England
  4. The Wessex space in Southern England

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RESERVES OF SHALE GAS IN THE UK? 

In line with the British Geological Survey, preliminary estimates in 2013 advised that the Bowland-Hodder space might have held between 23.3 and 64.6 trillion cubic metres of shale fuel.

However a more moderen evaluation in 2019 advised the determine is nearer to 4.0 trillion cubic metres.

In the meantime, a 2014 research estimated that the Midland Valley hosts 1.4–3.8 trillion cubic metres. 

A evaluate printed in March 2020 by Warwick Enterprise Faculty calculated that UK fracking may produce between 90 and 330 billion cubic metres of pure fuel between 2020 and 2050. 

On the increased finish of this estimate, the evaluate means that this might solely contribute between 17 per cent and 22 per cent of cumulative fuel consumption. 

Four areas in the UK have been identified as potentially viable for the commercial extraction of shale gas: the Bowland-Hodder area in Northwest England, the Midland Valley in Scotland, the Weald Basin in Southern England, and the Wessex area in Southern England

4 areas within the UK have been recognized as doubtlessly viable for the industrial extraction of shale fuel: the Bowland-Hodder space in Northwest England, the Midland Valley in Scotland, the Weald Basin in Southern England, and the Wessex space in Southern England

WHY IS FRACKING CONTROVERSIAL?

Fracking includes drilling, fuel extraction and flaring – the burning off of pure fuel byproducts, which releases natural compounds, nitrogen oxide, and different chemical substances and particulates into the air.

Moreover, every fracking properly requires the fixed transportation of kit, water, and chemical substances, in addition to the elimination of waste water from the fracking course of, additional contributing to air air pollution ranges. 

Fracking wells stay in operation for a number of years, prolonging publicity to individuals who work on the properly websites and those that stay close by. 

A research from earlier this 12 months discovered fracking-related chemical substances together with harmful unstable natural compounds are making their means into groundwater that feeds municipal water programs within the US. 

One other research from final 12 months discovered individuals who stay in areas with a excessive focus of fracking wells are at increased danger for coronary heart assaults.  

New Prime Minister Liz Truss is scrapping the ban on fracking as she unveils her long-awaited plan to guard Britons against crippling costs while boosting the country's energy security. Pictured, a worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire

New Prime Minister Liz Truss is scrapping the ban on fracking as she unveils her long-awaited plan to protect Britons towards crippling prices whereas boosting the nation’s vitality safety. Pictured, a employee on the Cuadrilla fracking web site in Preston New Highway, Little Plumpton, Lancashire

FRACKING HAS INCREASED GLOBAL METHANE EMISSIONS: 2019 REPORT 

Fracking has ‘dramatically elevated’ international methane emissions previously decade, a 2019 research warned.

A lot of the speedy rise in ranges of methane, a big greenhouse fuel has been attributed to cows, tropical wetlands and rice fields however fracking additionally performed a job.  

Researchers from Cornell College appeared on the ‘chemical fingerprint’ of methane within the ambiance and located a 3rd of methane emissions previously decade got here from shale fuel.

Research creator Professor Robert Howarth stated the current enhance in methane ‘is huge’.

‘It is globally vital. It is contributed to a number of the enhance in international warming we have seen and shale fuel is a significant participant.’

Learn extra  

However maybe the most important criticism of fracking is that it causes earth tremors by inflicting faults within the rock to slide. 

In line with British Geological Survey (BGS), fracking is accompanied by ‘microseismicity’ – very small earthquakes which can be too small to be felt.

In October 2018, Cuadrilla, an oil and fuel exploration firm, restarted fracking operations at its web site in Preston New Highway, Little Plumpton, Lancashire after a seven-year suspension.

Following the resumption, 18 earthquakes have been detected within the house of 9 days, though these had a magnitude of solely as much as 1.5 on the native magnitude scale (ML), in line with BGS.

‘Earthquakes with a magnitude lower than 2 will not be normally felt and if they’re felt then solely by a number of individuals very near the epicentre,’ BGS stated. 

Nonetheless, the two.9 seismic occasion occurred in August the next 12 months, resulting in a moratorium (a ban) in England by the federal government. 

With the ban now lifted, Rees-Mogg has made clear the restrict of 0.5 on the Richter scale can be eased, doubtlessly to 2.5, admitting that in any other case no mining would happen.

In line with environmental teams, fracking causes air, water and sound air pollution, in addition to muddy eyesores within the pure land. 

Fracking has angered protest teams for its results on the setting, leading to bodily demonstrations at fracking websites. 

‘Fracking is disruptive and deeply unpopular with communities all over the place it has been proposed,’ stated Danny Gross, vitality campaigner at Mates of the Earth. 

HOW CLEAN IS SHALE GAS?

In line with Professor Geoffrey Maitland, Professor of Vitality Engineering at Imperial School London, pure fuel is the ‘cleanest of fossil fuels.’ 

‘Pure fuel is the cleanest of fossil fuels, leading to round 50 per cent much less CO2 emissions in contrast with coal or oil, and shale fuel might present 20 per cent or extra of UK pure fuel demand for 2025-50,’ he defined.

‘Though shale fuel is not going to present an instantaneous answer to the vitality safety of the nation, it may very well be used within the medium time period (from 2025 if drilling and fracturing is allowed to re-start now) to interchange diminishing North Sea fuel manufacturing and a few fuel imports. 

‘It might additionally act as a bridge to 2050 because the nation works in the direction of accelerating sustainable low-carbon vitality applied sciences and options.

‘Effectively-established engineering good apply and sound regulation can present protected and environmentally acceptable options to issues about shale fuel extraction which were highlighted by environmental teams and native communities, together with potential water contamination, earthquakes and disruption to native communities.’

WHY DID BORIS JOHNSON BAN FRACKING? 

In November 2019, Boris Johnson’s authorities introduced the moratorium on fracking, on the premise of a scientific report printed by the Oil and Gasoline Authority. 

The report concluded that it’s not potential with present know-how to precisely predict the chance or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking.  

It additionally adopted a seismic occasion attributable to fracking that registered 2.9 on the native magnitude scale (ML) on August 26, 2019. 

Pictured, the Cuadrilla hydraulic fracturing site at Preston New Road shale gas exploration site in Lancashire

Pictured, the Cuadrilla hydraulic fracturing web site at Preston New Highway shale fuel exploration web site in Lancashire

The occasion, which stemmed from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Highway fracking web site, triggered harm to property reported by 197 households. 

BGS advised MailOnline {that a} 2.9 ML is massive sufficient to be felt strongly at distances up to some kilometres from the epicentre however would not normally trigger any harm. 

Fracking has triggered bigger earthquakes together with earthquakes larger than magnitude 4 in Canada and larger than magnitude 5 in China, BGS stated. 

WHY HAS LIZ TRUSS LIFTED THE FRACKING BAN?

The brand new PM has lifted the moratorium as a means of accelerating home vitality manufacturing within the face of hovering payments.

Truss stated she hopes to get fuel flowing from onshore shale wells in as little as six months the place there may be ‘native assist’. 

In line with a current authorities survey, simply 17 per cent of Brits assist fracking, in contrast with 45 per cent who oppose it. 

Nonetheless, Rees-Mogg stated that compensation could also be paid to native individuals straight affected. 

‘We shouldn’t be ashamed of paying people who find themselves going to be those who do not get the instant good thing about the fuel however have the disruption,’ he stated. 

The PM believes that tapping England’s hidden assets of fuel by way of fracking will scale back the necessity for costly imports throughout an vitality disaster, which might minimize buyer vitality payments. 

Prime Minister Liz Truss said: 'We will end the moratorium on extracting our huge reserves of shale, which could get gas flowing as soon as six months, where there is support for it'. The PM is pictured leaving Downing Street on September 8

Prime Minister Liz Truss stated: ‘We’ll finish the moratorium on extracting our big reserves of shale, which might get fuel flowing as quickly as six months, the place there may be assist for it’. The PM is pictured leaving Downing Road on September 8

Cuadrilla welcomed the choice as it will make use of the UK’s home vitality provide.  

‘I’m very happy that the brand new Authorities has acted shortly to elevate the moratorium,’ stated Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan.

‘That is a completely wise resolution and recognises that maximising the UK’s home vitality provide is important if we’re going to overcome the continued vitality disaster and scale back the danger of it recurring sooner or later.’   

WILL FRACKING REDUCE ENERGY BILLS?

Professor Chris Hilson, an professional in environmental regulation on the College of Studying, stated ‘it is vitally unlikely’ that fracking will scale back vitality payments.

‘Any fuel that outcomes from profitable fracking operations can be bought into the world market – and we’re by no means going to be a big sufficient producer of fuel to shift the dial on world costs,’ he advised MailOnline.

‘It’d presumably decrease payments for native communities round websites if district heating schemes with low cost fuel may very well be labored out, however the logistics of that appear unlikely to profit greater than a small variety of households.’ 

In line with Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, hovering vitality payments will not be as a consequence of a shortage of fuel, however fairly excessive costs. 

‘The state of affairs we face is a worth concern, not a safety of provide concern,’ the previous Enterprise Secretary tweeted earlier within the 12 months.  

Fracking has angered protest groups for its effects on the environment, resulting in physical demonstrations at fracking sites. Pictured, protesters at the fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, near Blackpool, on September 8, 2022

Fracking has angered protest teams for its results on the setting, leading to bodily demonstrations at fracking websites. Pictured, protesters on the fracking web site in Preston New Highway, Little Plumpton, close to Blackpool, on September 8, 2022

‘Extra UK manufacturing will not materially have an effect on the wholesale market worth. This contains fracking.’ 

This contrasts with an announcement from Ofgem chief govt Jonathan Brearley, who beforehand stated the UK’s fuel storage ranges are ‘traditionally low’. 

When he was enterprise secretary, Kwarteng was sceptical in regards to the velocity and extent of the affect on fuel costs.

In March, he wrote in The Mail on Sunday: ‘Even when we lifted the fracking moratorium tomorrow, it will take as much as a decade to extract enough volumes – and it will come at a excessive value for communities and our valuable countryside.’  

In line with Professor Haszeldine on the College of Edinburgh, fracking will take ‘a number of years’ to considerably enhance oil and fuel manufacturing, however is not going to scale back general vitality costs.

The new PM has lifted the ban on fracking as a way of increasing domestic energy production in the face of soaring bills (file photo)

The brand new PM has lifted the ban on fracking as a means of accelerating home vitality manufacturing within the face of hovering payments (file photograph)

‘All oil and fuel is normally bought on worldwide markets at worldwide costs,’ he advised MailOnline. ‘That won’t lower UK costs and payments for shoppers. 

‘If authorities is ready to create a nationalised buy system, which makes UK producers promote to the UK at lower than the worldwide worth, then vitality payments can lower. 

‘However the cause UK payments have elevated rather more than many others in Europe is as a result of political selections imply the UK units all vitality costs on the highest worldwide worth.’  

Ian Paton, constructing accomplice at property consultancy Cluttons, which specialises in vitality and sustainability, additionally identified that pure fuel that is launched from fracking is a fossil gas, not a renewable vitality supply. 

Utilizing renewable vitality sources as an alternative of fossil fuels is vital to the UK reaching web zero – the place carbon emissions are balanced by schemes to offset an equal quantity of greenhouse gases from the ambiance. 

Fracking wells operate around the clock and the process of drilling, gas extraction, and flaring - the burning off of natural gas byproducts - release organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, and other chemicals and particulates into the air. Pictured, fracking protesters at Preston New Road in Lancashire in 2017

Fracking wells function across the clock and the method of drilling, fuel extraction, and flaring – the burning off of pure fuel byproducts – launch natural compounds, nitrogen oxide, and different chemical substances and particulates into the air. Pictured, fracking protesters at Preston New Highway in Lancashire in 2017

‘Eradicating the ban on fracking is a knee jerk response and isn’t the fitting answer,’ Paton stated.

‘Apart from it being largely untested, fracking continues to be counting on fossil fuels and isn’t a long run answer even when it was a dependable and confirmed methodology of extracting extra reasonably priced vitality.’ 

Danny Gross at Mates of the Earth Moreover stated any affect fracking has on vitality safety or gas payments can be ‘negligible’. 

‘UK vitality payments are hovering as a result of we’re very depending on costly fuel to warmth our houses. 

‘The federal government can scale back our reliance on fuel by introducing a council-led, nationwide street-by-street residence insulation programme and by investing in our big potential for renewables.’

‘The federal government also needs to do rather more to take away the obstacles to onshore wind and photo voltaic. They’re fast to construct, fashionable with the general public and produce electrical energy many instances cheaper than fuel.’ 

Charmaine Coutinho, member of the IET’s Vitality Panel, added: ‘In tackling the vitality disaster, it’s not nearly vitality provide, but in addition a discount in demand is required. 

‘The only and quickest approach to tackle this, is a deal with vitality effectivity, as not solely would this scale back our want for vitality, and therefore vitality payments for everybody, however improved requirements of residence insulation are additionally an essential enabler of transitioning from fossil fuels to warmth pumps for home heating. 

‘Constructing insulation and retrofitting would give instant vitality discount – and financial savings – for the general public. We must be constructing the aptitude for bettering constructing effectivity alongside warmth pumps and many others.

‘All through this plan, it is crucial that web zero targets ought to be maintained – they’re a part of the answer and never the issue.’

HOW DOES FRACKING TRIGGER EARTHQUAKES?

Earthquakes are normally triggered when rock underground instantly breaks alongside a fault.

This sudden launch of vitality causes the seismic waves that make the bottom shake, and in excessive circumstances may even break up the Earth’s crust as much as its floor. 

Fracking works by injecting big volumes of water into the rocks surrounding a pure fuel deposit or hydrothermal properly.

The water fractures the rocks, creating dozens of cracks by way of which fuel and warmth can escape to the floor.

Fracking causes Earthquakes by introducing water to faultlines, lubricating the rocks and making them extra prone to slip.

When two blocks of rock or two plates rub collectively, they catch on each other.

The rocks are nonetheless pushing towards one another, however not shifting, constructing stress that’s solely launched when the rocks break.

In the course of the earthquake and afterward, the plates or blocks of rock begin shifting, they usually proceed to maneuver till they get caught once more.

There are questions over whether or not a magnitude 5.6 temblor that hit Oklahoma – the most important earthquake ever recorded within the state – was attributable to the controversial course of.



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