Says John Bean.
Britain could be sitting on shale gas reserves far larger than we ever dreamed of. They may even be on the scale that has boosted America’s economy with a boost in jobs – up to 30,000 for the UK is being claimed – by lowering gas prices to a third of the UK level. Or it might be a completely unsuitable technology for densely populated Britain and even cause some of the problems claimed by its detractors. These include flames coming out of household taps and people being poisoned by contaminated water used in the fracking process.
The most recent report, which must be considered, was that tests on the 300 different chemicals being used revealed that in some cases they could lead to birth defects in children born in fracking areas. This certainly needs looking into.
It should be noted that respectable organisations such as the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have concluded unequivocally that any “health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing… can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced”. Incidentally, the Institute of Directors has suggested that in the long term fracking could create up to 74,000 British jobs.
But we would suggest that the time has come to give the companies concerned, including Cuadrilla, Government support to drill three full-scale wells in the best geological sites: one in Sussex, one in the North West and one in the North East. We will never know unless we carry out more testing and drilling is allowed for such pilot operations. This would then clear up the question of whether the claims made against fracking, mainly by the Greens, are an exaggeration or not.
The consultancy Amec has just published a report on the effects of fracking which it is now claimed was influenced by the efforts of Ed Davey the (Lib-Dem) Energy Secretary. Green campaigners were asked to contribute, but no shale gas companies were consulted.
According to the Telegraph’s Energy Editor, Emily Gosden, 19.12.13, the estimate for the amount of water that could be used in each well was more than doubled, in direct response to a suggestion from Friends of the Earth. This could mean that local residents would have to endure up to 50 lorries going past each day (when it should be 20) and waste water from the well putting a greater strain on existing treatment facilities.
I understand that the Greens are now in company with a more virulent critic; this is the EU. It has already suggested that fracking should not be permitted in any EU country as it is based on a hydrocarbon source, whereas Britain has signed up to move into the direction of renewables only; mainly those ineffective, highly costly, short life, awful windmills.