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UK shale gas gets go ahead

MPs last week gave shale gas drilling in the UK the go-ahead after ruling it would have no impact on water supplies.

Pollution concerns

There had been concerns that the method could cause water pollution or high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the House of Commons Energy Select Committee report found no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process involved in shale gas extraction − known as “fracking” − posed a direct risk to underground water aquifers provided the drilling well is constructed properly.

Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas held in rock using hydraulic fracturing. This involves drilling into rock with a rock hammer via a secure well. Once penetrated the shale rock releases high pressure water with sand and chemicals. The process carries the risk that this water could leach into the ground and nearby aquifers.

US drinking water contaminated

In the United States, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection this week fined natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy $1M (£600,000) for contaminating local drinking water while extracting shale gas.

The firm was drilling inland in five towns in Bradford County.

The committee of MPs concluded that there was no justification for a moratorium on shale gas drilling in the UK at present.

“There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling, but our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern − that UK water supplies would be put at risk,” said committee chairman Tim Yeo.

UK gas prices ‘unlikely to lower’

Shale gas extraction could reduce the UK’s dependence on imported gas, but it is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on domestic gas prices, according to the report.

The British Geological Survey estimates that the UK’s onshore shale gas resources could be
as large as 150bn.m³ − equivalent to roughly 1.5 years of total UK gas consumption.

The UK’s potential offshore reserves could “dwarf” onshore supplies.

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