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What would an increase in hydraulic fracturing mean for the UK?

The shale gas ‘fracking’ debate looks set to re-emerge as a recent report announcing that up to half of the UK could be suitable for the process was recently announced.

Up to 2,800 wells could be drilled for oil or gas if new licensing laws suggested by the government-commissioned findings are taken further. With lobbyists and protest groups alike all having a keen and invested interest in the process, which involves drilling into the ground to release natural gas, the debate regarding its benefits and drawbacks will rumble on.

However, for the general public, fracking and the issues surrounding it can be a blurred line. While protest groups such as ‘Frack Off’ passionately oppose the potential damages to the environment and landscape of the country, the energy industry continues to seek new opportunities for extraction.

The confliction has begun to confuse many and distort the main issue of what will actually change within the UK should more fracking commence. 

Here, we look at some of the important elements of sourcing natural gas from the earth and what this might eventually mean for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Creation of jobs

As with any large project within the UK, the potential of further jobs will provide employment rates and the economy with a much-needed boost. The proposals have the potential to support anywhere from 16,000 to 74,000 new jobs.

The local environment

Due to the contentious issues involved, the increase in jobs may only seem like a temporary boost when compared to the potential damage that could happen within the local area. A single well could see 51 daily lorry movements for water on local roads and there are worries that water used could become polluted and infiltrate drainage systems. With so many unknown issues that could affect the area, there is a strong potential for aggressive protests throughout the country.

Greenhouse gases

If the report was to fill its full potential then there could be up to 8.64 trillion cubic feet of gas throughout the lifetime of a well, which is around 20 years. This could mean that there is enough to fill a quarter of the UK’s annual demand, with CO2 totalling 15% of emissions from oil and gas production. The report maintains that this is lower than imported liquefied gas.


However, some of the statistics can create a number of other issues and unfortunately, while some of the pros and cons of fracking have been proven, the report has also acknowledged that there are still large uncertainties surrounding the issue. As debate rumbles on, the figures surrounding total emissions from fracking activities, such as methane gas, have yet to be clarified. With such unknown issues, the potential for problems could result in future ramifications that affect the UK’s landscape, environment and green rating.

Learn more about shale gas and hydraulic fracturing in the UK Government's datasheets.

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