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What the Frack Does it Mean? Fracking for Shale Gas Explained



Fracking may be a word that is vaguely familiar to you. This is more likely if you are a fan of Battlestar Galactica, where the word ‘frack’ was used in place of a more familiar expletive.

But today fracking means something very different indeed. It refers to the practice of focusing on shale rock to extract gas. With fossil fuels available in limited supply, it is easy to see why this method has been seized upon by some governments across the world. The UK government is one of them. A short while ago there were restrictions on using this practice in the UK, but late last year those restrictions were lifted.

Why is this method of finding gas so controversial?

Fracking is the process used to get through the shale rock to the natural gases that are held there. In order to do this, chemicals and water are used to pump through the rocks to their target. Sand is also used.

This may all sound perfectly fine to begin with. But the practice has drawn lots of controversy in recent times. There have been questions about the safety of tap water in areas where fracking is used. The waste water has been a significant concern, as has the incidence of ground tremors caused by creating huge fissures through the shale rock.

This was borne out most recently by the situation in Blackpool, the first site where fracking is taking place in this country. The area experienced two earthquakes that have been attributed to the fracking that was going on in the area. Not only has the government admitted the link, it has also seen evidence of damage occurring to one of the wells used for the fracking process.

What are the implications of the government lifting the restrictions on fracking in the UK?

Despite these safety worries and fears, the government has agreed that the process should be rolled out across the UK. At present it is not known when or where the next wells would be drilled, but there is every possibility that many more of them could eventually be created across the country. Since there is a chance of accessing vital fossil fuels to boost the country’s supplies, it’s easy to see why they have said yes – despite the existence of the earthquakes.

There is also some uncertainty about the effects that fracking could have on the environment. The government is keen to support green methods of producing renewable energy, and yet there is uncertainty concerning the effect fracking could have on the environment with regard to CO2 emissions. If you add in the apparent concerns and problems regarding contamination of water supplies, you can see why there is controversy surrounding the government’s decision.

In the end, as the practice goes ahead in the UK we can but wait and see what actually happens. We could soon see wells appearing in various locations, hoping to get down to the shale gas reserves to keep us supplied for many years to come.

What are your opinions on fracking for gas in the UK?

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