Fracking in the UK – the facts so far

With Vivienne Westwood driving a tank to David Cameron's home protesting about fracking and the government seeking to block EU controls, the fracking industry has come under more scrutiny in recent days.

MALTON, ENGLAND - MAY 24: An anti fracking sign is displayed in the garden of a home on the outskirts to the village of Kirby Misperton on May 24, 2016 in Malton, England. North Yorkshire Planning and Regulatory Committee voted seven to four in favour of a planning application submitted by Third Energy to conduct fracking at the KM8 drilling site near the village. Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

As you may have seen on tonight’s Countryfile, fracking has been a source of controversy in the UK over the last decade. It’s a complex issue, but how much do you actually know about fracking? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process.


1. What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is the process of injecting pressurised fluids into drill holes in a bid to create cracks in the deep-rock to facilitate access to natural gas and petroleum. Once the fracture is made into the rock, a ‘proppant’ such as sand is used to keep it open.

2. When did fracking start?

Fracking started as an experiment in 1947 and it was first commercially used a couple of years later in the US.

3. When did fracking start in the UK?

Large-scale use of fracking only started towards the end of the 1970s when it reached the UK sector of the North Sea. On the UK mainland, fracking started to make the news in 2007 when it was suggested as a means to reach natural gas trapped in shale formations.

4. How many of these fracking sites are there in the UK?

Fracking sites in the UK are at the exploratory stage. The only hydraulic fracturing ever done in the UK to reach shale gas was in 2011.

5. Who conducted the UK fracking?

Cuadrilla Resources, a British oil and gas exploration company. The chairman of Cuadrilla Resources is Lord Browne, former chief of British Petroleum and president of the Royal Academy of Engineering from 2006 to 2011.

6. Where did that process occur?

In Lancashire at the Preese Hall-1 well.

7.  Is fracking still happening in Lancashire?

The process was initially stopped in 2011 as it caused noticeable seismic activity. The site was abandoned in 2013. However, Cuadrilla has three drilled wells in Lancashire, which they estimate has shale gas worth £136 billion.

8. Does fracking cause earthquakes?

As of 2015, fracking has been linked with 5 cases of seismic activity originating from the UK, the US and Canada. However, research suggests that the magnitude of the earthquakes caused by fracking is usually insignificant.

9. Is there any law against fracking in the UK?

No. However, the Infrastructure Act 2015 was recently passed, dealing with various aspects of fracking. The definition of hydraulic fracturing was altered to accommodate for more fluid per stage but with an increased monitoring of air, soil and groundwater around fracking sites.

10. Does fracking have an adverse effect on climate change?

NGOs fear that fracking for shale gas will have a hazardous effect on climate change but Baroness Worthington, Labour shadow energy minister, believes that fracking could create less CO2 when compared to the alternative of getting gas from abroad.


11. Are there many anti-fracking entities?

Yes, several. The most famous one is arguably Frack Off, which organised the Balcombe (West Sussex) drilling protest of 2013, which forced Cuadrilla Resources to stop drilling.