Fracking in the UK: the facts so far

What is fracking and why is it controversial? We answer your questions so far.

Anti fracking sign
Published: March 18th, 2022 at 8:03 am
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The UK's reliance on Russian energy has come under scrutiny since Russia's invasion of the Ukraine in February, with some ministers urging the government to rethink its decision in 2019 to end its support of fracking. The industry has been a source of controversy in the UK over the last decade, but how much do you actually know about fracking? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process.

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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 fracking sites are there in the UK?

Fracking sites in the UK are still 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.

6. Where did that process occur?

In Lancashire at the Preese Hall-1 well.

7. Is fracking still happening in Lancashire?

The Oil and Gas Authority has told Cuadrilla to permanently concrete and abandon its two drilled wells in Lancashire by the end of June 2022. Caudrilla estimates their shale gas reserves to be worth £136 billion.

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Protestors with a protest banner against fracking at a farm site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool./Credit: Getty

8. Does fracking cause earthquakes?

In 2019, fracking was indefinitely suspended following a report by the Oil and Gas Authority into earth tremors. While these tremors are considered minor, they are a concern to local residents.

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

Fracking is currently banned in the UK, and will remain so unless the science or the public position on it changes.

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's former shadow energy minister, believes that fracking could create less CO2 when compared to the alternative of getting gas from abroad.

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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, forcing Cuadrilla Resources to stop drilling.

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