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  5. > Hydraulic Fracturing: The UK moratorium is lifted, but opposition grows

Introduction

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique that has been used to blast holes in rock layers containing gas reserves allowing the gas to be extracted. Recent discoveries of huge gas pockets such as the Marcellus Shale in the US and Bowland Shale in the UK mean that energy companies have been employing the technique on a never–before-seen scale to extract gas.

Features and benefits

* A detailed description of what the new process involves and how it is completed.
* Analysis of the key UK players, where their sites are and where the key test sites for future licences are occurring.
* A look at how common unconventional wells are worldwide, looking at the USA, Australia, Poland and France.
* Analysis of why there was a moratorium imposed and why numerous groups and political parties are so set against allowing the process to proliferate.
* Looking at what is likely to happen in the UK market and whether profit can be made in such difficulties, with direct action against the companies.

Highlights

After a fairly disastrous start to unconventional gas supplies in the UK from a public relations point of view, the governmental moratorium has been lifted and operations are starting again. The areas under approval for fracking are extensive and expanding.
There are a number of environmental concerns that are growing in strength as more data becomes available from the USA. The contents of the fracking fluid, leaking wells, release of radioactive material, air pollution, health concerns and destruction of the environment are all problems putting doubt on the process.
Some countries, such as the USA and Australia, adopted the process very early on when it became a possibility that new gas reserves could be tapped and their energy industry has exploded with new exploration activity. However other countries, such as France, have straight out banned the process.

Your key questions answered

* What is fracking and unconventional drilling and how does this differ to existing technology?
* Has the process been shown to be profitable and worth while overall in the countries it has been tried?
* What are the negative impacts that cause some countries to ban the process?
* What companies are involved in the UK and what is the view of the public and the government on the process?
* Is the process likely to go ahead in the UK and could it be profitable?

Table Of Contents

Hydraulic Fracturing: The UK moratorium is lifted, but opposition grows
O VERVIEW
Catalyst
Summary
THE HYDRAULIC FRACTURING PROCESS
Hydraulic fracturing is not a new technique
Fracking allows splitting of the shale from horizontal wells
Fracking fluid and water is crucial to the process
Two different types of gas beds are explored
Shale gas can be harder to reach at deeper depths but can contain huge quantities
Coal bed methane is easier to access in some instances and prevalent in the UK
Companies searching for gas in the Uk
Cuadrilla
I-Gas
Centrica and Total
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IN THE WORLD
USA
Australia
Poland
France
FRACKING COMES TO THE UK
Potential UK fracking areas are extensive
The desire for new gas reserves is great
The UK's imported gas is currently bought from friendly nations
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS' CONCERNS
Fracking fluid can enter the water supply and ground water
Wells can and do leak in the oil and gas industry
Release of radioactive material from drill sites
Focus on fossil fuels damages new energy source search
Vast numbers of trucks needed to frack and remove gas
Air pollution is considered to be a major environmental threat
Whose responsibility is it for the well?
PROTESTS IN THE UK
Skepticism that unconventional gas wells will provide jobs
Efforts against companies are organized and effective
Barton Moss in Salford is one of the principal test cases
A number of key organizations have stated their opposition
The argument is heavily polarized
CONCLUSIONS
The US model cannot be fully applied in the UK
The described benefits of fracking may not be fully realized
Environmental risks are very extensive and concerning
APPENDIX
Definitions
Sources
Further Reading
Ask the analyst
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