Idiots Guide To Fracking

A lot has been written recently about the subject of ‘fracking’ – a topic that was previously unknown to me.  Here are just a few notes that outline some the key facts and issues involved.

  • The term ‘fracking’ is an abbreviation of ‘hydraulic fracturing’, which is a method of freeing  oil and natural gas trapped in inaccessible layers of shale rock
  • Fractures are created in rocks using pressurised fluids. Wells are drilled into rock and the fracking fluids injected into them under high pressure
  • Fracking fluids consist of water, sand and a lot of chemicals
  • Millions of gallons of water are required to frack a well
  • Fracking was first deployed in Texas in 1947
  • USA and China are embracing fracking as a potential solution to the future shortage of fossil fuel supplies
  •  Shale gas production in the USA rose from 1% of gas production in 2000 to 20% by 2009
  • BP claims that shale gas could make the USA self- sufficient in gas production by 2030
  • USA produced 93 billion cubic metres of gas in 2009, and this could rise to 340 billion cubic metres by 2035
  • China is believed to possess recoverable shale gas equivalent to 12 times its conventional gas sources
  • The International Energy Agency has estimated  the world availability of 400 trillion cubic metres of recoverable resources of conventional gas – equal to about 120 years of current annual production
  • Fracking (for gas) is becoming a controversial issue here in the UK, with potential sites in South Wales, Lancashire, Scotland and Somerset
  • The first test well sunk in the UK in April 2011 (near Blackpool)  is believed to have caused two minor earthquakes (2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter Scale)
  • Shale gas is abundant throughout Europe. Poland is reckoned to have the equivalent supplies to more than 300 years of its current gas production
  • Friends of the Earth have called for a moratorium on fracking in the UK until we know more about the process involved
  • Fracking is associated with a number of environmental concerns such as: contamination of ground water, surface spills, and air pollution
  • France, the states of new York and New Jersey, and the Canadian Province of Quebec have already banned fracking

Some great classroom discussion opportunities here.  Will exploiting our shale gas give us future energy security and release us from dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern supplies – or will high costs of extraction and the environmental  issues involved steer us away to examine other avenues?


Much of the information here was taken from a really useful article titled ‘On Shaky Ground’ that appeared in the April edition of ‘Geographical Magazine’


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
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