Is Fracking the Future?
The issue of fracking has received a huge amount of media attention and coverage in recent weeks and continues to divide the nation’s opinion. The process, which involves drilling into shale rock and pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground, is opposed by many due to its supposed links with contamination of groundwater, pollution of air by leaking methane and seismic activity. According to an independent government-commissioned report, two minor earthquakes in Blackpool back in 2011 were attributable to fracking, and this has served to antagonise opponents to fracking in the UK further.
However, despite these concerns many others continue to advocate the process of fracking, claiming it to be a relatively robust and cost effective way of extracting natural fuel from the ground. The UK government continues to urge the country to ‘get behind fracking’ in a bid to ensure energy self-sufficiency for future decades.
So, how exactly does fracking work? At the most simplistic level, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into ground. The subterranean rock then fractures under the increased pressure, allowing trapped gas to be released. The gas is then collected on the surface. The idea is not a new one and has existed in the US since the 1970s, yet has only recently been put into significant production due to technological advancements. As well as the UK, many other countries have also recently given fracking ventures permission to begin drilling in the search for the much-needed fuel we need to make our society function.
It appears that whichever technique is used, extracting fossil fuels from the land will always remain a contentious topic. Although we already have a number of current or approved fracking sites across Kent, Sussex, Staffordshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Scotland and South Wales, as well as more in the pipeline, the future of fracking in the UK still remains uncertain. The South Downs National Park Authority recently successfully rejected drilling plans, so the presence of natural gas does not in itself point to the development of an imminent fracking site.
However, the unavoidable fact of the matter is that the need for an independent energy-supply is ever-increasing, particularly with fears growing of a Russian gas switch-off. Certainly, more research is needed to make fracking cleaner and safer and serious attention should once again be given to the development of new ways to harness renewable sources of energy.
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