Fracking is scheduled to begin in 2017, but what does this mean for local communities, the environment and UK gas supply?

In December 2016 fracking in Yorkshire was approved to take place in Kirby Misperton. Prior to this, fracking had also been approved in Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, despite heavy opposition. Fracking is a highly contentious issue within the UK, therefore the approval highlights the move towards an increasingly diverse energy system.

Third Energy have plans to begin fracking in a well, located in north east Yorkshire. They claim to have taken all environmental risks into consideration, and the high court granted planning permission to begin construction of the fracking site.

As the UK’s gas storage reaches an eight year low, the approval of shale gas drilling has the potential to provide some stability to the system and meet gas demand. The major advantage of fracking to the UK is the cost efficiency. The localisation of the process means that the UK cuts out the transportation costs of importing gas from alternative countries such as Norway, which in turn means the drilled gas on shore will be much cheaper and increases the UK’s independence on an international scale.

However, the attempt to encourage and enforce fracking for natural gas has caused some controversy in the UK, as well as other countries. Protests have taken place in Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire in an attempt to ban or prevent fracking in each county. However fracking has been given the go-ahead in each area despite the frustration of locals. Most recently, north east Yorkshire fracking has been allowed to take place, however protests are continuing even though high court ruling has been given.

Many have argued that the environmental impacts on the surrounding communities would be too harsh, and have not been taken into account:

The Kirby Misperton application was the first to be approved in the UK since 2011, when tests on the Fylde coast in Lancashire were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area. Since then, two high-profile applications to frack in Lancashire have been rejected by councillors.
But in October, the scheme to drill up to four wells and frack for shale gas at Preston New Road, Fylde, which had been turned down by Lancashire county council, was given the go-ahead by the communities secretary Sajid Javid, following an appeal.

Many believe that fracking on shore can lead to earthquakes, though there is little evidence to support this. Additionally, there are concerns over the carbon emitted from drills at site and the tankers transporting water can lead to masses amounts of waste water and fuel. Protestors would prefer for local councils to take into consideration the impact on local communities, the environmental effects, and the emissions involved in fracking for shale gas. However while closures along the UKCS continue into the new year, there are few – if any – plans to install new platforms. Therefore the future of gas supply from the UK to meet UK demand may need to be replaced with on shore fracking, according to industry experts. Fracking in the UK is to begin this year, and so we should find out realistic impacts of it in the near future.  




Sources: Energy Live News, BBC News, the Guardian, SSE, Gazprom Energy, Engie.