With recent news that councillors in the Vale of Glamorgan have rejected an application to test drill for shale gas in the county, does this spell the end for this ‘unconventional’ technology?
The basis for the decision is believed to have been centred around the potential risk of pollution to ground water supplies, however it is understood that Coast Oil and Gas Limited are likely to appeal.
Hydraulic fracture as a technology has been used in the US since the 1940s and is centred on large volumes of predominantly water being pumped into oil and gas bearing formations which leads to the reservoir rock fracturing and releasing oil and gas. The process is assisted by chemicals being added to the water, partly to assist with dissolving rock and then to aid flow of fluid. Concern exists regarding the fracking liquid that remains in the strata, impacting on underground water supplies.
Gas drilling in parts of Lancashire was suspended, after two earth tremors in April and May of last year took place near Blackpool, investigations are ongoing but the tremors could possibly be linked to fracking operations.
France have banned fracking, whilst the Department of Energy and Climate Control (DECC) remain broadly supportive of gas shale exploration. Advocates remain resilient in advising that the technology is tested and has been used in the oil and gas industry for decades, whilst the counter argument points toward pollution and a possible distraction from the renewable energy drive that has gripped the UK.
The discussion is likely to rumble on with an increasing reliance on imported gas, energy security and affordability, however caution would seem the overriding driver until such time as the multiple concerns have been addressed and comfort provided that there are no adverse repercussions.
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