Frack-ing or Frack – off?

Fracking; it doesn’t even sound nice does it? A study back in 2011 by Gregory FCA Communications, found that the industry would be better of just trying to get rid of the word all together. However, it is now thanks to the industry itself, the media, just about every Government whose land it effects and most importantly, the so called “Fracktivists” – that this word is circulating the energy industry today.

 

Currently, the Scottish Government has a moratorium on fracking, but is this preventing economic growth or helping our nation to reduce its carbon footprint? Well, the answer is quite complicated, but in the end it does both. Exploiting shale gas now could prove almost as successful for us, as it did and is currently doing for the Americans. On the cleaner hand, not exploiting it is preventing the further demise of our environment.

 

Drilling firstly into the arguments for this, a review by the House of Commons (Yes, that’s the UK Government – but lets not kid ourselves, it has an influence up here), detailed that introducing shale gas into our energy mix could bring £3.7Bn of investment, per annum to the UK. Now, the multiplier effect from the jobs created is a little self explanatory, however delving deeper into some of the estimates, I have found ranges from 15,000 – 64,000 jobs according to some reports. The graph below from refracktion.com is a nice indicator of what I’m rambling about.

jobs-estimates

The same government is suggesting only a 30% taxation on the profits of the industry. This is compared to a current 62% on off shore oil and gas. Still, if the Scottish Government decide that they fancy lifting this ban, imagine what this could do for the finances… Not to mention the financial benefits that local councils could receive if their land posses the sought after energy source.

 

Moving swiftly on, who can guess what one of the DECC’s favorite buzz words are? There is three you can choose from…

 

What were you thinking – Money? I was looking for Energy Security! Basically meaning, we need a secure base load of a non-renewable supply so that we can all get on with our electrified and gas powered lives.

 

With a declining production of oil and gas in the North Sea due to unsustainably low prices, can shale gas save the day? According to Ken Cronin, chief executive of United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas “At the beginning of this century, we were energy independent, producing enough oil and gas from the North Sea to provide for everyone in the UK. Today we are dependent for nearly 50% of our oil and gas from overseas and that is going to rise to over 75% in the next 15 years without further onshore production”. Scary isn’t it? Well, for someone who is probably not interested in how they will charge their tablet or drive their nice car in the coming 20 years, nah who cares?!

 

Now, on to some more concerning matters surrounding fracking. The added air, noise and visual pollution that it will bring is causing a right stir amongst environmentalists. Adding fuel to the fire, the water resources required to actually carry out the fracking, not to mention the hazardous waste water that it creates, are in themselves a pressing issue.

 

With regards to the environment, the potential leakage of GHG’s including the highly damaging gas methane, do pose a severe environmental risk. This is regardless of the safety precautions put in place by the operator, as there is no solid guarantee that this could not and will not happen. On top of this, there is the actual effects of the operator damaging the landscape, the noise and pollution of their trucks and sheer disruption to the area containing the resource.

 

Now, even though the resource extracted from fracking is much “cleaner” than the likes of oil or gas taken from the North Sea and substantially cleaner than coal in terms of emissions – the fact of the matter is, its not clean! It is also more expensive to extract and requires a high oil and gas price for sustainability.

In relation to our countries water resources, the usage is being estimated at around 7,000 – 23,000 m3. Depending on the location of the operations, this could potentially effect certain sites, however Scottish Water would treat the request for water provision in the same manor as any other business. In the USA, MIT have created a report highlighting certain incidents associated with Natural Gas drilling, the contents of which are displayed in the table below. Interestingly, 47% of these incidents have effected raw water.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 16.29.50https://mitei.mit.edu/system/files/NaturalGas_Appendix2E.pdf

 

Again, like my previous article (https://kylebarrieblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/oil-vs-renewable-energy-investments/ – if you fancied a read) I want to keep this short and sweet. So I will end with a few take home opinions of mine.

 

Firstly, I believe that if the Scottish Government were to consider lifting the temporary ban on fracking, then they need to fully understand the burdens that it will have on the environment. If we are really serious about becoming much more environmentally friendly and we want a future of clean energy, is this really the right way to go about it? I feel that our focus needs to be more on developing the potential that we have for renewable technologies and not on introducing cleaner forms of dirty resources. The financial and energy benefits do not in my opinion outweigh the detrimental impact that fracking could have on our nation.

 

As ever, I welcome constructive comments and discussion about your view on the matter, thanks!