10 March 2014
Image: Mark Godfrey - TNC
‘Fracking’ shale gas threatens to undermine the UK’s commitments to fighting climate change and protecting nature. The RSPB is working to hold Government to its climate commitments, stop inappropriate development and ensure that the regulatory regime for this industry is fit for purpose.
The RSPB does not support shale gas extraction in the UK because:
Shale gas is methane that is trapped inside shale rock formations deep underground. It’s harder to extract than conventional natural gas and up until now it hasn’t made sense financially to do so. However, advances in drilling techniques mean that it’s now a more attractive prospect and is being actively pursued by developers and Government alike.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly abbreviated to ‘fracking’, is the process used to get shale gas to flow into a borehole so it can be captured. After drilling a standard well, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected at high pressure to create fractures in the rock. The sand props these fractures open, enabling the shale gas to flow into the borehole.
Media coverage of protests in West Sussex shows what shale gas exploration looks like. At the exploration stage a single well is drilled and fracked to ascertain whether the amount of gas that can be extracted from that site is enough to justify a full scale commercial development. If they decide to proceed, ten or more wells could be drilled from a single well pad due to advances in directional drilling.
Shale gas developments will only occur where there are shale formations. A map showing the location of shale formations in the UK is available on the British Geological survey website.
Licenses have already been granted in several parts of the UK but applications for planning permission and environmental permits have only been received in Lancashire, Sussex and Northern Ireland so far. More applications are expected soon and many more could come forward over the next few years if the Department of Energy and Climate Change goes ahead with plans to hold new licensing rounds for onshore oil and gas exploration.
The RSPB is:
Poorly regulated fracking risks harming threatened species and polluting our waterways. As a partnership of leading conservation charities we came together to understand how serious these risks are and asked the question ‘are we fit to frack?’ More...
In February the UK Government promised to keep England’s most important places for wildlife safe from fracking. Now it may go back on its word. Join the fight to protect our natural treasures and email the Government today.
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