In an effort to boost the domestic supply of energy, the UK’s incoming Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has announced the end of a ban on hydraulic fracturing, opening the way for projects to proceed in areas where there is support in the community for it.
Hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly abbreviated to fracking, involves using pressurised liquid to fracture bedrock formations and thereby allow natural gas or oil to flow more freely. The process has been successfully used in the US by companies like ExxonMobil and BP, the oil giants behind the Mobil and Castrol lubricant brands, such that the US is again a major producer of oil and gas.
The hope is that shale gas will trigger a similar energy revolution in the UK, but the practice remains controversial due to concerns about increased traffic and potential earthquakes. Some also dispute that it will yield considerable gas due to the UK’s geology differing from that in the US, as indicated by Durham University’s Jon Gluyas:
“We’ve got the wrong kind of shale in the UK. We will get some shale gas out, but it won’t scale in the same way [as in the US].”
The UK’s geology tends to vary more than it does in the US, making it much more difficult to translate experiences from one well to another. In addition, the UK’s ground tends to be clay-based, as opposed to the silica-based rocks commonly found in the most productive US shale plays, so fractures will not hold for as long.