The term ‘Fracking’ is widely used to describe the modern, extreme technique of drilling deep into the earth and injecting high volumes of fluid into the ground at high pressure to break up the rock and encourage the release of methane.
The not entirely correct use of the ‘F’ word has given politicians and industry types a loop hole to avoid coming clean about the risks (more about this in a moment). Unconventional gas extraction is a more accurate term, but doesn’t lend itself very well to catchy slogans!
Unconventional gas types/extraction methods proposed in the UK:
Shale rock is found deep underground, past the aquifers. It is impermeable, therefore unlike conventional gas extraction much more effort is required to get hold of the methane. After drilling, large volumes of frack fluid are pumped at high pressure to break up the rock and encourage methane release. ‘Modern’ or ‘high volume, high pressure, slickwater’ fracking is very different in scale to the old style fracking that has been used previously in conventional gas extraction. Politicians such as Peter Lilley frequently claim that fracking has been going on for years. This statement is deliberately misleading. The DECC has confirmed that the only time HVHP fracking has occurred in this country was at Preese Hall in Lancashire (where it caused earth tremors).
Fracking fluid contains water, sand, polyacrylamide, hydrochloric acid and glutaraldehyde biocide. All stuff found under the kitchen sink according to the pro-fracking lobby. However, benzene, toluene, xylene, hydrogen sulphide and other carcinogenic compounds (to name but a few) can be released along with the methane. Naturally occurring radioactive materials are commonly found in shale rock and are bought up to the surface along with the produced water.
The chemicals used in the drilling phase can include some seriously nasty stuff, rarely disclosed in planning applications (so much for full disclosure!).
So maybe I could make some DIY frack fluid from the contents of my kitchen sink cupboard (now where did I leave my glutaraldehyde?), but the frack fluid is a very small part of an incredibly toxic story.
Wells quickly wane in production, requiring more and more wells to be drilled. The cumulative impacts in our densely populated country could be devastating.
Don’t take our word for it, gem up on the facts for yourself. Independent, unbiased science has plenty to say about the dangers of unconventional gas extraction. Check out our research pages.