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Fracking – What you need to know

09 November 2018

According to Gov.uk Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) is the process of extracting shale gas from rock formations by injecting fluids (a mixture of water and chemicals) at high pressure, low in to the ground where the shale gas can be found.

Cuadrilla is the company overseeing all of the Hydraulic fracturing and currently has a number of sites across the UK, one of which is in the exploration stages. If you would like to keep up with the work they are doing and have any question then you can go to their website.  If the exploration of the site is successful and the site moves into production, there could be some huge benefit for Lancashire and the local community, including ten full time positions, 46 contractors, 10 apprenticeships and a huge £10.4million direct spend.

Staged of Hydraulic fracturing

Exploration

The first stage of fracking is exploration. This is when exploratory drilling will take place, in order to identify if there is enough shale gas to be produced ensuring a profit will be made.  This stage could involve seismic surveys, samples of the shale rock and fracks and flow tests. A drilling rig will be installed and equipment water and chemicals may be transported to and from the site.  Where fracking takes place, the community will receive £100,000 in community benefits per well-site.

Moving into production

If the exploratory stage proves that the shale gas can be produced profitably, more wells will be drilled and fracked. The water chemicals and equipment will be brought to the site and water will be taken away to be treated and disposed of. This stage will last for roughly 0.5 to 2 years.

Production

During this stage, maintenance activities may take place from time to time and more wells may be drilled however, the level of activity at the site is highly likely to decline and the all of the gas is extracted. This stage could last up to 20 years. 1% of all profits made will be paid out to the community where the fracking is taking place.

Decommissioning and restoration

The final stage is to restore the site to its original condition. All surface instillations will be removed and all wells will be made safe so that no further action will be needed at the site. This process could happen at any time during the fracking process if the stages don’t develop as they should. If the site and fracking goes as planned then the decommissioning and restoration process will take place once all of the gas has been successfully extracted.

Shale Gas

The gas that is produced from hydraulic fracturing is called shale gas as the rock that is being fracked is called ‘Shale rock’. According to Cuadrilla, they are using a mixture of water, sand and a chemical called polyacrylamide to break up the rock and release the gas. The chemical is found in many house hold items including garden products and contact lenses. As the current Lancashire site is still in the exploration stages, it is not know exactly how much gas can be produced, however after conducting some analytical data, it was concluded that a 2.5km horizontal well could produce 6.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of gas over a 30 year period. According to the BBC a spokes person from the department of Business Innovation and Skills said ‘Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits, including the creation of well paid, quality jobs’.

While there appears to be a number of positive benefits there are also a large number of people who are extremely appose to the idea and continue to campaign against fracking , with protesters continuing to gather outside of the site everyday. According to campaigners, this activity will pollute the air, poison the water supply, ruin the local landscape and by developing an additional source of fossil fuel worsen global warming. Many also believe that the money being spent on this site would be put to better use developing current renewable energy options. Two campaigners were charged with public nuisance and received a 16 month sentence, which they believe they were given in order to deter others, after the climbed on to the roof of a lorry that was transporting materials on to the site and remained there for three days.

However, it is not just the protesters that are hindering production of the gas. Current regulations state any tremor that exceeds the magnitude of 0.5 will mean the fracking has to halt for a number of hours, after fracking was linked to minor earthquakes in 2011. Cruadrilla have called for the government to reconsider the boundaries as the current conditions are proving ‘extremely challenging’. The current magnitude at surface level would be similar to the vibrations of a passing car. However local residents do not want this to be increased as they are concerned that it may impact local structures at surface level.

With each day delaying the process costing the company £94,000 it is thought that keeping the magnitude at 0.5 could result in the process costing close to double what was originally anticipated. If this occurs then it will take away from profits resulting in a knock on effect for the Lancashire community. While protesters are pleased that there are no current plans to heighten the limit, Cruadrilla and geologists have highlighted that the limit is far lower than other countries, with some countries allowing tremors as high as 4 magnitudes.

We’re always interested to hear the views of our customers so get in touch and let us know what you think about the latest development in the energy industry.

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