Fracking was banned in the UK in 2019 after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority found there was no way to accurately predict tremors
England’s fracking ban has been lifted as Liz Truss’ government pledges to explore all avenues to improve energy security.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said the impact of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means securing the national energy supply is vital, as he has championed the lifting of the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, which has been in place since 2019 after a series of shocks caused by the process.
Hydraulic fracturing will continue to be illegal in Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying fracking is “a devolved issue” and that the Scottish Government’s position is “unchanged”.
She added: “We do not intend to license hydraulic fracturing.”
But what is hydraulic fracturing – and where could it take place in England? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is fracking?
Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from shale rock.
It involves drilling a vertical well into shale rock, penetrating the surface horizontally.
Chemicals and water are pumped into the well at high pressure, causing fractures in the shale, allowing oil and gas to escape to the surface.
Fracking is a controversial process as it has been linked to water pollution and climate change, with many countries banning the practice in Europe.
Where could fracking take place in the UK?
- Bowland–Hodder Carboniferous Region in Lancashire and the Midlands
- Jurassic Weald Basin in southern England
- Wessex region in southern England
The BGS undertook research into potential fracking areas between 2013 and 2016, providing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with estimates of potential shale gas reserves.
Why was fracking banned?
The government banned hydraulic fracturing in the UK in November 2019 after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found the process could not be carried out in a way that accurately predicted tremors.
Earthquakes and quakes have long been associated with fracking and started making headlines after locals complained about activity at a site in Preston New Road.
The report said predicting when these tremors would occur was “not possible with current technology”.
Following the report, fracking was immediately banned, with proposed fracking sites no longer being accepted.
Speaking about the report at the time, Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “While recognizing the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a carbon-free future, I also always been clear that shale gas exploration must be conducted out safely.
“In the UK, we have been guided by the best scientific evidence available and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.
“Having reviewed the OGA report on recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.
“For this reason, I have concluded that we should impose a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”
Is fracking bad?
Fracking has been linked to minor earthquakes and tremors in the UK.
In 2011, a total of 58 earthquakes were linked to fracking at Preese Hall, Preston, including one measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale.
While in 2019, 120 tremors were recorded during shale gas extraction drilling in Preston, including one measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale.
It was these incidents that led to the ban on hydraulic fracturing in the UK, as prediction of shaking was “not possible with current technology”.
In addition to earthquakes, fracking has also been linked to water pollution, a 2014 New York Times investigation found that water spills at a fracking site in North Dakota had “had an impact on surface and ground water”.
What did Jacob Reese-Mogg say about fracking?
Reese-Mogg, the business and energy secretary, suggested the limits for acceptable levels of seismic activity are too restrictive and said the government was committed to “realizing all potential sources of domestic gas”.
Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the weaponization of energy, strengthening our energy security is a top priority and, as the Prime Minister has said , we are going to make the UK a net exporter of energy by 2040. .
“To get there, we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas generation – so it is only right that we have lifted the pause to realize all potential sources of domestic gas.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said lifting the ban means future applications will be considered “where there is local support”.
He added that while the government will “always try to limit disruption” for those who live and work near fracking sites, “tolerating a higher degree of risk and disruption seems to us to be in the national interest”.
Truss insisted she won’t allow “anything that involves risk”, but “I am clear that energy security is vital”.
Shadow Climate Secretary Ed Miliband said: “Hydraulic fracturing is a dangerous fantasy – it would do nothing to reduce energy bills, costs more than renewables and is not safe.
“The Tories have broken another promise because they are more interested in defending the fossil fuel lobby than the British people.”