Methane emissions have been found to escape during the fracturing process to extract shale gas
UK gas fracking boom 'may be dirtier than coal'
13th April, 2011
As well as local outrage over 'fracking' drilling there is new evidence its greenhouse gas footprint may be higher than that of coal. Tom Levitt reports from the centre of this potential gas boom near Blackpool
In the flat lying geology of the Fylde coast the latest site of the UK’s burgeoning shale gas boom needs little direction. The 32 metre-high drilling rig, less than one mile away from the village of Singleton, stands out in the mostly low-lying arable farmland. A little more than 2,800m beneath the surface is the target of this activity - natural gas held within deep-lying shale rock formations. To release it the energy companies involved must inject thousands of litres of water and chemical additives down the bore wells at high pressure to blast open cracks.
But this extraction technique, known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ by some, is being met with strong opposition because of concerns about water pollution in the US and new evidence its greenhouse gas footprint could be even higher than coal. With enough shale gas reserves in Europe alone to meet the UK’s annual gas needs for 160 years, successful extraction could also have serious implications on the UK’s impetus towards renewable energy.
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