UK Should Keep Exploring For Shale Gas, Says Expert
A senior academic at the University of Derby has said that the Government is right to allow fracking for shale gas to resume in the UK.
While acknowledging environmental concerns, Dr Dorothy Satterfield, lecturer in earth and environmental sciences at the university, believes that preliminary investigations into the viability of shale gas should be allowed to proceed.
Moves by gas company Cuadrilla to exploit the gas in Lancashire were put on hold 18 months ago after fracking, which uses high-pressure liquid to split rock and extract gas, caused two small earthquakes.
But this week, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said that fracking could resume in the UK, subject to new controls which aim to reduce the risk of seismic activity.
Dr Satterfield said: “I’m open to the fact that we need to explore the possibility of shale gas. There are environmental concerns but I have confidence that the authorities will do everything necessary to prevent any harm through strong regulation.
“I believe these test wells to extract shale gas in the UK are necessary.
“We need to find out whether it is viable. We need to find out whether there is enough gas down there to justify doing it on a larger scale.
“If it takes a lot of energy to extract a small amount of gas then clearly it is not worth pursuing – but we won’t know that until we actually drill down and have a look.
“It may transpire that it is not right for the UK.”
Derby is one of a number of UK universities carrying out research into shale gas extraction. Dr Satterfield is leading a team of students, who, as part of their studies, are researching whether shale gas is a viable proposition.
It is not yet known whether Derbyshire is a rich source of shale gas as more research needs to be carried out.
But, in 2010, a report by the British Geological Society identified “significant potential areas” in northern England, including a site near Nottingham.
As part of their research, University of Derby students have drilled their own bore hole and the results have shown that Derbyshire may not have an abundance of the resource.
Dr Satterfield said: “The results showed that the shale was quite shallow and may not have had long enough to form. So, early indications would suggest that, although there may be some gas, Derbyshire may not have enough to justify any drilling, at least not on a large scale.”
Fracking involves drilling down and creating tiny explosions to shatter and crack hard shale rocks to release the gas inside.
Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
Much of the water used in fracking is collected from the well and processed.
But there are concerns that potentially cancer-causing chemicals can sometimes find their way into drinking water sources.
For example, in North America, where fracking is taking place in New York State and Pennsylvania, there have been reports of pollution incidents.
The industry itself vigorously denies that shale gas is unsafe and blames pollution incidents as examples of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.
Dr Satterfield, who herself is originally from Maryland, in north east America, said: “The UK is in a position to learn from the mistakes that have been made in the US.”