License to frack: UK govt to radically expand shale gas test drilling

61cafracking announcement uk protest License to frack: UK govt to radically expand shale gas test drilling

The Conservative-led government is set to announce Tuesday new areas where test drilling for shale gas will be authorized. Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has identified new areas across the UK thought to hold rich, untapped stores of shale gas, The Daily Telegraph reports. As part of a new initiative by Westminster, these areas may become subject to test drilling, which could pave the way for fracking if large deposits of shale gas are found. Greenpeace warns that the new test area could encompass over 51,000 square kilometers. Currently only a small area of the UK had been authorized for test drilling – around 11,000 square kilometers. The controversial practice of fracking has met with widespread opposition, with local communities taking to the streets in protest. In the city of Salford, Greater Manchester, activists blocked access to a test drilling site on Monday, placing a 1.5-ton wind turbine blade in front of the Barton Moss facility in what they called a “symbolic” act of protest. “We’ve only had a handful of exploratory drilling sites across the UK, but already we’ve see huge local opposition,” Helen Rimmer, a campaigner from Friends of the Earth, told RT. “People do not want this in their local community and they don’t want it anywhere else.” Rimmer added that in a recent local survey “seven times” as many people wanted a wind turbine in their community as a shale gas well. PM David Cameron’s government has championed fracking as a way of reducing rising energy bills and making Britain energy-independent. In addition, it has promised local communities 100,000 pounds ($163,000) for every test well drilled, regardless of whether they find deposits of shale gas. “The UK is sitting on significant amounts of shale and the potential prize for energy security and investment is huge. This gives companies the huge incentive to step up the search for shale and find out what is recoverable,” Energy Minister Michael Fallon told The Daily Telegraph. However, potential energy independence could come at a price. Environmentalists maintain the process, which involves blasting water and chemicals at high pressure underground to dislodge tapped gas deposits, can contaminate water supplies and cause minor earthquakes. The UK government found the “hydraulic fracture treatments” implemented during fracking in 2011 by company Cuadrilla had triggered minor earthquakes, measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale, respectively, in the city of Blackpool. Fracking has been a major bone of contention in the US, where the practice is far more widespread than the UK. In November an environmental committee at Massachusetts Statehouse approved a bill, imposing a 10-year ban on fracking following a number of minor quakes. The legislation, which has yet to be approved by lawmakers, is geared at ensuring “the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained.”

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License to frack: UK govt to radically expand shale gas test drilling


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