Fracking sites UK: fracking meaning explained, why it was banned - and possible fracking locations in England
Fracking was banned in the UK in 2019 after a report from the Oil and Gas Authority found there was no way to accurately predict tremors
England’s fracking ban has been lifted as Liz Truss’s Government vowed 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 domestic energy supplies is vital as he defended lifting the moratorium on fracking, which has been in place since 2019 after a series of tremors caused by the process.
Fracking will continue to be illegal in Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stating that fracking is “a devolved matter” and the Scottish government’s position is “unchanged”.
She added: “We do not intend to grant licences for fracking.”
But what is fracking - 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 the shale rock, penetrating the surface horizontally.
Chemicals and water are pumped into the well at a high pressure casuing fractures in the shale which allows the 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 practise in Europe.
Where could fracking take place in the UK?
According to The British Geological Survey (BGS) there are three areas in England where fracking could be possible due to shale gas reserves.
These areas are:
- Carboniferous Bowland–Hodder area in Lancashire and the Midlands
- Jurassic Weald Basin in south England
- Wessex area in south England
The BGS undertook research into potential fracking areas between 2013-2016, providing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with estimates of potential shale gas reserves.
Why was fracking banned?
The government banned fracking in the UK in November 2019 after a report from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found that the process could not be done in a way to accurately predict tremors.
Tremors and earthquakes have long been associated with fracking and started to make headlines after locals complained about the activity at a site on Preston New Road.
The report deemed that predicting when these tremors would occur was “not possible with current technology.”
Following on from the report fracking was immediately banned, with proposals for fracking sites no longer accepted.
Speaking about the report at the time, Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration must be carried out safely.
“In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.
“After reviewing the OGA’s report into 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 put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”
Is fracking bad?
Fracking has been associated with minor earthquakes and tremors in the UK.
In 2011 a total of 58 earthquakes were linked to fracking in Preese Hall, Preston, with one measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale.
Whilst in 2019, 120 tremors were recorded during drilling for shale gas extraction in Preston, with one measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale.
It was these incidents that led to fracking being banned in the UK as predicting the tremors was “not possible with current technology.”
As well as earthquakes, fracking has also been linked to water pollution, an investigation by the New York Times in 2014 found water spills at a fracking site in North Dakota had “impacted surface and groundwater”.
But in a 2015 report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fracking was cleared of “widespread” and “systematic” pollution.
What has Jacob Reese-Mogg said about fracking?
Reese-Mogg, Business and Energy Secretary, has uggested limits on acceptable levels of seismic activity are too restrictive and said the Government is determined to “realise any potential sources of domestic gas”.
Rees-Mogg said: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the Prime Minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.
“To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any 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 disturbance” to those living and working near to fracking sites, “tolerating a higher degree of risk and disturbance appears to us to be in the national interest”.
Truss insisted she will not authorise “anything that carries a risk” but “I’m clear that energy security is vital”.
Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said: “Fracking is a dangerous fantasy – it would do nothing to cut energy bills, costs more than renewables, and is unsafe.
“The Tories have broken another promise because they are more interested in standing up for the fossil fuel lobby than the British people.”