Measurement and Testing

  • Why the UK Never Achieved a US-Like Shale Boom

Why the UK Never Achieved a US-Like Shale Boom

Nov 25 2019 Read 407 Times

While a decade ago the United Kingdom was hoping for an American-style fracking boom that would unlock oil reserves, enhance energy independence and strengthen the economy, the past few years have confirmed the industry isn't on the verge of taking off.  

According to a recent report released by the National Audit Office (NAO), just three British wells have been fracked since the technique was leveraged by Lancashire based company, Cuadrilla. The government has previously revealed intentions to frack 20 wells by mid-2020, a figure that's highly unlikely given the sluggish state of the industry.

Public support lags for British fracking

The NAO cites lack of public support as one of the main factors hindering growth of the fracking industry. Ambiguity over the size and value of British shale reserves is also stopping investors from channelling cash into fracking projects. The climate crisis has also come into play, with shale gas associated with high emissions. Until new technology designed to capture carbon emissions hits the market, shale can't emerge as an environmentally responsible energy source for the UK.  

While the NAO and the British government haven't completely vetoed fracking and still believe it could support the national economy, public pressure to address the climate crisis is preventing the industry from gaining momentum.

Seismic activity on the radar of environmentalists

Another major hurdle is the risk of seismic activity. Already, all three of Britain's fracking wells have triggered earthquakes that measure more than 0.5 magnitude, the figure that requires wells to temporarily shut down operations. As well as posing structural risk to buildings and communities, fracking has also sparked concerns over groundwater pollution and wildlife.

Cuadrilla says that while an earthquake in August temporarily suspended activity at one of its wells, it plans to continue operations as soon as possible. "We are committed to exploring for shale gas with the aim to establish a domestic energy supply that the United Kingdom really needs," asserts CEO Francis Egan.

Stateside fracking boom continues

Meanwhile in the United States, the fracking boom is continuing to transform the American energy industry. The country has enjoyed a drastic spike in oil production as well as the creation of high-paying jobs. The latest statistics from the US Energy Information Administration suggest that in 2016, fracking techniques were being used at more than two-thirds of all oil and natural gas wells. This has helped boost US oil production to around 12 million barrels per day, a figure that surpassed Russian and Saudi Arabian production in June.

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