Dthe new British government of Liz Truss has given the go-ahead for the extraction of natural gas from shale rock using fracking technology. On Thursday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs lifted the moratorium that had been in place for around three years. In November 2019, the Johnson government imposed a temporary ban after several minor earthquakes around the company's Cuadrilla test well in Lancashire, northern England.
Now there are new scientific findings, said Economics Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. The threshold values for the obligation to report seismic tremors were set too low. New applications for fracking drilling can now be submitted. In the face of Putin's attack on Ukraine and after he has used energy as a weapon, strengthening "our energy security is our absolute priority," Rees-Mogg said. By 2040, the kingdom should produce enough energy itself to transform itself from an importer into a net exporter. To do this, all available options -- from solar and wind to oil and gas -- would be explored, Rees-Mogg said. At the same time he announced the award of new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea.
“The Most Conservative Regime”
The new economics minister has long been known as a supporter of fracking. However, shale gas extraction can only happen with “local support” from the surrounding communities. This is uncertain. In the controversial technique, a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is pressed into the shale rock at high pressure and blasted with it to extract the natural gas. Seismic tremors occur again and again. Fine hairline cracks appeared on individual buildings near Preston. The government hopes that the large quantities of natural gas locked up in the shale rocks in some parts of Britain can help secure the kingdom's gas supplies and bring down prices in the future. According to estimates, there are many quadrillions of cubic meters of gas in the Bowlands Formation in northern England alone. That would supply Britain's natural gas needs for several years.
A new scientific report by researchers at the Royal Geological Survey, released on Thursday, supports Rees-Mogg's view on earthquake thresholds. At 0.5 on the Richter scale, the previously official value for a temporary freeze on fracking activities in Great Britain is much lower than in the US states or Canadian regions, where fracking is practiced. The researchers write that it is “the most conservative regime”. In fact, most earthquakes are so small that they are practically imperceptible.
Nevertheless, there is great local resistance and fear. In Lancashire, for years, citizens' groups and the 'frack off' campaign have successfully campaigned against Cuadrilla Resources Ltd's test project. made near Preston and Blackpool. Founded in 2007, the company had been drilling trials in Lancashire since 2011 and has invested over a quarter billion pounds over the years. After the 2019 moratorium, the project finally seemed dead. Now Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan was delighted. The north of England will benefit if fracking gets going. "Cuadrilla will distribute a portion of the proceeds from the shale gas to local residents as a dividend," Egan added. Hundreds of millions of pounds could potentially flow to the regions. It is hardly foreseeable that the citizens' initiatives will give up.
Northern England the right area?
In addition, there are also doubts from fracking supporters as to whether northern England is really a suitable area. Geologist Chris Cornelius, one of Cuadrilla's co-founders, wrote in a Guardian op-ed that the shale in northern England is much more difficult to manage than in North America. In addition, the area is more densely populated, there are too many opponents and political uncertainties. “No sensible investor” would take these risks. In order to meet even 10 percent of Britain's natural gas needs through fracking, thousands of wells would have to be opened over the next few decades. Cornelius considers this highly improbable.
While Germany imports a lot of fracking gas, domestic fracking in shale rock has been banned for five years. Environmentalists think that's right and see dangers for the groundwater. The current objection is that an expansion would take too long. However, some fracking advocates expect that with faster approval procedures, funding would still be possible this winter. Support for this came from the FDP and Union. In Lower Saxony, the federal state with the largest natural gas reserves, where elections will be held in two weeks, the SPD and CDU immediately rejected this.