Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, to exploit shale gas reserves can be carried out safely in the U.K. if it’s effectively regulated, according to the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
“There has been much speculation around the safety of shale gas extraction following examples of poor practice in the U.S.,” Robert Mair, chairman of the review’s working group, said in an e-mailed statement today. “Well integrity is of key importance but the most common areas of concern, such as the causation of earthquakes with any significant impact or fractures reaching and contaminating drinking water, were very low risk.”
The U.K. has more natural gas trapped in shale rocks than Iraq has in its traditional reserves, according to shale explorer Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., which suspended drilling last year after causing minor earthquakes. It said last month that it plans to resume work this year and begin production in 2014.
Fracking operations should be allowed to resume in the U.K. as long as “robust” measures are adopted to safeguard against future risks, an independent report commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change recommended in April. Hydraulic fracturing has a fraction of a 1 percent chance of causing unintended cracks in the earth beyond 600 meters (656 yards), according to research by Durham University published in Marine and Petroleum Geology on April 25.
Fracking uses water, sand and chemicals to open fissures in rocks and release gas. It has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of the fuel. France was the first country to outlaw hydraulic fracturing of shale rocks last July.