In recent years, the word ‘shale’ has become ever more present in UK media. Hydraulic Fracturing or ‘fracking’, a less than pleasant sounding term, is on the lips of many, leaving a bitter taste for some. The onshore petroleum business has been in successful development in the US for some time. Now exploration for shale gas is a very real prospect in the UK, the challenge for all parties involved lies not just in the mitigation of geological risk, but in managing public opinion.
With the introduction of a new idea or concept come associated fears. When this involves a process that may potentially impact the environment, the reaction from the media and public can be emotional, outraged and fearful.
Changes in the use and management of our environment hold concerns relating to quality of life, potential risks to water supplies, threat to wildlife and disruption of living conditions. But are these fears the product of informed consideration or simply perceived risks? Here we take a look at how good science can inform the debate.
As we make small but continuous steps towards heavier use of renewable fuel sources, shale gas has the potential to make the conversion smoother. It can be classified as the ideal ‘transition fuel’ due to the understanding that shale gas has one of the smallest carbon footprints of all fossil fuels. For this reason, shale gas has a huge role to play in the future development of the energy economy.
Despite its advantages, the production methods involved in accessing shale gas resources can be perceived as controversial in some respects. These perceptions are likely to have been further enforced by shale activity in other parts of the world, for instance the US, where lax environmental regulation has led to some adverse and damaging events. As with most US regulations, legal frameworks affecting shale are enforced by state rather than federal law.
The full article, by Richard Lavery – Onshore Petroleum Manager – Ground Gas Solutions, is available in Issue 3 of Shale Gas International Magazine and can be found on page 38.