Up until now the United Kingdom, like the rest of Europe, has depended largely on Russia for the supply of gas (the country has a third of the global reserves). However, the ground in the south of England holds large reserves of shale gas. In light of this, and in spite of the strong voice of opposition, the British government has decided to change the laws in order to accelerate the processes which give the green light to the extraction of the hydrocarbon using the technique of fracking, thereby reducing their dependence on foreign energy sources.
Fracking: A Controversial Technique
Unconventional gas or shale gas is a hydrocarbon found in tiny pores of the rock formations at depths of over 3,000 metres underground. In order to extract the gas, the shale must be fractured by injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemical products at high pressure, from which comes the name fracking or hydraulic fracturing.
The fracking method has numerous detractors among the defenders of the environment and is rejected by the majority of the population where it is practised. The extractions have been directly associated with seismic movements and with the contamination of groundwater in the affected areas. Despite this, the number of countries employing fracking is on the rise and the extraction of this unconventional gas is already changing the world energy map. (Read the article from the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies, which we published in September 2013, “Shale Gas and the Neo-Strategy of the United States.”)
New Legislation to Regulate Fracking
In a letter sent a few months ago to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, reproached the fact that European Union policies on fracking were damaging to the United Kingdom, placing them at a disadvantage to the United States and China. According to a report from the British Geological Survey and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, it is estimated that the United Kingdom has a shale gas reserve of 4,000 million barrels. This crude resource is mainly found in the south, in the counties of Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent. One of the objectives of David Cameron’s government is that new legislation which will regulate fracking will allow surveys to be carried out without having to obtain permission from the landowners. This requirement currently lengthens the procedure before the necessary tests can be performed to determine exactly where extraction of the hydrocarbon is feasible.
In the face of massive popular protests, the Government has stated that the areas affected by fracking will receive financial compensation for each well which is drilled and that they will benefit financially from the industry’s profits.