Fracking—environmental issues
Fracking—environmental issues

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Fracking—environmental issues
  • What is fracking?
  • How much shale gas does Britain have?
  • UK's position
  • Environmental issues

What is fracking?

Shale gas extraction or hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the process whereby water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to release the natural gas that is trapped in the shale rock. Vertical well bores are drilled thousands of feet into the earth, through sediment layers, the water table, and shale rock formations in order to reach the gas. The drilling is then angled horizontally, where a cement casing is installed and serves as a conduit for the massive volume of water, fracking fluid, chemicals and sand needed to fracture the rock and shale. Occasionally, prior to the injection of fluids, small explosives are used to open up the bedrock. The fractures allow the gas to be removed from the rock formations.

Shale gas is mostly composed of methane, which is a natural gas and is used to generate electricity and is used for domestic heating and cooking.

Fracking is classed as an 'unconventional' fossil fuel because additional methods are used (the fracturing of the shales to enable the gas to flow), alongside drilling, to release the gas. Although fracking has technically been in existence for decades, technological advances have enabled deeper fracking to take place in recent years, with the first form of this new scale and type of drilling taking place in the USA in