What is fracking?

Fracking, sometimes called ‘hydraulic fracturing’, is the process of drilling down into the earth and pumping it full of a high-pressure water mixture to release the gas inside. The term ‘fracking’ describes how the rock is fractured apart.

It’s a pretty controversial process, as it comes with a whole heap of environmental risks and is widely opposed across the UK. But despite public support being at a record low, the government continues to support fracking as a viable source of energy. Here’s everything you need to know about fracking.

How does fracking work?

Fracking can be carried out by drilling vertically or horizontally into the earth:

  • A high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the boreholes – usually the equivalent of 16 Olympic swimming pools.
  • This fractures the rock, and pushes the shale gas and contaminated water back out to the surface.
  • The gas is collected to be processed, and the leftover contaminated waste water is taken away for treatment.
  • Once all the gas has been fracked, a new borehole is drilled and the process starts again.
A diagram showing the process of shale gas extraction

What is shale gas?

Shale gas is a natural gas consisting mostly of methane, which can be used to provide energy for domestic heating and cooking. It’s found in shale rock, which is buried deep underground.

Unlike most natural gas, shale gas can’t flow through rock, so the only way to extract it is by fracturing the rock apart.

Why is fracking bad?

There are plenty of reasons to say no to fracking in the UK. One of the main reasons fracking is bad is because it isn’t sustainable, and there are plenty of better ways to source sustainable energy in Britain.

Here are the main reasons why fracking is so unpopular:

Environmental impact

The UK’s fracking plans go directly against the commitment of the Paris Climate Change Agreement to end the use of fossil fuels. And a recent independent government report stated that fracking is simply not compatible with the UK’s climate targets.

The use of fracking in place of sustainable green energy does nothing to combat global warming and widespread climate change. And fracking is a far less efficient way of sourcing gas than other renewable methods.

Fracking also poses a risk to the local environment. Disrupting quiet and natural parts of the UK with industrial works could threaten rural communities, and disturb the habitats of local wildlife.

Water contamination

It’s believed that the water mixture that’s pumped into shale rock during the fracking process contains carcinogenic chemicals. These could escape fracking boreholes, and pollute local water supplies near the fracking site – posing a potential threat to fish and other wildlife.

The British Geological Survey also claim that groundwater could be contaminated by the extraction of shale gas – and in England, groundwater is used to supply a third of our drinking water.

Does fracking cause earthquakes?

There are major concerns that fracking causes earthquakes and earth tremors. Work was halted at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road in 2018 when 47 earthquakes were reported in the area – the largest had a magnitude of 1.5.

Where is fracking happening in the UK?

England is currently the only country in the UK where exploratory fracking is being carried out. You can find out where fracking is happening in the UK here.

What are the alternatives to fracking?

Britain doesn’t need to resort to fracking, as there are cost-effective green alternatives. We’re planning to build green gasmills, which create green gas from grass to put back into the grid. Our green gasmills can:

  • Cut carbon emissions
  • Reduce our reliance on declining fossil fuels
  • Support local farmers
  • Create wildlife habitats
  • Improve the environment overall

The gas we supply will get greener as we build our gasmills. Here’s more information about our frack free green gas.

How can you support anti-fracking campaigns?

Even if you’re not on the front line, there’s still plenty you can do to join the fight against fracking:

  • Switch to green energy. Many of the big energy suppliers support fracking, either by using shale gas in their energy supply or by refusing to speak out against it. No other energy company in Britain does more to oppose fracking than Ecotricity. We were the first supplier to publicly oppose fracking, and we’re working to make our carbon neutral gas even greener.
  • Sign fracking petitions. Make your voice heard by sending a message to our government that you’re opposed to fracking in the UK. You can find anti-fracking petitions on the UK Government and Parliament website, or by signing the Friends of the Earth petition.
  • Find local anti-fracking groups. Anti-fracking groups are mobilising all over the UK in order to protect their local area from companies drilling for shale gas. You can find a full list of local fracking groups on the Frack Off website.

For more information on how Ecotricity are leading the fight against fracking in the UK, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.