United Kingdom and fracking

From Global Energy Monitor

Fracking was taking place at Blackpool in the UK until a 2011 tremor later traced to fracking resulted in a temporary ban.[1]

On December 13, 2012, the British government lifted its ban on fracking, allowing companies to continue their exploration of shale gas reserves. Energy Secretary Edward Davey said the decision was subject to new controls to limit the risks of seismic activity.[2] In December 2012 the UK Government announced they would initiate tax incentives for the extraction of shale gas (fracking) during its Budget 2013 measures.[3]

Government regulations

The UK government is set to allow fracking companies to put “any substance” under people’s homes and property and leave it there, as part of the Infrastructure Bill that the House of Lords is set to vote on in October 2014.[4]

Fracking in National Parks

In December 2015, MPs in the UK voted to allow fracking for shale gas under UK's national parks and other protected sites. The fracking would take place 1,200m below the surface. The measure was approved by a vote of 298 to 261.[5] The proposal was opposed by anti-fracking activists, including The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex branch, which warned that the legislation could negatively impact areas such as the South Downs National Park and Ashdown Forest.[6]

UK energy plans

In March 2012, David Cameron's independent Committee on Climate Change announced new rules that would block any more coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage, but allow gas power until 2045, which some argue might encourage future fracking in the area.[1] In September 2012 UK climate and energy secretary Ed Davey said the government was planning to add 20GW of electricity generation capacity from gas by 2030.[7]

As of October 2013 the UK government is in the process of issuing a 14 round of licences for petrochemicals, which campaigners say will cover two thirds of England.[8]

Government studies


In 2010, a British Geological Survey estimated that, based on experience in the US, UK shales could hold 150 billion cubic metres of gas, equivalent to roughly two years of UK demand.[9]

In September 2011, Cuadrilla announced it had discovered 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of Gas in Place within the Bowland shale in Lancashire.[10]

On May 20, 2012, the UK's Independent reported that industry experts reported to senior ministers, including David Cameron and energy secretary Ed Davey, "that the UK's [gas] reserves were smaller than first thought and could be uneconomical to extract" and future shale exploration would likely be "very cautionary", with tight regulations on both environmental impacts and the effects on people living near by.[11]

In summer 2013 the British Geological Survey estimated 130 trillion cubic feet of shale gas could be recoverable onshore in the country, mainly from across the north of England - the equivalent of 40 years of UK supplies.[8]


On October 31, 2013, the British government's health agency Public Health England (PHE) released a report saying public health risks from emissions caused by fracking for tight oil and shale gas are low as long as operations are properly run and regulated. The PHE report examined evidence from countries such as the US, where it concluded that any risk to health was typically due to operational failure.

Fracking operations

Drilling at Preese Downs

Preese Downs in Lancashire is the only fracking operation currently taking place in the UK. In December 2014 it was reported that the gas well had experienced a previously unreported structural failure. Even so, "there was no evidence that the leak caused methane or fluid leaks into the atmosphere or surrounding rock formation." Vice News stated that the leak has led public disclosure the UK to rethink its fledgling fracking industry.[12]

Drilling in South Downs

In September 2014 a "fracking firm's plans to explore for shale oil in the South Downs National Park have been thrown out by the park authority, raising doubts about the future of the industry in southern England."[13]

Fracking in London

In October 2014 the BBC reported that London Local Power applied for a license to "frack three blocks of land, two of which cover an area from Harrow in the North West to near Downing Street in central London."[14]


In May 2011, the UK firm Cuadrilla Resources was forced to halt operations near Blackpool in northwest England after fracking triggered tremors, leading to a temporary ban on fracking.[15]

In April 2012, a UK government report recommended UK exploration of shale gas. The experts published the 2012 findings after reviewing a series of post-earthquake studies published by Cuadrilla Resources. The 2012 expert report suggested tighter rules on seismic monitoring and drilling surveys.[15]


In October 2013 environmental group Greenpeace launched a legal challenge in Preston, Lancashire, asserting common law rights to forbid the “trespass” of energy firms from conducting activities below their property. The legal challenge was joined by residents from the Fylde and campaigners from Balcombe, West Sussex, who have been fighting Cuadrilla Resources over energy exploration close to their communities.[8]

Under UK law, underground resources are the property of the Crown, but Greenpeace argues that ordinary homeowners must give their permission before horizontal drilling can begin close by. The UK Onshore Operators Group, which represents gas drillers, disagreed in a statement: “Operators in this country are abiding by the law, which states that activities at depths of over a mile under the ground do not impact landowners. However, in line with the law, operators will inform all landowners in a very clear and transparent manner.”[8]


The 2013 Grantham Institute for Climate Change report, "A UK ‘dash’ for smart gas," found that, in the short term, new gas-fired power stations could help cut carbon emissions, but only if they replace existing coal-fired power stations rather than nuclear plants or renewable energy sources. Beyond the 2020s, the report recommends that gas-fired power stations should only play a significant role if fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, and therefore the UK should not build too many new gas plants. The report also stated that there are large areas of uncertainty around future gas prices and shale reserves.


Citizen action

UK Direct Action Shuts Down Fracking Company Headquarters

It was reported in August 19, 2013 that "anti-fracking protestors from Reclaim the Power have targeted Cuadrilla at locations across the United Kingdom, shutting down their headquarters in Lichfield, their PR company in London and the Balcombe drill site. Campaigners condemned violent policing at the gates of the drill site, where police charged, shoved and kettled a group that included children, people in wheelchairs, pensioners, journalists and Member of Parliament (MP) Caroline Lucas."[16]

Anti-fracking protesters camp out at exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex

On September 30, 2013 Anti-fracking protesters began a slow withdrawal from their camp outside an exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex. As the Guardian reported, "Tents, banners and makeshift structures were being cleared from verges on the outskirts of Balcombe following two months of protests. Campaigners have promised to vacate the site, which became the national focus of anti-fracking sentiment, by 8 October, but say they will come back if energy company Cuadrilla returns. The firm dismantled its drill rig and left the site last week after completing test drilling earlier this month."[17]

Protesters occupy proposed fracking site

In mid-August 2014 several hundred anti-fracking protesters took over a field near a proposed shale gas exploration site in the Fylde area, east of Blackpool. The site would be the first fracking test operation in the UK.[18]

Fracking protesters superglue themselves to environment department

On August 18, 2014, anti-fracking protesters superglued themselves to the doors at the main entrance of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Additionally, The Guardian reported that another protest took place "at the offices of iGas, the UK’s biggest shale gas company, which has seen two entrances blockaded by campaigners ... The activists from the Reclaim the Power camp at Blackpool say the protest is against 63 redactions in a government report released last week on the potential impacts of shale gas exploration on rural communities."[19] The actions were part of a day of action organized by anti-fracking activists in the UK.[20]

Farmers fear fracking could spell financial ruin

In October 2014 the National Farmers' Union, that represents 47,000 farm businesses across England and Wales, stated that its members "feared that the value of their land above fracking sites could be reduced 'because of current attitudes and perceptions of fracking' – even if no harm was actually caused."[21]

Hunger strike against fracking

In November 2015 Geza Tarjanyi began a hunger strike in front of Downing Street, stating that he would continue the hunger strike until he was granted a meeting with David Cameron on the issue of fracking. Tarjanyi says his act was symbolic and was meant to raise awareness about fracking's dangers in the Lancashire area, which he said could damage water quality.[22]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Matt Chorley, "Tories' dash for gas risks climate target: Go green, vote blue, said David Cameron, but even his environment adviser thinks difficult decisions are being put off," The Independent, Sep. 9, 2012.
  2. "Fracking Green Light Sends Shockwaves Across UK," EcoWatch, Dec. 13, 2012.
  3. "UK offer tax incentives for fracking" Leitrim Observer, January 4, 2013.
  4. "UK to allow fracking companies to use 'any substance' under homes" Damian Carrington, The Guardian, October 13, 2014.
  5. "Fracking under national parks backed by MPs" BBC, December 16, 2015.
  6. "Fracking under national parks would do ‘grave damage’ warn Sussex campaigners" West Sussex County Times, December 16, 2015.
  7. Fiona Harvey, "Twenty gas-fired power stations planned for the UK," The Guardian, Sep. 28, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Jonathan Brown, "Greenpeace: Landowners can work together to block fracking 'trespass'," The Independent, Oct 15, 2013.
  9. Matt Chorley, "Government backtracks on fracking: Ministers decide there is not enough gas under UK to justify controversial 'earthquake' drilling," The Independent, May 20, 2012.
  10. "About Natural Gas," Cuadrilla Resources, accessed Dec. 2012.
  11. Matt Chorley, "Government backtracks on fracking: Ministers decide there is not enough gas under UK to justify controversial 'earthquake' drilling," The Independent, May 20, 2012.
  12. "The Only Fracked Site in the United Kingdom Suffered Structural Failure" Ben Bryant, Vice News, December 2, 2014.
  13. "Fracking firm's South Downs drilling plans rejected" Emily Gosden, The Telegraph, September 11, 2014.
  14. "Fracking company applies for London licence" BBC News, October 28, 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Stan Scobie, Binghamton, "Shale gas fracking gets green light in Britain," Reuters, Apr 17, 2012.
  16. "UK Direct Action Shuts Down Fracking Company Headquarters, PR Firm and Well Site" EcoWatch, August 19, 2013.
  17. "Anti-fracking protesters pull out of Balcombe camp" The Guardian, September 30, 2013.
  18. "Protesters occupy field near Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking site in Blackpool" Nishad Karim, The Guardian, August 14, 2014.
  19. "Fracking protesters superglue themselves to environment department" Adam Vaughan , The Guardian, August 18, 2014.
  20. "Anti-fracking group stages day of action" Helen Pidd, August 18, 2014.
  21. "Farmers fear fracking could spell financial ruin" Emily Godsen, The Telegraph, October 6, 2014.
  22. "Anti-fracking hunger striker demands audience with David Cameron" Russia Today, December 1, 2015.

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