After a seven-year hiatus, fracking is back in the UK

Local resistance.
Local resistance.
Image: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
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In 2011, all fracking in the UK was suspended after evidence suggested it had caused minor earthquakes in the northwest of England. Seven years later, it’s back.

Cuadrilla, a British oil and gas company, ended its long-running legal battle this week, allowing it to restart fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in the UK. Activity was supposed to begin today (Oct. 13) but has been delayed until Monday because of bad weather.

The fracking process involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock at high pressure to release hard-to-extract natural gas.

In 2011, Cuadrilla stopped the tests of fracking it was doing in Lancashire after the area experienced two earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude. In October 2016, despite local resistance, the UK government approved the plan for Cuadrilla to begin fracking again in Lancashire, and the company went ahead and drilled two wells. This was to be the first instance of horizontal fracking in the UK. Campaigners blocked the work from going ahead with an interim injunction that temporarily delayed work. On Friday, the High Court dismissed the application for a longer injunction and wider judicial review.

While there’s believed to be enough shale gas deposits to supply the UK for 25 years, fracking is a controversial practice in the country. Scotland is looking to ban it.

The UK government’s support for fracking has been denounced by many, including climate scientist James Hansen, who told British paper the Observer that fracking would undermine the UK government’s efforts to meet climate obligations. The move comes after a major report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that more drastic and faster action needs to be taken if the world wants to avoid the worst effects of climate change.