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Shale Gas and Fracking

Shale Gas

Given the present level of public interest in the possible commercial extraction of shale gas in the UK using hydraulic fracturing (fracking), we remind Fellows that the Society has issued a number of resources which may be helpful in answering questions from friends and colleagues.  

The Society’s view, which accords with the June 2012 report of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, is that shale gas can be extracted safely provided that best practice is rigorously applied under an appropriate regulatory regime which addresses environmental and societal concerns. The technology to explore for and extract shale gas is well established. Before exploration and production proceed, baseline surveys should be carried out to establish natural levels of micro-seismicity and the presence of methane in soils and near-surface aquifers. These data are necessary if the extraction of shale gas is to be effectively regulated and is to command public confidence.

There is a significant shale gas resource beneath the surface of the UK, although the extent of that resource and how much of it can be extracted economically is unknown at present. The decision whether to allow exploration for and extraction of shale gas is a matter for Government, as a component of overall energy policy balancing fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear power. This is a political judgment which is beyond our remit as an organisation to comment upon.

The geological evidence set out in our statement on climate change shows that continuing to emit large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is likely to have very damaging effects on our environment.  Given that we will continue to be dependent on fossil fuels (conventional or unconventional) for several decades at least, it is important therefore that the resulting carbon emissions are abated.  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be demonstrated at commercial scale as a matter of urgency, to ensure its widespread and rapid implementation.