Energy firm Cuadrilla Resources has announced plans to sink up to 800 wells in the Lancashire area – but Nick Griffin MEP has called for a ban on shale gas exploration amid environmental and safety concerns.
The company, whose exploration efforts near Blackpool had to be halted earlier in the year due to fears that they were causing tremors, says there are 200 trillion cubic feet of underground gas in the area.
Cuadrilla plans to sink as many as 400 wells over the next nine years and up to 800 over 16 years if gas extraction is successful.
The method of extraction, known as "fracking", could have serious safety implications. Shale gas is extracted by drilling down into the ground and then hydraulically fracturing the shale using high-pressure liquid to release the gas.
The process has proved controversial in the US because the drilling process involves chemicals, including carcinogenic compounds, which can pollute water supplies. Drilling companies claim that chemical additives make up less than one per cent of the liquid poured into the gas field. However, the quantities involved are so large that a typical well is likely to pump about 34,000 gallons of chemicals into the ground. One of the chemicals used is diesel, which contains toxic substances. Other chemicals used can include hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and arsenic.
There have been further claims that the gas itself can pollute drinking water, with footage of people able to set fire to the water coming out of their taps posted on YouTube.
The problems have prompted campaigners and independent political figures (including Nick Griffin MEP and Green MP Caroline Lucas) to call for a Britain-wide ban on shale gas extraction.
However, calls for a moratorium on fracking were ruled out earlier this year by a committee of MPs who claimed they had found no evidence it would pose a risk to water supplies from underground aquifers.
Nick Griffin MEP reiterated the call for a moratorium on any further exploitation of shale gas until the wider environmental concerns have been addressed. Fracking has already been banned in France, New York and New Jersey, as well as in Quebec and the Swiss canton of Fribourg. And in July, the government of New South Wales extended its moratorium on the use of fracking for extracting coal seam gas.
An American take on fracking:
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