After a particularly pitched fight over the future of fracking in the UK, one geologist might burst the fracking bubble with a single incendiary report.
According to Prof. John Underhill of Heriot-Watt University, the presumed 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas that lies underneath the United Kingdom may not be as accessible as previously hinted. That’s great news for anti-fracking protestors who have proven a willingness to get their hands dirty in the fight to keep fracking out of the UK.
‘The Geology Has Been Forgotten’
Underhill told The Guardian that the 2013 report released by the British Geological Survey was somewhat careless when it didn’t relay how much of the United Kingdom’s natural gas might actually be easily attainable. A string of earthquakes over 55 million years ago may have separated that plentiful natural gas into several small pockets. What’s more, the samples themselves might be too cool for easy extraction.
By comparison, the shale found in the United States is easy to extract from the ground.
Professor of Petroleum Geoengineering at the University of Leeds, Quentin Fisher, contends that the extra effort that goes into shale extraction in the UK just might be worth it. As always, there are pros and cons to every situation.
Outside of the science, oil and gas developers in the UK have been dealing with one big con: a steady stream of anti-fracking protestors.
The ‘Rolling Resistance’
By and large, most American-based protests against fracking are pretty short-lived. They show up, shout for a bit, put crap on a railroad track, get pushed gently along by local police and then the project begins. In the US, sustained protest against fracking takes the form of legal battles and restrictive legislation.
In the United Kingdom, anti-fracking protestors have shown a zeal for their self-described “direct action” that US anti-fracking protestors couldn’t touch on their best day.
In Lancashire, some protestors have been squatting outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road project for three months, living in tents and engaging in periodic, sometimes violent, sometimes criminal clashes with on-site security and Lancashire police. Both Cuadrilla management and the anti-fracking protestors have claimed aggression from the opposing side.
Regardless of who started what, the important thing to note is that — rather than dwindle, as it might in the US — the crowd at the Lancashire site has actually grown in recent months.
The UK Wasn’t Built for Fracking
The swelling crowds at Lancashire have left the locals ill at ease. They worry about the ongoing expense of paying police keep the peace among anti-fracking protestors. They worry about the harm being done physically and mentally to the Lancashire men and women who serve on the police force.
With the news that fracking may not be as profitable or helpful as previously reported, even those people not on the anti-fracking frontline might just find themselves finished with fracking.