Fracking, the controversial shale gas extraction method suspended in the UK following earth tremors last year, could resume in the UK, recommends a report delivered to government by experts.
The report, by The British Geological Survey, Keele University, and industry specialists Gfrac Technologies, says it is safe to allow the controversial process, despite confirming that earthquakes up to 2.3 magnitude at two sites run by Caudrilla Resources at Preese Hill in Lancashire in 2011 were directly caused by the problematic hydraulic technique.
Public concern surrounds the method domestically, triggering local meetings and campaigns. Earlier in the year, anti-fracking campaigners in Sussex raised serious concerns about plans to extract shale gas there.
Fracking injects a cocktail of sand and chemicals in water under high pressure into deep bore holes to cause explosions that release methane gas. The gas is then forced back to the surface for processing.
It has for some time been the subject of alarm for US citizens, who have complained that the increasingly widespread practice has contaminated the water table and seeped into domestic water supplies through weak well walls that remain once gas has been extracted.
The report, the recommendations of which are expected to be accepted by politicians, says the danger is no more than that associated with conventional mining and recommends that protocols related to live monitoring of seismic activity should accompany future extraction works.
It states that tremors up to magnitude 3 are the maximum to be expected and while unlikely to cause more than minor structural damage, “such an event would be strongly felt by people within a few kilometres of the epicentre and could cause some alarm”.
Restrictions recommended to accompany future works include a “traffic light system” where there would be curtailment of extraction activity when seismic activity reaches a level of only 0.5 magnitude.
Green campaigners opposed to the practice continue to highlight that the method is not carbon friendly and should be dropped in favour of developing renewable and cleaner energy production methods such as wind farms.