Today, the Secretary of State for Communities approved Cuadrilla’s application to do exploratory drilling for gas at a site just east of Blackpool. This is significant because it is the first approval for horizontal drilling, and clearly signals the government’s support for expanding the domestic supply of gas. It may be some time before we have productive wells (and it’s possible that exploratory wells will prove disappointing) but extracting shale gas in the UK will avoid having to import LNG from the USA, as Ineos has recently been forced to do.
Much of the opposition comes from national campaigning groups who want to cut out the continued use of gas in a belief that renewable energy can be used instead. Hopefully they will not prevail; if they do, they will be severely disappointed. Other opposition comes from local residents who, quite naturally, do not want the extra traffic and disruption drilling will entail. Their concerns must be properly addressed, but the drilling phase will be short-term and thereafter disruption should be rather less than from any neighbouring wind farms.
Those who have listened to the scare stories of earthquakes and water pollution should rest assured that permission to frack would not have been granted if the technology offered any risks other than those inherent in any engineering project. Hopefully, this will be the first of many drilling sites.