Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fracking - What Does It Mean for the North East? Christopher Causer, Consultant in the Commercial Team at Ward Hadaway, Looks at Whether 'Fracking' Represents a Chance for the North East Economy to Grow Further

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fracking - What Does It Mean for the North East? Christopher Causer, Consultant in the Commercial Team at Ward Hadaway, Looks at Whether 'Fracking' Represents a Chance for the North East Economy to Grow Further

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH the technique known as 'fracking' (short for hydraulic fracturing) has been in use in the UK for a few years now, it has really hit the headlines in the last months, with significant protest activity being seen in Sussex and changes to the tax system being mooted.

Most of the action to date has been in the North West, with a small earthquake near Blackpool in 2011 leading to a temporary moratorium on fracking activity. But there are large oil and gas fields in the North East in areas such as the North York Moors and Northumberland.

Conventional oil and gas are found in reservoirs. However certain types of rock, such as shale, contain significant amounts of methane trapped in very small pockets throughout the shale (i.e. not in an empty chamber).

Until fracking extraction take place is hard estimate Hydraulic fracturing is a technique by which water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure down a well into the shale, usually at a depth of 2 or 3 kilometres under the Earth's surface. Injecting these fracking fluids at high pressure breaks up the shale and enables the will be commercially viable - trapped methane to seep out and be propelled up to the surface through the well.

To date, most of the exploratory activity has been in the North West in the so-called Bowland Basin.

A recent report by the British Geological Survey stated that there could be as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bowland Shale, of which around 10% could be recoverable.

This alone would be sufficient gas to satisfy UK demand for more than 25 years.

The BGS survey also looked at other areas of the country and there are shale fields in the North East which could offer similar opportunities.

Licences have been issued by DECC for exploratory activity in a number of areas in the North East, principally in the North York Moors.

It should be stressed that until actual fracking and extraction take place it is hard to estimate what will be commercially viable - the geological and technical characteristics of our shale fields may be significantly different from the shale fields in the USA, making extraction more difficult, more time-consuming or more expensive.

But the history of fracking in the USA in the last 20 years has shown that large volumes of gas can be recovered, leading to downwards pressure on gas prices and a shift from burning coal in power stations to burning natural gas, with an accompanying reduction in CO2 emissions.

The Government has declared that it wishes to have a balanced energy policy, with energy being obtained from a variety of different sources.

This means there will continue to be a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable sources such as wind, wave and solar. …

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