The government has imposed a moratorium on fracking after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority said it wasn’t possible to predict the probability or size of earthquakes caused by the procedure.

Fracking was suspended at one of the UK’s only active fracking wells in August after a 2.9 magnitude earthquake at a site at Preston New Road in Lancashire, which is owned by Cuadrilla Resources. 

And on Saturday the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that “further consents for fracking will not be granted.” 

But the government stopped short of an outright ban on fracking. Andrea Leadsom, the Business Secretary, said on Radio 4’s Today Programme, that if fracking can be carried out safely then shale gas is “a huge opportunity” for Britain.

“We will follow the science and it is quite clear that we can’t be certain. The science isn’t accurate enough to be able to assess the fault lines, the geological studies have been shown to be inaccurate. So, therefore, unless and until we can be absolutely certain, we are imposing a moratorium,” she said.

But Labour called the pause to fracking an “election stunt” and reiterated their commitment to ban fracking completely.

“I think it sounds like fracking would come back on the 13th of December if they [the Conservatives] were elected back into office. “We’re quite clear, we will end fracking. We think it’s unnecessary, we think it’s pollutive of groundwater systems, and is actually dangerous and has caused serious earth tremors,” said Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader.

Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green Party also said the government should commit to ending the practice entirely and that fossil fuels “need to stay in the ground”.

Scientists Believe Fracking in UK Finished

Professor Richard Davies from Newcastle University told the BBC that the geology in the UK makes fracking difficult.

“The UK is crisscrossed with faults and it’s difficult to avoid them because the current imaging techniques used by the industry do not yet provide enough resolution to detect many of them,” he said.

Fracking businesses such as Cuadrilla may decide it not worth spending anymore money on the current regulatory environment in the UK and that shale gas extraction does not have a future here.

Friends of the Earth said that the ban should be made permanent as it is in Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland also have bans on fracking in place.

Protesters at the Preston New Road site, who have been instrumental in keeping up the pressure on the shale gas industry, said that protests would continue until an “outright ban” on fracking was imposed.

“We will only feel able to celebrate once Cuadrilla starts work on decommissioning and the site is restored,” said Susan Holliday, chair of Preston New Action Group.

Fracking Has Wasted Millions

For over a decade millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on trying to introduce fracking to the UK.

The National Audit Office found the UK has spent £32.7 million on developing shale gas extraction since 2011, while Cuadrilla Resources has invested £270 million in UK fracking.

Environmental groups have said that the money would have been better spent on developing carbon capture and storage technology where CO2 is liquefied and then stored underground in old mines and depleted oil reservoirs.

 Professor Jon Gluyas, from the University of Durham, told the Guardian that the UK has very little shale gas potential and that the money and time wasted on fracking could have been better spent elsewhere.

“We have as a nation wasted a decade hoping for more gas to heat our homes rather than installing ultra-low carbon geothermal heating like that used in much of Europe,” he said.

Soon after the fracking was announced, the green lights was given for the UK’s first deep coal mine in three decades at Whitehaven in Cumbria. The mine will provide coking coal for the steel industry for five decades.

Photo from Radio Wave

Edward Cowley