Cuadrilla Resources, the British drilling operator at the centre of the hydraulic 'fracking' debate is about to submit an application asking for an extended 36 months to continue testing and analysis for shale gas at its Hesketh Bank site. The company hopes that a green light from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will give some much needed confidence in its venture. This also comes after tentative support from the Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering provided safety standards are put in place. So far so good.
The problem for them however, is how to get public opinion on their side. At a recent showcase held by Cuadrilla for example, over 100 anti fracking protestors turned up to add weight to local misgivings. This in turn prompted the company to go on the defensive and give out a 'wait for the results' plea to calm the situation.
In 2011, two peculiar things happened just outside of Blackpool. There were earthquakes, two of them to be precise which were later attributed to Cuadrillas fracking practices. Naturally, this is not the best way to reassure people of the benefits of hydraulic fracturing. There are also worrying precedents across the pond where households in Wyoming and Pennsylvania have had their water supplies contaminated from similar practices. The issue is also registering concerns at the supranational level with the EU Enivironmental Directive denouncing the unregulated nature of the industry and the high risk it poses to water and biodiversity.
The idea in itself is innovative, if a little eye opening, like something from a science fiction novel. Basically, 'veins' are opened up in the deep earth reaching to reservoir rock formations. From there, pressurized liquid is pumped deep down into these huge swathes of rock cracking them and opening them up allowing for petroleum/natural gases to be extracted. To the uninitiated, this sounds quite sinister and dangerous, especially when its effects are quite plain to see (and feel).
Therefore, fracking advocates such as Cuadrilla will continue to face an uphill struggle, regardless of the safety of its processes and the tangible economic-if not environmental - positives it brings. In addition, the BP scandal and the growing advocates of Enhanced geo-thermal systems are only adding to the general feeling that there are better options out there.