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Fracking debate comes to London

Oct 18, 2012

Further information
Vicki Elcoate

Experts from the United States are in London next week (October 25th) to share lessons about developing the controversial energy technology, hydraulic fracking.

In the U.S. there has been a 21st century “gold rush” as firms race to use fracking to exploit a previously untouched natural gas resource. Hailed as the route to energy security, fracking’s supporters have paid to run positive media campaigns, with posters on street corners in major cities. Fracking’s opponents include those who fear the technique threatens the water supplies of those very same cities. Meanwhile, in the U.K. fracking development is at an early stage, and most commonly referred to as the possible cause of a small earthquake in Blackpool last year. Fracking has since been stopped but a forthcoming Government announcement[i] may soon change that.

The technique – which involves the high powered injection of water and chemicals into rocks to release shale gas or methane – has largely been developed ahead of measures to regulate it. In the U.S. the technology has spawned significant government enforcement attention and claims in federal and state courts relating to alleged human health and environmental impacts.

It is banned or suspended in many European countries until more is known about the risks, but in others, such as Poland, it is actively being pursued. There are early stage plans all around the U.K. to trial fracking and it has already caused controversy in the North West of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However experts warn that there will have to be a move towards more unconventional means of extracting gas as the old forms of fossil fuel run out.

At a meeting organised by the UK Environmental Law Association, leading U.S. lawyer, Karl Bourdeau, will talk about recent regulatory and litigation developments impacting hydraulic fracturing operations in the US. He will also discuss the results of recent studies in the U.S. assessing the environmental risks posed by fracking activities.

John Romano, who specialises in unconventional gas for the international environmental consultants, WSP, will discuss the process and the associated issues. He commented “Hydraulic fracturing technology has revolutionised the commercial production and extraction of natural gas in the U.S., allowing vast reserves to be tapped. Extracting gas miles below the ground has its inherent challenges that include the need for millions of gallons of water; a vast array of environmental regulations to comply with; and, a well-educated public that questions the viability of the resource and its environmental impacts.”

Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting and learn more about how the lessons learned in the US could apply here.

Please contact me if you would like to attend the seminar, which starts at 6pm, finishing with a drink around 7.30.

Notes to the editors:

The Energy Secretary, Rt Hon Ed Davey MP, is expected to make an announcement about lifting the moratorium on fracking in early November

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