Fracking: Total invests £30m in controversial shale sector

Environmental campaigners attack plans, but what exactly is fracking and why is it so controversial?

LAST UPDATED AT 09:27 ON Mon 13 Jan 2014

FRENCH energy giant Total has today announced plans to invest in Britain's shale gas sector, a deal believed to be worth £30m. 

The company has bought a 40 per cent stake in two exploration licences in the Gainsborough Trough, a geological basin in Lincolnshire, east England and will help fund the site's exploration programme. But environmental campaigners have attacked the plans, accusing the UK government of ignoring the risks of fracking, the process used to extract gas from shale rock beneath the ground.

What exactly is fracking?

The process involves drilling down into the earth and injecting shale rock with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release the gas inside. The word "fracking" is short for hydraulic fracturing. Recent estimates suggested there could be as much as 1,300tn cubic feet of shale gas lying under 11 counties in central and northern England. This would equate to more than 500 years of gas supply for the UK. However, no fracking is currently taking place and drilling firms must apply for a licence if they wish to carry out the process in the future.

Why is it so controversial?

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about the huge amounts of water needed to carry out fracking and are worried that the process can cause small earth tremors, such as the two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude that hit the Blackpool area in 2011. Another concern is that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. Campaigners believe the government should invest in renewable energy rather than continuing to rely on fossil fuels. The industry says the small number of pollution incidents seen in the United States, where fracking is used extensively, is down to bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique. The potential use of fracking in the UK has led to protests around the country.

What is the significance of the Total investment?

It is the first major oil company to invest in Britain's fledgling shale sector, says the Financial Times, and the deal will be seen as "a big vote of confidence" for the industry, which is being heavily promoted by a government keen to replicate the success of the US shale boom on British soil.

Will the Total deal spark more protests?

Hundreds of protesters turned out at a fracking site in Barton Mass, Greater Manchester, yesterday. But their efforts seem unlikely to halt the tide of interest among corporations and the government, says The Guardian. Other energy giants seem likely to follow in the footsteps of Total, says the newspaper, with whispers that Chevron, Conoco and Shell could soon follow.

How is the government promoting fracking?

The most recent drive to promote the shale industry came today from Prime Minister David Cameron. He pledged to allow English local authorities to take all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50 per cent. The government says these projects will support 74,000 jobs and reduce energy bills, but Greenpeace described it as "a naked attempt by the government to bribe hard-pressed councils into accepting fracking in their area". · 

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Hi,
David in Fracking Land. Mr. Cameron must be careful he doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole as Alice in Lewis Carroll’s (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) adventures.

Oh here we go again! A foreign company is allowed to do "inward investment" which means that they own the profits, which go out of the UK to France, and our population become employees rather than business owners...when is this and other government going to learn that compaies like Total and all the others only make "generous inward investments" when thye can see the chance to make shedloads of profit and siphon it out to their mothership (in this case France)?
Why are we, as a country, not able to do the work ourselves, own the investment, own the profits and stick two fingers up to foreign companies?....and before SandyShore starts wagging his finger and tut-tutting, Yes I am being xenophobic, if being xenophobic is protecting our national resources and wealth for our county and people, not handing them out to "overseas interests"....and if you don't like it: Tough!

". The government says these projects will support 74,000 jobs and reduce energy bills"

Double counting. The value of any activity lies in its output (gas that reduces energy costs). The inputs (jobs) are just a means (a cost) to that end.

How clever of you to guess I would read your post. Pity you can't direct your mental acuity to useful purpose.

Good grief, Mr Sure, I don't know why you are always disparaging my comments; from what you say on many subjects, we share a healthy cynicism regarding the Government and all other powers that be, so why so vitriolic?

Hi,
By Fracking energy prices according to the IEA would fall
for American companies and Europe experience a wave of migration of energy-intensive industry. So far, nothing has occurred of all this. And how it looks, it will not happen. Because there are increasing signs that the fracking
boom was unrestrained and artificially overestimated extrapolated and is a fairy tale. Many reasons contribute to such first energy company’s do not want erosion into their monopoly, secondly it is an environmental gamble. Mr. Cameron should stop before he wastes a lot of money. Plot project evaluation from production to use should be made.

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