Even if you don’t know much about fracking, you’ll know it’s a hot topic. On the one hand, we need to find new gas supplies as our dependency on them increases. On the other, many people fear that fracking is not worth the environmental cost. So what are the facts – and where does ATI come in?
What is fracking?
The fracking procedure is quite simple to explain. Firstly, an underground shale formation is identified, which contains the shale gas that will be released. A well is created by drilling vertically down to the shale formation and then sideways through it. Injecting high pressure water, sand and chemicals into the well causes the shale to fracture (hence the name ‘fracking’). The shale releases gas, which is drawn through the well to the surface and is then processed into the type of gas you might use in your oven or central heating boiler.
Is it new?
Rock has been hydraulically fractured in the UK for more than 30 years, in order to produce oil and methane. Changes to laws and advances in technology have led to more research into extracting shale gas and the drilling of exploratory wells in England and Wales. This has raised awareness of the procedure amongst the general public. It is a fairly common procedure in the USA.
How are ATI tanks used?
For several years, ATI has been supplying dry powder pressure silos and liquid storage tanks to several companies involved in fracking. Our tanks and silos are used in several ways, and at different stages of the process.
- Before fracturing the well, huge quantities of water are needed to inject or push down the well with the sand and chemicals. The mains supply is not sufficient so large tanks are used to store the body of water.
- After the well has been fractured, the tanks are used to store some of the returned water before its licensed disposal.
- ATI’s dry-powder pressure silos are used when capping off the well head with concrete.
What are the advantages of fracking?
We don’t have enough energy from other sources to supply our future needs, but it is claimed that the UK has enough shale gas to heat every home for 1,500 years.
Using natural gas sourced from the UK makes us less dependent on other countries to supply our energy.
Up to 74,000 jobs could be created throughout the UK as a direct result of shale gas schemes.
There are other business benefits too – the government is offering favourable taxation to businesses involved in shale gas schemes, which could encourage businesses to return to the UK and result in an estimated £3.5 billion of investment.
What are the objections to fracking?
Many people are concerned that fracking causes earthquakes.
Another concern is pollution. It has been reported that the fracking process releases carbon dioxide, while some domestic water supplies in the USA have been contaminated with methane and chemicals as a result of fracking.
Large areas of countryside will need to be destroyed in order to produce shale gas.
Shale gas will still run out eventually – perhaps energy efficiency and cleaner, renewable alternatives should be investigated instead.
To frack or not to frack?
Fracking is certainly a contentious issue but that fact remains that, despite climate change, our thirst for hydrocarbons has not disappeared and there is still no major alternative to oil and gas that is regarded as environmentally acceptable. Many people are also opposed to windfarms near their homes, even if they support the idea of renewable energy.
Throughout the history of energy production, there have been opponents to every new procedure, but predicted problems and dangers rarely happen.
Approximately 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas is said to be locked under the north of England alone; just 10% of it could power the UK for 40 years, based on today’s consumption.
In the absence of viable alternatives, can we really dismiss this unconventional energy source?