Sunday, 6 May 2012


The US has now turned its fortunes around and become energy rich. In only a few short years the United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas; shale gas, produced by a process known as Fracking. In 2000, shale gas accounted for just 1 percent of U.S. natural gas supply. By 2011, it was 25 percent, and by 2030 it could be 50 percent or more. But this production has been bought, due to Fracking, at an environmental price that many in that country find utterly unacceptable.

Fracking, or to give it the full name, Hydraulic Fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. The controversial technique used to extract shale gas, has been widely used in the USA and been linked to contamination of water supplies, increased air pollution and small earthquakes. Whereas conventional drilling entails drilling straight down into a pocket of oil or gas, Fracking is a highly industrialised and lengthy process that drills down more than a mile into the earth, and then drills horizontally into the shale rock layer that holds the gas. Imagine the shale rock as being a deep underground layer of the planet that, like a sponge, holds gas between the spaces, with the drillings as an underground spider’s web radiating from the centre. These drillings then have their walls coated with a cement mixture, and, when set; these miles of walls have holes blown though the cement walls.

The Fracking Fluid, a chemical, water and sand mixture, is blasted into the pipes and out of the underground holes, often at the rate of 4,200 gallons a minute. This hydraulic shock creates millions of fractures throughout the shale rock, freeing free the trapped gas which then flows at high pressure into the casing and up to the surface. Some of the pumped in liquid mixture flows back to the surface with the gas, where it is separated and collected the rest remains underground to seep into the surrounding areas. The Fracking Fluid is mainly water a special sand and a cocktail of chemicals. The Fracking Companies claim that at a 1% to 2% ratio of the Fluid the 500 chemicals used are a very small proportion of the total, but as 1 to 2 million gallons of Fracking Fluid can be used per well, 1% to 2% will equal 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of many highly dangerous chemicals.

 The problems really begin when the fluid that is not recovered spreads out and, now radioactive from the natural radiation in the shale layer, reaches aquifers in the area and pollute the areas water supply. In addition, due to the removal of the gas from such vast underground areas local ground settlement often occurs, with localised small, but damaging, earthquakes. When earthquakes occurred around the area of a Lancashire Fracking site in the summer of 2011, reports showed that fracking fluid disrupted a previously unknown fault which caused the earthquakes.

In the UK there are many projected Fracking Sites; one is in West Sussex, some 40 miles away from where I live so I know many facts about it. It is in Balcombe, in an area close to a railway line and Controversial US drilling company Cuadrilla has planning permission to drill & test Frack, just outside the village of Balcombe in West Sussex, five miles from Haywards Heath, 100 yards from the main London to Brighton railway line and less than a mile from both the reservoir and the river.

 You might assume then that the Local MP and Parish Council would be up in arms against Cuadrilla to protect their voter’s interests, after all that is what they are there for; sadly the facts seem to indicate the exact opposite. Balcombe MP Francis Maude appointed Lord Browne, a director of Cuadrilla Resource Holdings Ltd, to the Cabinet Office in June 2010. The Cuadrilla executive works closely with the cabinet office board, chaired by Maude, in his role as ‘lead non-executive’. On appointing Browne, Maude said: “his experience will be a real benefit to make Whitehall work in a more businesslike manner”.

In January Maude visited Balcombe to talk to constituents’ concerned about hydraulic fracturing in the village. Those who attended described the MP as ‘non-committal’. At the meeting, Maude failed to disclose his association with a senior member of the Cuadrilla management team, nor their close working relationship. Lord Browne joined Cuadrilla four months before his appointment to government. In one of his many roles he acts as Managing Director of Riverstone LLC. In February 2010Riverstone invested 27m in Cuadrilla and Browne and two other Riverstone executives joined the Cuadrilla board. He was instrumental in hiring the current head of UK operations, Mark Miller.

Please see the US Video above. Those taking part are people that know from their first hand experience the dangers of Fracking. The professionals taking part are easy to check up on and deserve your attention.

 I will leave the last word to Dr Paul Hetzler, a former technician responsible for investigating and managing groundwater contamination at the US Department for Environmental Conservation said: "I'm familiar with the fate and transport of contaminants in fractured media, and let me be clear: hydraulic fracturing as it's practised today will contaminate our aquifers. If you were looking for a way to poison the drinking water supply, you couldn't find a more chillingly effective and thorough method of doing so than with hydraulic fracturing."