Controversial gas drilling technique ‘fracking’ could create 35,000 jobs

Engineers work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston. Picture: Getty
Engineers work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston. Picture: Getty
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THE controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking could create 35,000 jobs and supply a tenth of the UK’s energy needs for more than a century, a newly published report has claimed.

Green campaigners have claimed that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, can cause earthquakes, as well as creating the risk of poisoning drinking water if it becomes contaminated with the fluids used in the process and adding to pollution.

The Dart energy company has been given permission to search for gas at a site at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway, which is thought to be the only potential location for fracking approved so far in Scotland.

However, a moratorium has been placed on UK fracking, with the only active site near Blackpool suspended after an earthquake last year.

A report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) claimed that there was backing for fracking from business leaders, with more than half of those surveyed saying that the process would have a positive affect on the UK’s economy.

The report’s authors also called for the UK to follow the example of the United States, where fracking, also known as the exploitation of shale gas, accounts for 23 per cent of domestic gas production and 22 per cent of domestic consumption.

By 2020, America’s shale gas boom is expected to create 3.6 million US jobs both directly and through the “benefits of cheaper energy to the wider economy”, the study says.

Britain could be at least half as successful as the US, according to the report that talks about the prospect of 35,000 extra jobs through fracking, which it says would help “to offset the ongoing decline in the North Sea oil and gas industries”.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into shale rock or coal beds to create tiny cracks. When the pumping stops, the sand keeps the fractures open and the trapped gas escapes and can be collected.

Supporters of fracking claim it opens the prospect of a cheaper, cleaner and abundant form of alternative energy.

The IoD report claims fracking would supply 10 per cent of the UK’s gas demand for the next 103 years and halt the “expected rise in costly gas imports”.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie warned that it would be “wildly irresponsible” to pursue fracking in Scotland, which he said would be a distraction from plans to increase the nation’s use of renewable energy such as wind power.

He said: “It would add massively to fossil fuels and would be a massive distraction from the renewables agenda here in Scotland.

“There would be appalling consequences with carbon emissions that would end up in the environment. It would be wildly irresponsible to press ahead with any of this activity.”

Meanwhile, the report highlighted a survey of more than 1,000 businesses showing that 58 per cent believe fracking would help boost the economy, with 7 per cent saying that it would have a negative affect.

Dan Lewis, energy policy adviser at the IoD and co-author of the report, dismissed suggestions that fracking was a threat to the environment and claimed that the practice could be regulated to ensure it was safe.

He said: “Shale gas has huge potential benefits for the UK, both economically and environmentally.”