Industrialisation of rural England: 1 well a day for 15 years

One well would have to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to produce enough gas to replace just half of future UK gas imports – research reveals.
  25 Apr 2018    |      4 min

With potentially terrible consequences for England’s countryside.

The report by Professor Calvin Jones of Cardiff Business School finds that to replace just half of estimated UK gas imports will require 6,100 wells. If gas produced per well was at the lower end of possibilities, the report suggests this figure could rise to as many as 16,500 wells.

The Government has previously argued that fracking “would provide valuable additional supplies, reducing our reliance on imports” but today’s research reveals that fracking could only significantly reduce our imports if England’s countryside was littered with fracking wells.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Rose Dickinson, said:

“One well would have to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to replace just half of our gas imports. This would mean an industrialisation of our countryside at a rate that nobody has yet fully appreciated and would put many more communities in the firing line of this dirty and unwanted industry.

“Cuadrilla’s current plans for Lancashire are the thin edge of the wedge; with INEOS wanting to drill in Sherwood Forest and elsewhere we need to know what the scale actually looks like, and it’s not looking good for our countryside.”

The land needed to support this many wellpads for industrial development is considerable. In the central scenario, there could be over 1,000 wellpads, covering an area of over 3,500 hectares. This is equivalent to around 4,900 football pitches. If gas produced per well was at the lower end of the range of possibilities, the report indicates over 2,700 well pads, covering an area of over 9,600 hectares would be needed. That is equivalent to over 13,000 football pitches.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said:

“The fracking industry has always been clear that fracked gas would replace what’s currently imported, but what wasn’t clear was the scale of land take that would involve. The many thousands of wells that would be needed, peppered across our precious landscapes, would cause harm to the English countryside on an industrial scale.

“With technologies now enabling us to effectively harvest renewable energy sources, this is where our efforts, time and money should be invested. The English countryside we know and love is the breathing space for us all. It must not become an industrial testing ground for a fracking industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”

Fracking has been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, meaning that most of these wells would probably be drilled in England, and more specifically in the North West, Yorkshire and the East Midlands, which are the current focus of the fracking industry’s attentions.

Rose Dickinson added:

“England is increasingly isolated in desperately chasing fracking when it has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“When somewhere is threatened with fracking, opposition is immediate and sustained. It’s time the government banned it and put efforts behind real solutions to supplying energy because fracking won’t help fix climate change. Fracking is unneeded, unwanted and will industrialise our countryside That’s why so many people have come together to keep fracking at bay over the last 7 years”.

The report concludes that “there is no evidence that fracked gas can be brought to market at sufficiently low cost, and sufficiently great volume to make any significant profit, or to make any difference to the UK energy security position.”

Nearly two-thirds of the natural gas imported to the UK comes via pipeline from Norway. In just 6 years the UK’s renewable electricity output has leaped from providing only 9% to almost 30% of UK electricity.

Friends of the Earth supports investment in renewable sources: they are popular, unlike fracking, and our health and environment do not face the same threats that fracking poses.