A desolate fracking site after equipment has been removed.
fracking in frome
With a number of fracking sites now opened and working across the UK, particularly in the North of England and South Wales, and the southern counties now feeling the gaze of prospectors, the tension ramps up between those in favour and those against this controversial fuel extraction technique. With reports of water contamination, habitat destruction and even earthquakes, not to mention the disregard to local opinion, circulating as far afield as the USA and Lancashire, we ask a local advocate of a frack free Somerset to give us his two cents on the issues.
Water contamination, air pollution, scarring a beautiful landscape with ugly extraction sites and threats to local democracy - just a few reasons to get involved in the fight against ‘fracking’.
First, the threat to local democracy. The UK government seems hell bent on imposing a new, nightmarish approach to energy extraction in spite of the fact that when people find out the truth about what is about to hit their communities, they try very hard to stop it happening.
A protest against shale gas extraction outside the Houses of Parliament, December 2012.
We are not talking tree huggers, Luddites, anarchists or any other variety of killjoys, we are on about homeowners, workers, grandmas - people like you and me who are appalled when they find out that some company (that is paying the Department of Energy and Climate Change £25 a year for the exclusive right to drill and cause explosions deep underground of a field near them) is going to start monkeying around with a process that has caused untold distress and damage to people in the US, Australia and elsewhere.
First there is ‘Fracking’ - the refracturing of shale deposits using explosives followed by the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals. This is on-shore oil and gas extraction that needs hundreds or thousands of lorry trips, massive amounts of diesel, water and chemicals and which, typically, has a very poor yield per well (compared to conventional oil and gas fields). Once you are living on or near a gas field of this type you will find it very hard to ignore as the ‘frack pads’ will be cropping up all over the place.
Top: A waste evaporation pond near Vernal, Utah, a town plagued by infant mortality increasingly linked to its fracking industry and pollution.
Bottom: A Cuadrilla drilling rig in Lancashire.
Related to fracking is coal bed methane extraction - similar to shale, except that very often the coal seams need to be ‘de-watered’ - i.e. the removal from the seams of many millions of gallons of contaminated water from the coal (this water has usually been marinating in the coal for a long time and has many dissolved salts of heavy metals and other toxins contained within it).
The extraction processes involved are even more dangerous than those used for shale gas. The coal seams that are exploited tend to be relatively close to the surface, usually less than 1000 metres down. This, plus the need to pump large quantities of water out of the coal seam, means that water pollution and leaking methane are very much more likely. The water can be up to five times more salty than seawater. As with fracking, the yields are poor and so wells are spaced closely (usually within half a mile to a mile of each other) to maximise production.
A digital overlaying of well pads from the Jonah gas field in Wyoming onto English countryside. A rough idea of the industrialisation involved in rural shale gas extraction.
Frome has four licensed blocks of land just to the east of the town: these are licenses to extract coal bed methane. Time to get active to prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality.
For a map and list of active UK fracking sites visit
Dave Clark is a local plumber and musician