News article published on 29 June, 2012 on the Nature News Blog.
Hydraulic fracturing — or ‘fracking’, as it is popularly known — presents a “very low risk” of contaminating drinking water or triggering forceful earthquakes in the United Kingdom, and can safely be performed as long as companies engage in different practices from those that have produced concern in the United States.
This was the conclusion of an independent review of the controversial practice — in which a mixture of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure into wells — published by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering today. The method fractures shale, creating fissures that allow previously inaccessible natural gas to flow more easily out of the well.
“The most common areas of concern, such as the causation of earthquakes with any significant impact or fractures reaching and contaminating drinking water were very low risk,” said Robert Mair, the chairman of the review’s working group.
Recent controversy over the practice was highlighted by the 2011 release of Gasland, a North American documentary notable for its clips of people lighting running tap water on fire. The director argued that fracking was contaminating drinking water with methane.
In June last year, France banned le fracking, and last month, Vermont became the first US state to outlaw the practice. Moratoria have been imposed in Pennsylvania, New York, Quebec, South Africa and Bulgaria.
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