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UK Sets Sights on Fracking in 2018

The subject of fracking is as heated as they come, shrouded in controversy, unanswered questions, and public scrutiny. Resultantly, drilling for shale gas in the UK has been met with intense opposition.

Most notably, in October, Scotland banned fracking indefinitely following a consultation of which 99% of over 60,000 respondents opposed the practice, which highlighted not only the public’s disapproval, but also the lack of sufficient economic justification to offset the health and environmental risks cited by those most actively engaged in the debate. 2018, however, is posing to offer substantial development in the field for UK-based shale gas companies, with many reporting their plans to commence operations on various sites imminently following years of virtual standstill. Third Energy, for example, announced their intention to start fracking in North Yorkshire, and are currently awaiting their final verdict from the authorities following extended legal complications. IGas, on the other hand, has already started construction at two sites in Nottinghamshire, with operations commencing this year; the company will also be applying for fracking permission at another site near Chester. If any of these projects do start, they will be the first fracking activity in the UK since 2011.

These companies maintain that once fracking is jump-started once again on British soil, the public’s opinion on the matter will soften. IGas’ director of corporate affairs, Ann-Marie Wilkinson, said that “in terms of moving the industry forward, 2018 is very significant. The most important thing is to demonstrate fracking can be done safely and environmentally friendly, and bring communities along with us.” Furthermore, Third Energy’s director, Alan Linn, agrees on the issue: “It’s a potential catalyst for a sea change in how the industry is perceived. We’ll do it safely.”

As the importance of coal in UK industry continues to fall to almost negligible levels, in conjunction with the surging prominence of renewable sources of energy, the arguments surrounding the necessity for fracking will no doubt continue to rage. The UK government has insisted that ongoing developments in fracking are being closely monitored for adverse effects, and tightened regulation is fuelling extensive investment in safety precautions. Time will tell how effectively these measures will be enforced, and to what extent they’ll play in the public’s perception of fracking during the course of 2018.

Britain as a nation has invested heavily in fracking, and in the event of successful exploration stages, this is an industry which will only continue to establish itself in political debate, dinner-table discussions, and Britain’s economic platform, for better, or for worse.