What is fracking, why is it controversial and how come it is back on the agenda?

Two Lancashire Police Officers stand guard at Cuadrilla's Fracking site in May 2018.
A worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire. Credit: PA Images

The controversial extraction of shale gas in Lancashire is due back on the agenda . 

The government will set out new plans for energy supplies in the wake of the Russian boycott.

Plans to seal off the fracking site on Preston New Road may now be put on hold by energy firm Cuadrilla.   

But, what Fracking is and why is it controversial?

What is fracking?

Fracking is the process of drilling deep into the earth and directing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals at the rock underground.

The high pressure impact creates small fractures within shale formations which enabled the energy from an underground well to be extracted.

The process takes about three to five days, on average, to complete from start to finish and Once the drilling has ended the rig and derrick are removed from the site for the removal of gas to continue.

The video below is courtesy of the Department of Energy & Climate Change:

Why 'frack'?

Supporters believe that shale gas - or fracking - has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs.

The Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire Credit: Press Association

How much shale gas is there in the UK?

It is not possible to estimate exactly how much there is in the UK until there has been greater exploration and testing.

However, scientists from the British Geological Survey have estimated there is 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bowland-Hodder shale in northern England alone.

An Anti Fracking Protester at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire in 2018. Credit: Press Association

What are the concerns?

There are concerns the process is linked to earthquakes, and the chemicals could contaminate local ground water - affecting what comes out of people’s taps.

Opponents also fear an increase in noise and traffic pollution, and the pursuit for a new source of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change.

Wasn't Fracking banned in the UK?

During the 2019 General Election Downing Street announced the Conservative government would 'end support' for the controversial practice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he had "very considerable anxieties" about the issue of shale gas extraction.

But although there is currently a moratorium on Fracking, it was never banned in the UK.