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UK fracking ‘years behind schedule’ costing taxpayers millions

By Lawrence Gash

Only three wells have been built out of a planned 20

An investigation by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the British Government's plan to introduce fracking is years behind schedule and has so far cost taxpayers £32m.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting shale gas. High-pressure water, sand and chemicals are pumped into shale rock in order to extract natural gas.

The process is seen by some as a cheaper homegrown gas alternative. Indeed, in the US, its expansion has helped push net energy imports down to their lowest level since 1963.

There are thought to be more than 2.5m hydraulically fractured wells worldwide. However, according to the NAO’s report, the UK will fall well behind its plan to establish 20 shale wells by mid-2020, with only three having been built in the past three years.

Planned fracking wells have often proved unpopular with nearby communities. Residents seem more concerned with the threat of miniature earthquakes than any potential employment opportunities.

Increasing awareness of climate change has also added to fracking’s unpopularity. Ken Cronin, CEO of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, the industry trade body, has addressed these concerns. “There is a significant role for both onshore oil and gas in the future, which if allowed to reach potential will bring the compelling environmental and economic benefits as detailed in the National Audit Office report,” he said.

Reacting to the report, a spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The Government has always said shale gas exploration can only proceed as long as it is safe and environmentally responsible. The Oil and Gas Authority will soon publish a finalised scientific assessment of recent industry data and we will set out our future approach as soon as we have considered the findings.”

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