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Research: 6,000 fracking wells needed to halve UK gas imports

Words: Laura Edgar
Fracking / iStock_000022131270

Research published by Friends of the Earth has suggested that one well would need to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to produce enough gas to halve the amount imported to the UK.

To reduce the amount of imported gas by such an amount, 6,100 wells would be required, according to analysis by Professor Calvin Jones, from Cardiff Business School.

But if the gas produced per well was low, up to 16,500 wells would be needed.

Friends of the Earth, advocate of renewable energy, points out that the government has said fracking would provide additional supplies, “reducing our reliance on imports”, but according to this research, fracking could significantly reduce imports only if “England’s countryside was littered with fracking wells”.

Currently, fracking in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been stopped, which means the required number of wells would need to be built in England.

Rose Dickinson, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “One well would have to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to replace just half of our gas imports. This would mean an industrialisation of our countryside at a rate that nobody has yet fully appreciated and would put many more communities in the firing line of this dirty and unwanted industry.”

According to the research, the amount of land needed to support such a number of wells is “considerable”. More than 1,000 wells could cover an area of 3,500 hectares, which is equivalent to 4,900 football pitches.

When considering a low output of gas, the report suggests that more than 2,700 would be needed to reduce UK imports by half, covering 9,600 hectares, or 13,000 football pitches.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “The fracking industry has always been clear that fracked gas would replace what’s currently imported, but what wasn’t clear was the scale of land take that would involve. The many thousands of wells that would be needed, peppered across our precious landscapes, would cause harm to the English countryside on an industrial scale.

“With technologies now enabling us to effectively harvest renewable energy sources, this is where our efforts, time and money should be invested. The English countryside we know and love is the breathing space for us all. It must not become an industrial testing ground for a fracking industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”

Taking into account current trends, the report – The Implications of Fracking in UK Gas Import Substitution – states that there “is no evidence” that fracking can be brought to the market at a “sufficiently low cost and sufficiently great volume to make any significant profit, or to make any difference to the UK energy security position”.

The report can be found on the Friends of the Earth website (pdf).

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