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U.K. fractures over fracking

England approves first gas well in four years, but Scotland resists

by Alex Scott
June 1, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 23

Photo of UK parliamentary buildings and Big Ben.
Credit: Shutterstock
The U.K. government in London is backing fracking in England.

For the first time since 2012, a local government council in England has voted to permit methane gas to be extracted via hydraulic fracturing of subterranean shale, a process known as fracking.

The decision comes 10 months after the U.K. government created incentives to encourage local communities to allow fracking. England’s use of fracking may now start to move ahead of other European states. Countries such as France and Germany continue to eschew the approach because of environmental concerns.

England’s U.K. neighbor Scotland, which has built much of its economy on oil and gas, is also resisting fracking. The Scottish government recently asserted that it has no plans to lift a moratorium on the approach. Scotland’s newly appointed energy minister Paul Wheelhouse says he is “deeply skeptical” about fracking and that the technology will not be permitted in Scotland unless it is proved “beyond doubt that there is no risk to health, communities, or the environment.”

The Scottish government will review the moratorium once a scientific report on the effects of fracking has been completed. The report is not expected until after this summer at the earliest, Wheelhouse says.

Chemical maker Ineos has acquired the rights to undertake fracking across large tracts of Scotland and England. Ineos Director Tom Crotty told a Scottish newspaper that the firm’s geologists and chemical engineers are now “100% deployed in England” and that Scotland is “missing out” on the exploitation of shale gas.


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