Fracking letter sparks anger on Fylde

Fracking at Anna's Road, Westby
Fracking at Anna's Road, Westby
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A group of British earth science and engineering experts have urged politicians at all levels to get behind the development of fracking.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, the 50 academic geoscientists from British universities, including 15 from the North West, argue that unless the region develops its natural gas supplies then the UK’s future “economic prosperity and national energy security” could be put at risk.

They point to the recent report by the British Geological Survey from 2013 on the Bowland Basin, which covers the Fylde where Cuadrilla Resources wants to frack for gas, which claims it has “1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.”

They say that if only 10 per cent of this energy resource is extracted, then “that is enough to boost our domestic supply to meet existing demand by at least 25 years”.

Prof Richard Selley, from Imperial College London, said: “Either we develop this resource now, or risk living in the dark ages in the future.”

The letter states: “As geoscientists and petroleum engineers from Britain’s leading academic institutions, we call on all political and decision-makers at all levels to put aside their political differences and focus on the undeniable economic, environmental and national security benefits on offer to the UK from the responsible development of Lancashire’s shale.”

But the call has been blasted by Fylde campaigners who fear fracking, the process of injecting liquid into the ground at high press to release gas, could cause pollution, health issues and earth tremors.

Helen Rimmer, from North West Friends of the Earth: “It’s no surprise that a group of petroleum engineers, with vested interests in the industry, are calling for more fossil fuel extraction. But the call isn’t backed by any experts in the major risks around fracking.”

Pam Foster from Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking said: “The letter was signed by 50 academics. As well as their university positions, some of these individuals also hold directorships, research positions and the like in oil and gas firms. As for the figures from the British Geological Survey, this is pure speculation. Prof Mike Stephenson of the BGS said we may be lucky to get one per cent of gas out of the ground.”

Lytham engineer Mike Hill said getting the 10 per cent would be unlikely and would lead to the industrialisation of the countryside. He said: “If we do the average (five per cent)we will get 12 years of supply and will need around 3,500 wells between Preston and Blackpool.”

But Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla said:“We welcome this vote of confidence from such a distinguished group of leading earth scientists and engineers. We will need natural gas to heat our homes and to support British industry for several decades to come. At a time when we’re importing ever increasing quantities of gas, there’s a compelling case for unlocking these resources”