Shale gas fracking to get going in the UK this weekend

Shale gas fracking will go ahead in Britain for the first time since 2011 after a judge dismissed safety concerns.Cuadrilla, the fracking firm, defeated activists in an eleventh hour High Court battle and said it may begin fracking at its Lancashire site as soon as Saturday.It cleared the final hurdle facing its shale gas plans since earthquake fears brought the burgeoning industry to a halt seven years ago.The temporary injunction against Cuadrilla’s fracking plans will fall away after the High Court rejected a bid by an anti-fracking campaigner to block the work, saying there is “no evidence” that the fracking poses more than a “medium risk”.Within hours of the verdict anti-fracking groups took to social media to call for shale opponents to gather at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.Frack Free Lancashire warned its members to arrive at the site as soon as Friday evening or early on Saturday morning to “show them why we are opposed to this here or anywhere”.The UK is thought to hold vast untapped reserves shale gas within layers of underground rock formations. However, political support for the contentious plans to exploit this natural resource has ebbed and flowed with each successive government, against a backdrop of fierce local opposition and sliding public opinion. Critics of fracking fear that onshore oil and gas extraction could trigger earthquakes, or contaminate drinking water by polluting underground water aquifers. Others object to developing fresh sources of gas as the UK shifts towards low-carbon energy.Francis Egan, boss of Cuadrilla, said that if the fracking campaign unlocks commercially recoverable gas reserves these will be able to “displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK.”The hydraulic fracturing process, known as ‘fracking’, involves blasting huge volumes of water and sand into layers of shale beneath the earth’s surface.The high pressure forces tiny naturally occuring fissures in the rock formation to open and release natural gas which is trapped.Cuadrilla’s first attempts to frack in Lancashire were brought to an immediate halt in April 2011 after triggering a minor earthquake in the area and raising fears over the safety of the extraction method.In recent years the Conservative Government has warmed to the sector, and could relax fracking rules around earthquakes to encourage more drilling.Mr Egan said the process is expected to take around three months to complete before it can test the flow of natural gas from wells and deliver its results in the New Year. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more