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14 December 2012

Government decision on fracking

The Academy welcomes the government's decision to allow exploration of potential shale gas reserves to proceed in the UK, subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey MP said that shale gas "represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK" and could reduce the country's reliance on imported gas as the UK moves towards a low carbon economy.

He said that his decision to allow exploratory fracking was based on evidence, including the Royal Academy of Engineering/Royal Society joint report, Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing, which examines the safety of fracking.

The government accepted all the recommendations put forward in the report and Mr Davey stressed that the current stringent safety regime will be strengthened with new controls around seismic risks and such measures will be reviewed as the industry develops.

Professor Robert Mair FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering review, said:

"We are pleased to see that government recognises the importance of the joint Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report on the geological and environmental risks of shale gas extraction in the UK. We welcomed the opportunity to discuss our recommendations with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency recently and commend their commitment to implementing the recommendations set out in our report. Our report concluded that the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced through regulation. It is now up to the Government, regulatory bodies and operators to ensure that these responsibilities are met."

"Safeguarding well integrity is at the heart of ensuring that risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively. Our report highlighted the need for continued monitoring by independent experts to ensure that each well is designed, constructed and operated in a safe and responsible manner. We strongly encourage both the Government and the operators to implement a properly independent examination and onsite inspection programme so that the public can have confidence in the process."

"The decision by Ed Davey to commission a study of the possible impacts of shale gas extraction on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be welcomed. There are few reliable estimates of the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction and potential methane leakages during the extraction process have been highlighted as a concern, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The findings of this study will be important in deciding the future of large scale extraction of shale gas in the UK."

ends

Notes for editors

  1. A copy of the Royal Academy of Engineering/Royal Society report, Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing, is available here.

  2. Edward Davey's ministerial statement is available here.

  3. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.

For more information please contact:

Sarah Griffiths at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0655; email: Sarah Griffiths

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