Shale gas is the hot topic of energy industry, very much based on new discovered gas deposits and advanced fracking techologies that make it possible for easier access to those large beds. How much environmental risks we are willing to take to get that cheap gas?
“When I looked at my daily newspaper the other morning, I spotted a very interesting headline which stated that in Germany, fracking will not be used in the coming time. That headline made me curious and so I started reading the article. The article, although not very technical, focused on the political discussions that are currently going on in Germany about whether shale gas should be touched or not. There is no doubting the potential of shale gas and fracking but the problem is getting it out of the ground without harming the environment.
Shale gas fracking. Courtesy of Valve World magazine.
But let’s be honest, it all sounds absolutely great: countries with shale gas resources would depend less on importing gas, new petrochemical projects could be erected near the shale gas fields, and for the consumer gas prices would drop because there are sufficient resources available – a dream come true! Or is it?
If one takes a closer look at shale gas and especially at fracking, then this road to cheap gas, etc. takes a totally different turn. Looking at reports and researches, fracking is supposed to be extremely dangerous for the environment. The liquid, called Fracfluid, pumped at high pressure into the ground, is a mixture of water, sand, and various chemicals. Through the pressure of the liquid, the gas is forced to escape through small cracks in the ground which lead into a main pipe that captures the gas and directs it to the processing facilities. Obviously, not everything from the Fracfluid pumped into the ground will be flushed out afterwards and experts fear that drinking water, for example, could be affected. And this seems to be not the only problem arising from fracking. Two other issues which could follow the process are, on the one hand, that no one can foresee what happens when the gas has left the shale – will the ground sink and fill in the holes or will it remain stable? On the other hand, there is the possibility that the Fracfluid will affect the ground itself. Here too, no one can really foresee whether it will have an influence on the vegetation and animals living in the area or not.
If we now go back to the cheap gas and being independent from importing gas theories, one has doubts as to whether this is really the case. If all this research has to be done in advance and the various environmental requirements have to be fulfilled, is it really worthwhile going after it? I guess that depends on the shale gas resources that each and every country has.
During my online research, I found two other articles focusing on shale gas and one of them showed the US as a good example of the impact that shale gas can have on the country: gas price has dropped tremendously. However, these articles also mentioned that the resources in Germany are nowhere near enough to justify and go after it. In Great Britain, it seems the other way round – there seems to be enough shale gas in the ground to justify extracting it from the ground and processing it. 
So, what does this leave us with? Is shale gas a curse or a blessing? I guess only time will tell as many issues are still unclear and while some countries are already pursuing the processing of the resource others are still reluctant to do so. However, it is a fact that it remains an easy and attractive resource (at least for the time being).”
Editor-in-Chief of Valve World magazine