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Do Chester’s fracking sites give the lie to our shale gas future?

There is something amiss with proposed fracking sites in Bridge Trafford and Barrow in Cheshire according to the Chester Chronical.  Both sites are just metres away from two fault lines that are known to be the epicentre of an earthquake which struck Chester in 1750.  This would suggest that these sites are among the worst places in the UK to attempt to recover profitable shale gas.  As Brian Davey has pointed out:

“Even if the public and political opposition was not there, there would be reasons to doubt that fracking is viable in the UK. The doubt starts with the geology. While the British Geological Survey has produced maps of shale layers, and while it has been suggested that the carbon content might be there, the data is lacking for other key parameters, for example for rock porosity. In addition the shale in the UK has more folds and faults when compared to US fields. This might to lead to more earthquakes which would damage the wells – plus leading to a potential failure to achieve the pressure needed for fracturing if fracking fluid leaks into small faults when pushed underground.”

In other words, it is doubtful that sites like those in Chester will ever turn a profit.  So why bother buying the license to drill?

The most likely answer is that this has always been more to do with money than with energy.  It does not matter whether shale gas can be recovered or not.  What matters is that gullible investment fund managers believe that they are buying a share of Britain’s energy future.  Like the Dutch tulip bubble of 1637, the fact that the asset behind the boom is worthless is irrelevant.  All that matters is that enough chumps with more money than sense can be persuaded to buy in as the frenzy gets going.

In the UK, attempts to inflate a fracking bubble have been given a big helping hand by the government’s decision to cut spending on renewables, close the remaining coal power stations, and leave Britain dependent on gas for its electricity.  This makes any recoverable shale gas beneath Great Britain much more attractive than might otherwise have been the case.

Faced with near zero percent interest, investors – desperate for a decent return – will be easily parted from their money if only the myth of our shale future can be maintained.  For this reason, it matters not one iota whether shale gas can be profitably extracted.  All that matters is that a company can offer evidence that a drill site is located above potentially recoverable shale gas.  As with all Ponzi schemes, the early investors – those who bought the licenses in the first place – will have made their money and walked away long before the bubble bursts and everyone else realises they’ve been had.

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