Will Unconventional, Horizontal, Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Production Purposes Create Environmental Harm in the United Kingdom?

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

In April 2018 Cuadrilla Resources successfully drilled the UK’s first
horizontal shale gas well in Lancashire. Whilst there is an abundance
of academic research on the environmental impacts of fracking
(primarily in North America), there is no scholarship that specifically
considers what environmental harms may occur from fracking in a
UK context. This thesis is therefore an important, original contribution
to academic understanding and is presented at a vital time in the
development of fracking in the UK where production of shale gas is
imminent.

In order to assess the potential for environmental harm, 20 semistructured
interviews were conducted with a variety of key-informants
(people possessing important expertise of one or more areas of the
fracking process in the UK). These key-informants came from a
variety of backgrounds and included: 5 Anti-Fracking Campaigners; 3
Academics; 3 Employees from Regulatory Bodies; 2 Geological
Consultants; 1 Journalist; 1 Parish Councillor; 1 District Councillor; 1
Water Consultant; 1 Oil and Gas Professional; 1 Oil and Gas
Consultant; and 1 Gas Company Director. Interview questions were
derived from a literature review that revealed different opportunities
for environmental harm to occur based on a variety of academic and
organisational research. As a result, interview questions centred on
water (specifically; water aquifers, water resources, and wastewater)
and other aspects (seismicity, chemical usage, well integrity and
flaring).

Treadmill of Production and eco-philosophy were used as theoretical
underpinnings of the research. Treadmill of Production provides an
understanding of why fracking has emerged in the UK, concluding
that the demise of North Sea oil and gas is leading to the increased
attractiveness of more extreme energy sources in order to keep the
treadmill running. The harms identified in the results chapters are
forms of ecological withdraws and additions that lead to ecological disorganisation. Additionally, eco-philosophy provides three different
perspectives from which to view human interactions with shale gas
resources. The conclusion is that fracking clearly represents an
anthropocentric approach to the creation of energy where human
wants and needs are prioritised over the survival demands of
humans, non-human species and the wider ecology.
The thesis is best situated within the discipline of green criminology
due to the fact that fracking is a legal production process in the UK. It
is suggested that green criminology is in a unique position to
evaluate fracking, and that this is not possible in orthodox
criminological discussions that view crimes solely as violations of
criminal laws.

By conducting primary research prior to the development of fracking
in the UK, this research has identified key areas for environmental
harm to occur based on the expertise of a variety of key-informants.
This is the first piece of research of its kind and it is argued that
analysing the potential for environmental harm to occur prior to the
production of shale gas is more beneficial that analysing
environmental degradations after they have already occurred
according to the precautionary principle of environmental law.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Lincoln
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Hall, Matthew, Supervisor, External person
Award date13 Dec 2018
Place of PublicationUniversity of Lincoln
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

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