Fracking could pollute countryside: UK government report

A UK study cautions that fracking, the controversial mining technique, could release chemicals that caused damage to the environment.

Fracking for shale gas ran a high risk of polluting the countryside, the government report warned.

The Environment Agency said in the study that the controversial mining technique could result in chemicals damaging the environment.

It has also pointed to other risks, including earthquakes resulting in contamination of water sources, property damage and the release of dangerous gases.

The dangers have been elucidated in an impact assessment study for ministers by the Environment Agency.

It said there was a ''high risk'' that fracking - hydraulic fracturing - for shale gas could lead to ''pollution caused by a substance released during the exploration process.''

In fracking, water along with sand and chemicals is pumped at high pressure into the ground to release previously untapped oil and gas reserves.

The UK government recently announced tax breaks for the industry with a view to harnessing the technology to part of the UK's energy needs.

But the Environment Agency's study brings into sharp focus the risks involved in the controversial process, including a ''high risk'' of pollution caused by the chemicals pumped into the ground.

According to the study, if things were to go wrong this could cause ''contamination and loss of resources, injury, ill health or death, loss of or damage to a habitat.''

Meanwhile, detractors of the technology point out that though there was much excitement about the economic benefit that fracking could bring to the UK if there were reserves of shale oil and gas, consultancy KPMG had argued that fracking would not bring the same economic benefits to the UK as it had to the US.

Shale gas production in the UK was not likely to be anywhere near as cheap as it was in the US and, in fact, according to analysis by Bloomberg, Ernst & Young and others, the cost of extraction alone could exceed the current wholesale cost of gas. The idea that fracking could potentially make for cheaper bills in the UK was therefore a non-starter.

They add, if economically fracking did not add up to cheaper bills, then environmentally the case for fracking was even less appealing. They say the question should not be whether or not the UK was found to have reserves of shale oil and gas, but why UK consumers would use it.