Global Guide to Fracking

As Pennsylvania becomes central to an international tight gas boom, the world is watching…

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard about hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale. The Marcellus and Utica shales, largely located in Pennsylvania, may very well be the second largest shale gas reserves in the world.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, China has the most “technically recoverable” unconventional gas, with 36.1 trillion cubic metres. Argentina comes in third with an estimated 21.9 trillion. South Africa, Australia, Canada and Poland all have serious shale gas deposits, too. [Source: The Economist, August 6, 2011] Tight gas, as it is commonly called, has tipped the Global Energy Market off balance, to be sure. At a time when countries are seeing their credit downgraded and established banks are failing, gas traders are having a comparatively good time of it. Just Google “tight gas investment” and see how much unbridled optimism you’ll find.

Controversy, however, over toxic water contamination, despoiled forestland, carcinogenic air pollution, dogs the Gas Industry wherever it goes. Persistent environmental opposition is growing apace with gas exploration, and the mounting body of scientific evidence which documents the harm that drilling chemicals cause to people and animals. How “gas-tight” nations proceed in the face growing environmental pressures, and the increasing global demand in non-shale EU countries such as Norway and booming Asian markets like China and Japan, is still very much an evolving trajectory. Many countries, such as the UK, are uncomfortably aware that they must meet the obligations of their international climate change accords, such as the Kyoto Protocal, before they can properly exploit tight gas reserves. If nothing else, the 2005 development of horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology dramatically expanded the global tight gas supply.

Today, the EU finds itself looking across the Atlantic to learn from the US’s mistakes. They, too, are currently battling over how much regulation to impose on the unconventional gas drilling industry, though the Europeans seem, perhaps characteristically, more content to take it slow. Poland, an EU member country with an estimated 5.3 trillion cubic metres in tight gas reserves, predictably opposes regulation. The Poles are sinking frack wells into the Lubid Basin as fast as, well, Pennsylvania. They hope to liberate continental Europe from Russia’s conventional gas. France, on the other hand, recently became the first country in the world to ban fracking and cancel new drilling permits. [SOURCE: Helen Robertson, Petrolium Economist]

In Germany, opposition has become fierce enough to disrupt gas development, yet Bulgaria is ripe for exploration. England reportedly has more than 200 trillion cubit feet of gas under Lancashire, which Cuadrilla Resources estimates could create up to 5,600 jobs, with as many as 1,700 in that shire alone. Two earthquakes near Blackpool in May, 2011, however, where no seismic activity has ever been recorded, put the kibosh on Cuadrilla’s plans. After the second quake, which measured 1.5 in magnitude, occurred off the Fylde coast, the British government compelled the company to cease fracking operations until more about this drilling method is known. Wales, meanwhile, unanimously voted to deny permits for exploratory wells. In Ireland, as you might imagine, the fractivist cause is alive and well though tight gas reserves are relatively small. Fancy that.

In general, Europeans nations must first play catch-up in terms of pipelines and infrastructure. And when it comes to regulation, there appears to be a misplaced confidence in whatever regs the US might eventually enact. Environmental activists overseas (does it get any more leftie than that?) are generally scratching their heads, wondering what the heck’s going in Pennsylvania.

In China, as one might expect, unconventional gas reserves and infrastructure are being developed as fast as humanly possible, which in China is pretty darn fast. Three major Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) depots are currently under construction. Fracking opposition there, if it exists, is unknown to me. As I understand, Shell is looking at shale gas reserves in China, while Chinese companies are snapping up American expertise by investing established gas producers.

In South Africa, though, you’ll find Treasure the Karoo, a group actively opposing hydraulic fracturing. Their experience has been similar to the Marcellus Shale in that gas development is destroying their land, water and way of life.

Even as far away as Australia, a country poised to experience its own gas boom, opposition to fracking is surging. Olivia Newton-John, the United Nation’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment, is hopelessly opposed to the idea of fracking for coal seam gas, and introducing new, known toxins into the environment. She recently wrote a simple, convincing Op-Ed on the subject.

The severity, and potential scale, of the toxic pollution caused by fracking has captured the attention of media and bloggers around the globe. To wit, I now have Facebook friends in New Zealand. It seems, whether you think of the world as a diverse international marketplace, or one big global village, all eyes are trained on Pennsylvania.

It’s a Small World After All – Fractivism Goes Global
Because the types of tight gas vary as widely as the social and political climates of these nations, depending on where you go, you’ll get a unique perspective. As the invisible hand of the economy gives us all the finger, however, the battle of the Environment vs. the Economy will continue to accelerate through an increasing number of pastures, river basins and government meeting rooms, on every continent.

Go Site-Seeing!
Here are few of the coolest international anti-fracking websites I’ve found:

Gaz de Shiste Happens

No Fracking UK
Ribble Estuary Against Fracking
Frack Off!

The Vale Says No

Fermanagh Fracking Awareness
What The Frack

Treasure the Karoo Action Group

Grace Ecocentric Blog

The Most Revolutionary Act




UPDATE [December 7, 2011]:

A few news items from around the world which have appeared since posting:

In Poland, fractvisits disrupted “Shale Gas World Europe 2011″ in peaceful protest. They dropped golf balls on the floor, “occupied” the podium, and got arrested. Read more at or watch the video at

In South Africa, Energy Compay Sasol decided not to pursue exploration for shale gas in the Karoo region, a move which was welcomed by an environmental groups. Read more here:

In the UK, the media is deepening its coverage of the Cuadrilla issue. Here’s the link to a piece by Kari Lundgren of Bloomberg News:

And in Ireland, Northern Ireland’s Assembly has voted for a moratorium on fracking pending an “environmental assessment.” Read more:

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One Response to “Global Guide to Fracking”

  1. gmihalev Says:

    Guys we need some support
    We need support in our common cause
    Act Now to World Wide Ban Fracking
    please share with friends, mail, media, etc.

    Mass Protests in Bulgaria against Shale gas Fracking This Saturday
    On 14th January 2012 will be held mass protests in many Bulgarian cities against shale gas drilling in Bulgaria and against hydraulicfracturing – the hazardous technology that is used in the exploration andproduction of shale gas. The title of the nationwide protest is “Bulgarians,rise up and defend your land!” and aims to make a wake-up call to all of theBulgarians that are still not aware of the rising environmental catastrophy.The protesters demand that the government bans shale gas fracking in Bulgariaand discontinues all existing shale gas exploration and production permits.
    This is not the first protest against shale gas explorationand production in Bulgaria. The protests started in August 2011 as a result ofthe decision of the government to grant the American giant Chevron a five-year permitto explore 4398 square kilometers of the most fertile land in NortheasternBulgaria called Dobrudja without the consent of the local community and withoutany environmental assessment of the risks that shale gas exploration may cause.The area has also high seismic activity and holds the largest underground freshwater supply on the Balkans. Chevron is not the only company that is expectedto drill for shale gas in Bulgaria – Park Place Energy and Direct Petroleum havealready received permits for oil and gas exploration and information from theirofficial websites reveals that they will explore for shale gas. However, thegovernment denies it.

    The protesters started as a Facebook group called “We are against the Bulgarian Chernobil – the shale gas drilling” that now has morethan 40 000 members. Hundreds of Bulgarians continually protested for the pastfive months in different cities like Sofia, Varna and Dobrich. This Saturdaymany other cities will join their forces – Plovdiv, Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo,Shumen, Pleven, Burgas, Kazanlak, Smolyan and Blagoevgrad. There is also anongoing civil petition for banning hydraulic fracturing in Bulgaria that hasstarted in November 2011 – it will be taken to the Parliament in February 2012 for viewing.

    We will be glad if you report the event!

    Here is a detailed information for the protest schedule for each city:

    Sofia – 11:00 a.m. at Patriarch Evtimii Monument (“Popa”)

    Varna – 11:30 a.m. at “Kozirkata”

    Plovdiv – 11:00 a.m. at Saedinenie Square

    Dobrich – 11:00 a.m. at St. George Temple

    Burgas – 13:00 p.m. at Alyosha Monument, the Troikata Square

    Kazanlak – 11:00 a.m. at Sevtopolis Square

    Pleven – 11:00 a.m. at the Town Hall

    Ruse – 17:00 p.m. at the Halite (CBA)

    Blagoevgrad – 17:30 at the Town Hall

    Shumen – 11:00 a.m. at the City garden entrance

    Smolyan – 11:00 a.m. at the Droujba Cinema

    Veliko Tarnovo -12:00 a.m. at the European Information Center (the former Pioneer Home)

    For more information go to:

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