Global Guide to Fracking

[UPDATE: May 4, 2012] Romania Places Martorium On Shale Gas Exploration


[UPDATE: April 5, 2012] Quebec Bans Fracking


As Pennsylvania becomes central to an international natural gas boom, the world is watching… Go Site-Seeing!
Here are few of the coolest international anti-fracking websites around. List by no means complete, please add yours to the comments. Thank you!

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


Fracking Whatatutu
The Most Revolutionary Act



It’s a Small World After All – Fractivism Goes Global

The Marcellus and Utica shales, largely located in Pennsylvania, may very well be the third largest shale gas reserves in the world, though it’s difficult to know how much gas there is, as official estimates were later revised downwards by more than two-thirds. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China has the most “technically recoverable” unconventional gas with – perhaps – 36.1 trillion cubic metres. Argentina comes in third with an estimated 21.9 trillion. South Africa, Australia and Canada and  all have serious “tight” gas deposits, too. [Source: The Economist, August 6, 2011] The estimated recoverable gas in Poland has recently been downgraded, as well. Tight gas, as it is commonly called, has tipped the Global Energy Market off balance, to be sure.

Controversy, however, over toxic water contamination, despoiled forestland and 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.

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.

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, though there has been known contamination from faulty, leaking pipelines in the Saxony region. Yet, it was the tiny breadbasket nation of Bulgaria, ripe for gas exploration, who took to the streets and squares brandishing loaves of bread, and succeeding in winning the next national ban.

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. There are reportedly running into all sorts of problems, too. Nevertheless, three major Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) depots are currently under construction in China. 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, you can now connect with Facebook friends in New Zealand on this burgeoning issue. It seems, whether you think of the world as a diverse international marketplace or one big global village, all eyes are trained on Pennsylvania.


[December 7, 2011]: 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:

The Daily Star reports: Oil shale project raises environmental hackles in Israel (The Daily Star)


5 Responses to “Global Guide to Fracking”

  1. Liz Rosenbaum Says:

    UPDATE March 15, 2012

    Romania wants an extraordinary meeting of European Union chiefs to discuss growing “anti- European” politics after the Netherlands opposed its accession to the visa-free area, known as Schengen.

  2. Beth Martell Says:

    Excellent piece! This is the graphic that put it all together for me:

  3. The Year Fractivism Exploded « Keep Tap Water Safe Says:

    […] 1.  Global Guide To Fracking […]

  4. Jennie Dell Says:

    Australian update: there are dozens of local groups against gas across the continent. Lock the Gate Alliance is a national body and CSG Free Northern Rivers tells the story of a successful campaign against a coal seam gas mining company in NSW.

  5. marc duncan Says:

    I monitor this issue on

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