In early 2011, Australian based, mineral mining giants, Tamboran Resources, were granted lisences to explore the possibility that shale gas deposits exist in the (bear with me on this one) Northwest Carbinoferous Basin (NCB). Now, to you and me that sounds like absolute gibberish, but the NCB covers a rather large section of Western Ireland, including a great swathe of south-west Fermanagh.
Highlighted in orange is the NCB (click to enlarge)
Now what exactly is the NCB? Why does it matter? The geology of the NCB escapes me, however the unique makeup of the basin means that it could potentially harbour natural 'shale' gas, which companies such as Tamboran Resources are in the business of extracting through the process of 'fracking'. if you were to believe what Tamboran are telling the press in Northern Ireland, then fracking is the answer to all of our problems. Thousands of jobs will be created, NI will become an economic energy powerhouse, unparalleled in the UK, and that fracking is a harmless process.
Hydraluc Fracturing, or 'fracking' as it is lovingly known, is the process of drilling hundreds of feet into shale rock, blasting 'fracking fluid' (a mixture of water, chemicals and sand compound) into the rock to release trapped shale gas which is vented to the surface and 'bottled' so to speak.
This video below gives a more precise definition:
Does this sound like a reasonable alternative energy source? Well if it still does, have a read at this:
"An independent geological report has found that it is "highly probable" a controversial technique to extract gas, known as fracking, triggered two minor earthquakes on the Lancashire coast earlier this year. The energy company Cuadrilla - which suspended its fracking test operations in June following the tremors - said the conditions that caused them are unlikely to occur again."
- Taken from BBC News, 2nd November 2011
"Recent earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma have been directly linked to deep wells used to dispose of liquid wastes for hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" of natural gas, according to geological experts. And they expect more earthquakes to come as the industry continues to expand across the eastern United States. "
Okay, so it causes earthquakes. What else does it do? (As if that wasn't bad enough)
Well fracking has also been linked to an increase in groundwater contamination, due to the nature of the chemicals used in fracking fluid, which in turn has led to an increase in cancers and serious, untreatable illnesses. It is a parallel, of sorts, to the 1996 scandal in Hinkley, California when Pacific Gas & Electric was found guilty of poisoning the local populace with hexavalent chromium (A virulent carcinogen), and paid out an estimated $333 million in damages. The entire incident was later immortalised on film as the 2000 Oscar winning Erin Brokovich.
Due to the 2005 Energy Act in the United States, companies that specialise in fracking are exempt from disclosing the chemical make up of fracking fluid, however in 2008 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) analysed a sample of fracking fluid to find that 54 chemicals were used in the drilling process. This is what they found (click to enlarge):
Okay, so are you starting to understand what the problem is here? Earthquakes, poisoned groundwater, cancers, liver disease, bronchial illnesses, kidney failure, genetic mutations, birth defects, brain tumours, blindness, blood disease. This is all waiting for people living in Fermanagh. And who grants the lisences for fracking? Our very own Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster MLA and member of the DUP.
Arlene isn't telling us the whole story...
Protest groups have sprung up in Fermanagh, backed by a number of political parties. Mrs. Foster has faced criticisim over her alleged involvement with granting fracking licenses on land owned by her husband, 54 acres of it to be exact. The Minister herself however has hit back by claiming that lisences are awarded by a panel and that she has no direct involvement in awarding the licenses. Anybody else smell something rotten?
This issue has been painted in the press as a opportunity to create jobs, to reinvigorate the energy industry in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. But at the cost of what? Our health? Our tourism industry (on which Fermanagh heavily depends upon) or by costing jobs in the Green energy sector? Why can't Tamboran Resources invest in our already exisiting electricity grid and fund renewable energy sources that will last for as long as the machinery is maintained? Fracking wells see a rapid decline in gas production after the first few years of drilling, meaning that empty wells will be dotted around the Fermanagh countryside. A bit like this:
Is this what we want Fermanagh to look like? I don't think so. This has to stop now, for our own sake.
- Excerpt from MSNBC article, 6th January 2012
Fracking equipment in Pennsylvania