2021 research update

This post has links to more than 70 studies, briefings and research papers on fracking and the UK onshore oil and gas industry published since 2018.

The update includes reports from academics, regulators and campaigners. Their topics include:

  • community experiences and impacts of onshore oil and gas
  • fracking-induced seismicity
  • repurposing onshore wells for geothermal energy
  • recommendations for environmental monitoring
  • policing protest
  • methane emissions

Please let us know if we’ve missed a reference you think should be included.  Click here to get in touch.

These papers will be added to the Research and report section of DrillOrDrop, which has links to studies on fracking and onshore oil and gas dating back to 2011. Look for this section under Resources on the menu.

Attitudes to fracking

Wave Tracker surveys
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2018-2020
Quarterly survey of public attitudes to shale gas and other energy issues. Dates in the list are when the survey findings were published
Wave 24, February 2018
Wave 25, April 2018
Wave 26, August 2018
Wave 27, November 2018
Wave 28, February 2019
Wave 29, May 2019
Wave 30, July 2019
Wave 31, November 2019
Wave 32, February 2020
Wave 33, May 2020
Wave 34, August 2020
Wave 35, November 2020
Older surveys also linked here


The battle for Leith Hill. How a community came together to protect the beautiful Surrey Hills from oil and gas drilling
Keith Taylor MEP, 2019
This handbook by the former Green Party MEP chronicles the campaign against plans by Europa Oil and Gas to drill for oil in the Surrey Hills.

Global controversies in local settings: anti-fracking activism in the era of Web 2.0
Agata Stasik
Journal of Risk Research, 2018
This article explores the impact of the internet on decisions about shale gas. It looked at the possibilities of the web for residents and local actors through access to knowledge, ability to reframe the local debate using international resources and mobilization of a network of support.

Communication and media

Fracking bad language: Hydraulic fracturing and earthquake risks
Jennifer J Roberts, Clare E Bond and Zoe K Shipton
Currently under review for Geoscience Communication, August 2020
The study found the use of ambiguous language about fracking-induced seismicity led to challenges in the perception and communication of risks about earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing. Language, they said, was susceptible to emotional loading and misinterpretation.

Fracturing Debate? A review of research on media coverage of “fracking”
Julian Matthews and Anders Hansen
Frontiers in Communication, September 2018
This review reveals that media reporting of fracking is divided by discussions of the economic benefits or the environmental risks associated with the process. The authors argue that future research must continue to examine the reporting of hydraulic fracturing, its context, production, and its wider reception to develop our understanding of the role of the media in national conversations on fracking, energy, and the environment.

Community experience

“It’s our future.” Youth and fracking justice in England
Lynda Dunlop ,Lucy Atkinson & Maria Turkenburg-van Diepen
The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, January 2021
The authors conclude that young people living near fracking sites experienced environmental, democratic and social injustices and exclusion from formal participation in decision-making. Young people saw economic and environmental power residing with industry, closely tied to national government, the study found. They experienced a tension between desire to trust institutional authority and betrayal by these same institutions. The authors said this resulted in depoliticisation and anti-politics, which undermined democracy.

Corrosive disadvantage: the impact of fracking on young people’s capabilities
Lynda Dunlop, Lucy Atkinson and Maria Turkenburg-van Diepen
Children’s Geographies, November 2020
The article drew on focus groups with young people within a 20-mile radius of exploratory fracking sites. Findings suggest that fracking prevents young people from living the lives they have reason to value, and has, and will continue to have, a negative impact on wellbeing in the present and in the future. Fracking creates conditions of corrosive disadvantage for affected youth, the authors stated. Greater inclusion of youth perspectives in environmental decision-making is needed.

Humanizing hydrocarbon frontiers: the “lived experience” of shale gas fracking in the United Kingdom’s Fylde communities
Benjamin K Sovacool, Laurence Williams, Abigail Martin & Jonn Axsen
The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, November 2020
Through interviews with people in Lancashire, the authors reported that people experienced community abuse, disillusionment and earthquakes with the potential to ruin lives. They also found evidence of positive experiences from fracking, including community gelling, environmental awareness and local employment.

Mobilising sense of place for degrowth? Lessons from Lancashire´s anti-fracking activism
Javier Lloveras , Adam Marshall, Gary Warnaby and Kalandides Ares
Ecological Economics, September 2020
The study concludes that pro and anti-fracking actors in Lancashire used sense of place to legitimate and advance their campaigns.

Shale gas development and community distress: evidence from England
Feizel Aryee, Anna Szolucha, Paul B Stretesky, Damien Short, Michael A Long, Liesel A Ritchie and Duane A Gill
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, July 2020
This study found that people living near three shale gas sites in England reported increased levels of stress. The research, which examined communities in Lancashire, Cheshire and North Yorkshire, found people experienced anxiety, sleep disturbance, high levels of anger and exhaustion. One in seven people surveyed for the research experienced levels of distress high enough to indicate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the authors said.

Perspectives on fracking from the sacrifice zone: young people’s knowledge, beliefs and attitudes
Lynda Dunlop, Lucy Atkinson and Maria Turkenburg-van Diepen
Chemistry Education Research and Practice, March 2020
This study looked at the attitudes of young people living within 20 miles of an English fracking site. It found that young people reported knowledge about the process of fracking and to a lesser extent its social, economic and environmental impacts and associated regulation. Formal education was an important, if limited, source of information that tended to be trusted by young people. Most attitudes were either negative or ambivalent. Opposition was because of environmental and economic impacts, the impacts of protests and the political handling of decisions about fracking.

In our backyard: perceptions about fracking, science and health by community members
Jane A McElroy, Christopher D Kassotis and Susan C Nagel
New solutions: A journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, February 2020
This study sought to examine residents’ perceptions about unconventional oil and gas development in their community, Garfield County, Colorado, a drilling-dense region. The study revealed three themes: health concerns; power struggles between government and industry and between industry and residents; perception and some acceptance of increased risk.


Why we don’t need more onshore oil in the UK
Weald Action Group, October 2020
This briefing paper, written by the campaign group opposed to onshore drilling in southern England, argues that the UK does not need more onshore oil to deliver energy security, net zero emissions, jobs or industrial feedstocks. The document calls for an urgent review of policies that influence planning decisions on onshore oil, describing them as out of date.

Enhanced Oil Recovery as a second revenue stream in a gas storage facility; understanding and monitoring the Humbly Grove Field, Hampshire, UK
Arthur Satterley, Potcharaporn Pongthunya , Jonny Imber, Ken McCaffrey, Jon Gluyas, Max Wilkinson, Andrew Sowter, Stefan Nielsen, Nicola de Paola, Richard Jones, Paul Jordan and Arthur Moors
Reservoir Geoscience and Engineering, September 2020
This study looked a geological and flow modelling work conducted alongside safety monitoring in gas storage operations at Humbly Grove in Hampshire.

The fiscal regime for UK shale gas: Analysing the impacts of pad allowance on shale gas investments
ElijahAcquah-Andoha, OnyekachiIke, Augustine O Ifelebuegu and AndrewsOwusu
Energy Policy, September 2020
This study concluded that the UK fiscal regime, particularly the pad allowance, achieved government financial objectives but failed to support shale gas investments at lower gas prices. The authors proposed a reduction in the overall tax rate from 40% to no more than 21%, a removal of the additional tax charge and changes to the pad allowance. This would, they said, better match the risk of shale gas investments to its rewards and could better attract investments.

A Comparative Study on Fracking Technology and Sustainable Development
Merve Ergun
Social Science Research Network, July 2020
This study concludes that fracking might seem to be promising in the short term for the oil and gas industry, through jobs, economic contributions and energy independence. But the author argues that fracking’s long-term effects on society and the environment are neither clear nor controllable. Fracking should be banned unless science can calculate and prevent its results, the paper argues.

Fracking for shale gas in England
National Audit Office, October 2019
This report by the spending watchdog concludes that the government has no clear idea on how much it has spent supporting fracking, what the benefits would be and how much investment would be needed in the future. It also said ministers could not explain who would pay for clean-ups if fracking companies went out of business. The report highlighted risks of self-reporting regulation, public opposition, lack of progress on carbon capture and storage and slower than predicted development of the industry.


Lagging and flagging: Air pollution, shale gas exploration and the interaction of policy, science, ethics and environmental justice in England
Andrew Watterson and William Dinan
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, June 2020
This research argued that UK Government and its advisers “marginalised, downplayed or ignored” public health concerns about shale gas exploration and fracking in England. The authors said science was frequently ignored and the shale gas industry was very effective in influencing decision-making. This had been to the detriment of public health, with vulnerable and disadvantaged communities at greatest risk, they said.

Environmental justice and fracking: A review
Emily Clough
Environmental Science and Health, June 2018
This article reviews how environmental justice scholars have addressed ethical concerns raised by the fracking boom. It draws out how this work relates to the three main types of environmental justice: distributive, procedural and recognition-based environmental justice.


Origin and implications of early diagenetic quartz in the Mississippian Bowland Shale Formation, Craven Basin, UK
Joseph F Emmings, Patrick J Dowey, Kevin GTaylor, Sarah J Davies, Christopher H Vane, Vicky Moss-Hayes, Jeremy C Rushton
Marine and Petroleum Geology, October 2020
The study suggests that the most prospective units in the Bowland shale for unconventional hydrocarbons are metre-scale siliceous packages. It also suggests that the Bowland Shale is a sub-class of black shale, defined by the potential to host a relatively large volume of early diagenetic fluids. This is potentially relevant for understanding the genesis of adjacent and related Pb-Zn mineral deposits.

Structural constraints on Lower Carboniferous shale gas exploration in the Craven Basin, NW England
Iain Anderson and John R Underhill
Petroleum Geoscience, April 2020
The authors concluded that the complex geology of the Bowland shale in the Fylde area of Lancashire places a major constraint on exploration and production. They said the faulting was more complex than previously thought. This would, they argue, limited suitable sites for well pads and the opportunity to drill long lateral boreholes needed to maximise production.

Shale oil and gas resource evaluation through 3D basin and petroleum systems modelling: a case study from the East Midlands, onshore UK
F Palci, A J Fraser, M Neumaier, T Goode, K Parkin and T Wilson
Petroleum Geoscience, February 2020
This study said produced the first prediction of generated, adsorbed, retained and expelled hydrocarbon volumes in the Gainsborough Trough in the UK East Midlands. It estimated there was 8-26 billion barrels STOIIP (stock tank oil initially in place – a method of estimating how much oil in a reservoir can be economically brought to the surface) and 11-38 thousand cubic feet GIIF (gas initially in place). The authors said: “there is considerable uncertainty concerning these in-place volumes, and no tests have proven the recoverability of oil and gas from the Bowland Shale in this area”.

Shale gas reserve evaluation by laboratory pyrolysis and gas holding capacity consistent with field data (link to pdf)
Patrick Whitelaw, Clement N Uguna, Lee A Stevens, Will Meredith, Colin E Snape, Christopher H Vane, Vicky Moss-Hayes & Andrew D Carr
Nature Communications August 2019
This study concluded that UK shale gas reserves may be “markedly lower than previously thought”. It suggests that previous evaluations for the Bowland shale in northern England were “a significant over-estimate”. Using actual samples of UK shale, rather than US comparisons, the study estimated there could be seven years’ worth of gas at current consumption rates, compared with previous figures of 25-50 years.

Lithological and chemostratigraphic discrimination of facies within the Bowland Shale Formation within the Craven and Edale basins, UK
Colin N Waters, Christopher H Vane, Simon J Kemp, Richard B Haslam, Edward Hough, Vicky L Moss-Hayes
Petroleum Geoscience, May 2019
This study reviews existing literature on the Bowland Shale formation in the UK and provides new data for 32 outcrops in the Craven and Edale basins. The authors found that total organic carbon (TOC) ranges from 0.7 to 6.5 wt%, with highest values associated with maximum flooding surfaces. Mean T max values of 447 and 441°C for the Edale and Craven basins, respectively, suggest that nearly all the samples were too immature to have generated appreciable amounts of dry gas. The oil saturation index is consistently below the >100 mg g−1 TOC benchmark, suggesting that they are not prospective for shale oil.

Geothermal and hydrogen

Suitability of legacy oil and gas subsurface data for nascent geoenergy activities onshore United Kingdom
Mark T. Ireland, Rachel Brown, Miles P Wilson, Paul B Stratesky, Andy Kingdon, and Richard J Davies
British Geological Survey (Pre print)
The study collated legacy subsurface data from onshore hydrocarbon and coal exploration in the UK for their suitability for net zero geoenergy activities, specifically geothermal. The authors examine the location and quality of data and the implications for uncertainty about the subsurface. They ask whether there should be minimum data collection criterion, such as resolution requirements, ahead of subsurface activities with potentially significant impacts to the environment, economy and society.

Paucity of legacy oil and gas subsurface data onshore United Kingdom: implications for the expansion of low carbon subsurface activities and technologies
Mark Ireland, Rachel Brown, Miles Wilson, Paul Stretesky and Richard Davies
Pre-print, November 2020
This study says it has collated and analysed for the first time legacy subsurface data from onshore oil and gas exploration in the UK. The authors say the data will be vital to assess opportunities and risks for future carbon capture and storage, subsurface energy storage and geothermal projects. They argue that the source of data should also be considered when communicating uncertainty and risk, especially where data is not easily publicly accessible.

Hydrogen and the net-zero carbon economy
Weald Action Group, November 2020
This campaign briefing paper, by a campaign network against onshore drilling in southern England, argues that the use of hydrogen to help meet UK carbon targets does not justify an expansion of the onshore oil and gas industry. The paper says hydrogen is a possible option for decarbonising parts of the UK economy but it says there is no need to make it from fossil fuels.

Repurposing Hydrocarbon Wells for Geothermal Use in the UK: The Onshore Fields with the Greatest Potential
Sean M Watson, Gioia Falcone and Rob Westaway
Energies, July 2020
This study examined 2,242 onshore hydrocarbon wells in the UK for their potential for geothermal heat. Of these 560 had potential to be repurposed, the study said. Of these 292 were currently operating. The fields were ranked for their suitability. Water produced at about 65oC from the Wytch Farm field was said to be worth about £90,000 per day of £30m a year as a substitute for burning gas, the authors said. They acknowledged that the field is in a protected landscape and local development would be restricted by planning regulations. Another field, at Wareham, was not in a protected landscape but the lower temperature and flow rate limited the scope for potential end uses. #

Geothermal energy in the UK: The life-cycle environmental impacts of electricity production from the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project
Andrea Paulillo, Lucy Cotton, Ryan Law, Alberto Striolo, Paola Lettieri
Journal of Cleaner Production, April 2020
The study carried out a life cycle assessment of the UK’s first deep geothermal power plant in the UK, in Cornwall. It concluded that compared to alternative energy sources, in the category climate change, the project performed better than solar energy and was comparable with wind and nuclear. It said the environmental benefits of geothermal energy were not straightforward. Environmental impacts could increase by 35% if stimulation techniques were needed to increase geothermal productivity.


Compartmentalisation and groundwater–surface water interactions in a prospective shale gas basin: Assessment using variance analysis and multivariate statistics on water quality data
Miles P Wilson, Fred Worrall, Sarah A Clancy, Chris J Ottley, Alwyn Hart and Richard J Davies
Hydrological Processes, May 2020
This study found there was no chemical evidence to suggest that deeper groundwater in the Fylde area of Lancashire was reaching the surface in response to compartmentalisation. In this case compartmentalisation does not appear to increase the risk of fracking‐related contaminants reaching surface waters, although this may differ under different hydrogeological scenarios.


Unconventional natural gas development and hospitalization for heart failure in Pennsylvania
Tara P McAlexander, Karen Bandeen-Roche, Jessie P Buckley, Jonathan Pollak, Erin D Michos, John William McEvoy, Brian SSchwartz
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, December 2020
This study concluded that three of four phases of unconventional natural gas development were associated with hospitalisation for heart failure in a large sample of patients in an active shale gas area of Pennsylvania. Older patients with heart failure seemed particularly vulnerable to adverse health impacts from unconventional natural gas development, the study found.

‘All out for shale’ : the mental health impacts of the government’s fracking policy: evidence from Lancashire, England
Ryan Waugh
Lund University Libraries, 2020
This study of the mental health of residents living near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site found that 58.5% of respondents reported a common mental disorder after fracking was announced. Of those, 96% said their symptoms continued when exploratory drilling started. The most common disorder experienced at the planning stage was generalised anxiety disorder, the study found. Low mood was experienced most at the exploration stage. Policing and intimidation were reported to have negative impacts on mental health.

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma
Damien Short and Anna Szolucha
Geoforum, 2019
This study concluded that a form of ‘collective trauma’ was experienced at the shale gas exploration stage by communities in the north of England. It found that local communities can suffer significant harms at exploration when national governments with neoliberal economic agendas were set on developing unconventional resources in the face of considerable opposition and a wealth of evidence of environmental and social harms.

Psychosocial impact of fracking: a review of the literature on the mental health consequences of hydraulic fracturing
Jameson K Hirsch, K Bryant Smalley, Emily M Selby-Nelson, Jane M Hamel-Lambert, Michael R Rosmann, Tammy A Barnes, Daniel Abrahamson, Scott S Meit, Iva GreyWolf, Sarah Beckmann and Teresa LaFromboise
International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2018
This article concluded that although people in fracking communities may have some benefits, they may also experience worry, anxiety, depression, exposure to toxins and changes to the physical landscape. Entire communities can experience collective trauma as a result of boom and bust cycles.

Impacts and monitoring

Study of baseline radon levels in the context of a shale gas development
Zornitza Daraktchieva, Jaroslaw M Wasikiewicz, Christopher B Howarth and Catherine A Miller
Science of the Total Environment, January 2021
This study produced the first baseline of continuously measured radon, inside and outside, around a shale gas site. The measurements were taken around Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire from 2015-2019. The findings showed that outdoor radon had a different seasonality pattern to indoor radon. The monitoring of outdoor radon levels over the four and half years indicates a year-to-year variation in outdoor radon concentrations with levels fluctuating between 3 and 9 Bq m−3. There was a very good agreement between long-term average radon concentrations measured using passive detectors and using an active AlphaGUARD monitor.

A brief systematic review of the literature on the economic, social and environmental impacts of shale gas exploitation in the United Kingdom
Carolina Álvarez-Ramos, Ana-MaríaDiez-Suárez, Miguelde Simón-Martín, AlbertoGonzález-Martínez and Enrique Rosales-Asensio
Energy Reports, December 2020
This study concluded that environmental risks, including those that could affect human health, should be integrated into the cost structure of fracking, as a risk premium or provision of funds to remedy possible negative effects.

Recommendations for environmental baseline monitoring in areas of shale gas development
Ward, R S; Rivett, M O; Smedley, P L; Allen, G; Lewis, A; Purvis, R M; Jordan, C J; Taylor-Curran, H; Daraktchieva, Z; Baptie, B J; Horleston, A; Bateson, L; Novellino, A; Lowry, D; Fisher, R E
British Geological Survey (unpublished) October 2020
This report recommends environmental monitoring associated with shale-gas activities and in particular the monitoring required to inform risk assessment and establish the pre-existing environmental conditions at a site and surrounding area. The report makes recommendations for monitoring needed to meet environmental and other permit conditions and additional monitoring that can support interpretation of statutory results and reassure the public.

An assessment of social and environmental impacts of a new shale gas industry in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire
Manon K Burbidge and C A Adams
The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, July 2020
This study used the Vale of Pickering as a case study for potential environmental risks of shale gas developments. These included air and water pollution, seismicity and traffic flows. Models developed in the study found that environmental risks did not disproportionately increase in areas with more vulnerable groups. But it found that potential benefits were not shared fairly.

Fraccidents: The impact of fracking on road traffic deaths
Minhong Xu and Yilan Xu
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2020
The authors found that an additional post-fracking well within six miles of a road segment in North Dakota led to 8% more fatal crashes and 7.1% higher per-capita costs in accidents. Transport activities at wells’ other operational stages did not affect fatal crashes.

Environmental baseline monitoring for shale gas development in the UK: Identification and geochemical characterisation of local source emissions of methane to atmosphere
David Lowry, Rebecca E Fisher, James L France, Max Coleman, Mathias Lanoisellé, Giulia Zazzeri, Euan G Nisbet, Jacob T Shaw, Grant Allen, Joseph Pitt and Robert S Ward
Science of the Total Environment, November 2019
This study was based on surveys of methane sources in the Fylde and Ryedale regions of northern England near proposed shale gas extraction sites. They aimed to identify and characterise methane sources ahead of hydraulically fractured shale gas extraction. A potential additional source of emissions could be readily distinguished from adjacent sources should gas production take place.

Environmental Baseline Monitoring: Phase III Final Report (2017-2018)
R S Ward, P L. Smedley, G Allen, B J Baptie, M R Cave, Z Daraktchieva, R Fisher, D Hawthorn, D G Jones, A Lewis, D Lowry, R Luckett, B P Marchant, R M Purvis and S Wilde
British Geological Survey, November 2018
This work by researchers at University of York concluded that air quality near Third Energy’s gas site in North Yorkshire deteriorated as the company mobilised equipment and got ready to frack. Monitoring at the site at Kirby Misperton saw significant rise in levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollutants, which coincided with increases in lorry movements and the operation of diesel-powered machinery. The air quality changed from that typical of a rural setting to what you would expect in an urban area.


“Google fracking:” The online information ecology of the English shale gas debate
Imogen Rattle, Lucie Middlemiss and James Van Alstine
Energy Research and Social Science, 2020
This paper argues that improved access to online information failed to deliver influence on policy and contributed to direct action in opposition to fracking.

Engaging over data on fracking and water quality
S L Brantley, R D Vidic, K Brasier, D Yoxtheimer, J Pollak, C Wilderman, T Wen
Science, 2018
This study concluded that shared interest in gathering, discussing, and improving water-quality data can lead to productive discussions among scientists, citizens with local knowledge, regulators, and industry practitioners. Opportunities to “pull back the curtain” on science, funded and facilitated by honest brokers, could build trust and develop procedural fairness as foundations for social licence.

Protest and policing

Policing the UK’s anti-fracking movement: facilitating peaceful protest or facilitating the industry?
Joanna Glmore, Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Damien Short
Peace, Human Rights, Governance, November 2020
This paper draws attention to the definitions of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ protest defined by the police and considers the extent to which these definitions are reflected in the police response to anti-fracking protest. The article concludes that, in the case of antifracking protests, an official policing commitment to a human rights approach to protest facilitation is at odds with the empirical reality.

‘Everyone was questioning everything’: understanding the derailing impact of undercover policing on the lives of UK environmentalists
Nathan Stephens Griffin
Social Movement Studies, June 2020
This article used interviews with spied-on environmentalists to explore the impact of undercover policing on the lives of UK activists. It concluded that activists’ conceptions of a fixed and stable external reality were fundamentally challenged. Activists were also diverted away from environmentalism, it said.

‘Peaceful protesters’ and ‘dangerous criminals’: the framing and reframing of anti-fracking activists in the UK
Ella Muncie
Social Movement Studies, 2020
This study explores how grassroots activists in the UK have been framed and reframed in the media and in political and campaign discourse. It looks at the extent to which discretionary policing, conflicting media reports and fluctuating framings have affected the anti-fracking movement’s ability to exercise its right to protest.

Protesters’ experiences of policing at anti-fracking protests in England, 2016-2019 a national study
Joanna Gilmore, Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Damien Short
Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion, Liverpool John Moores University, November 2019
This study concluded that anti-fracking protesters experienced violence and intimidation from police officers, leading to physical injuries, trauma and a breakdown of trust. Campaigners told researchers they were shoved, pushed, dragged and physically restrained by officers, sometimes on a daily basis. There were differences in the way male and female protesters were treated by officers. Women protesters alleged they were groped and their clothing was pulled to reveal their breasts.

Policing unacceptable protest in England and Wales: A case study of the policing of anti-fracking protests
Will Jackson, Joanna Gilmore and Helen Monk
Critical Social Policy, 2018
This study, based on research at shale gas protests at Barton Moss in 2013-14, concludes a commitment to peaceful, non-violent action on the part of protesters is not sufficient to ensure that the protest will be facilitated by police. The authors argue that the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable protest set by police are not based on the use of violence but on the target or goal of a protest and a desire to be disruptive. They state that anti-fracking protest transcends the police definition of acceptable protest as ‘peaceful assembly’ not because of a recourse of violence but because of what it is focussed on, what it demands and the form it takes.


Inadequate Regulation of the Geological Aspects of Shale Exploitation in the UK
David K Smythe
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, September 2020
This paper concluded that the regulation of the UK onshore sale gas industry is “lax fragmented and frequently incompetent”. It says a lack of geological expertise among regulators risks “unsound decisions and environmental damage”. It said regulation of subsurface aspects of onshore unconventional hydrocarbons is “very far from being of gold standard: it is woefully inadequate”.

Far from Gold Standard. The flawed regulatory system for onshore oil and gas
Keith Taylor MEP, March 2019
This report by the then Green Party MEP for South East England alleges that oil and gas firms regularly breach planning and environmental conditions on them with little consequence, despite repeated reassurances that “gold standard” regulations govern the industry.

The regulation of risk: the case of fracking in the UK and the Netherlands
Alan Patterson and Craig McLean
Science and Public Policy, 2018
This paper concludes that while notionally subscribing to the precautionary principle, the UK and Dutch authorities were reluctant to apply it to hydraulic fracturing.

Methane and other emissions

Methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Canada and the United States
James P. Williams, Amara Regehr, and Mary Kang
Environmental Science & Technology, January 2021
This study estimated there are at least 4m abandoned oil and gas wells in the US and another 370,000 in Canada. Methane emissions range from 1.8 x 10-3g/h to 48g/h per well, with an average of 6g/h. The authors conclude that annual methane emissions from abandoned wells were underestimated by 150% in Canada and by 20% in the US.

Methane flux from flowback operations at a shale gas site
Jacob T. Shaw, Grant Allen, Joseph Pitt, Adil Shah, Shona Wilde, Laurence Stamford, Zhaoyang Fan, Hugo Ricketts, Paul I Williams, Prudence Bateson, Patrick Barker, Ruth Purvis, David Lowry, Rebecca Fisher, James France, Max Coleman, Alastair C Lewis, David A Risk & Robert S Ward
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association October 2020
This study concluded that a six-day methane gas release at Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool had the same carbon footprint as 142 flights from London to New York. The methane, detected from a monitoring station, was unburnt through the flare stack at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site from 11-16 January 2019. The researchers estimated about 4.2 tonnes had been emitted.

Preindustrial 14CH4 indicates greater anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions
Benjamin Hmiel, V V Petrenko, M N Dyonisius, C Buizert, A M Smith, P F Place, C Harth, R Beaudette, Q Hua, B Yang, I Vimont, S E Michel, J P Severinghaus, D Etheridge, T Bromley, J Schmitt, X Faïn, R F Weiss & E Dlugokencky
Nature, February 2020
This study concluded that emissions of methane from fossil fuels have been underestimated by 25%-40%. The findings are based on examination of levels of methane from about 300 years ago trapped in Greenland glaciers. They suggest that the share of naturally-=released fossil methane had previously been overestimated and emissions from fossil fuel extraction and burning under-estimated.

Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane?
Robert W Howarth
Biogeosciences, August 2019
Robert Howarth, from Cornell University, concluded that that increased levels of climate-altering methane in the atmosphere may be from North American shale gas and oil developments. His conclusion was based on the changing chemical composition of methane. He said the relatively rise in methane low in carbon-13 was more likely to be from unconventional gas and oil developments, rather than livestock farming and wetlands, as others have argued.

Review of differential absorption LiDAR flare emission and performance data
National Physical Laboratory
Environment Agency, 2019
Research by the National Physical Laboratory concluded that emissions from flares on oil and gas sites could be underestimated. The authors said: “unburnt hydrocarbons from flares can be elevated, implying that combustion can be inefficient. This means that if flare emissions are estimated by assuming efficient combustion of hydrocarbons, then actual emissions may be underestimated – including methane.”

Discrepancy between simulated and observed ethane and propane levels explained by underestimated fossil emissions
Nature geoscience, February 2018
Stig B Dalsøren, Gunnar Myhre, Øivind Hodnebrog, Cathrine Lund Myhre, Andreas Stohl, Ignacio Pisso, Stefan Schwietzke, Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Detlev Helmig, Stefan Reimann, Stéphane Sauvage, Norbert Schmidbauer, Katie A Read, Lucy J Carpenter, Alastair C Lewis, Shalini Punjabi and Markus Wallasch
This study found that emissions of ethane and propane during fossil fuel extraction and distribution could be two-three times higher than previously thought. The authors from universities at York, Oslo and Colorado, have called for further research into emissions of methane, also released at hydrocarbon sites.

Politics and decision-making

A brief history of the UK’s political debate over shale gas, 2009-2019
Laurence Williams, Abigail Martin and Benjamin K. Sovacool
University of Sussex, July 2020
This report made the following conclusions:

  • Initial government responses to questions concerning shale gas, hydraulic fracturing and its regulation failed to address concerns and created suspicion and ambiguity.
  • The growing difference in wholesale gas prices between the US and Europe, and the ‘competitiveness anxiety’ this induced was the key reason for growing shale gas support amongst legislators.
  • Government support was cemented in the period 2013-2014 by concerns over the cost of living (and the role of energy bills therein) and potentially volatile international gas markets.
  • Place- and class-based identity was mobilised by advocates and objectors alike in ways that arguably foreshadowed the deep divides that dominated British politics in the second half of this time period.
  • Conditionally supportive Conservative MPs with a constituency interest were active and influential, and increased in number over time. The government failed to satisfy many of them and ultimately lost their conditional support.
  • Attempts to speed up regulatory and planning processes were always politically challenging and were arguably politically impossible after 2017. Many Conservative MPs saw such efforts as contradicting earlier commitments to robust regulation and localism.
  • The government failed to find a clear way to articulate whether and why the ‘unburnable carbon’ and ‘bridging fuel’ positions were reconcilable.

A public health frame for fracking? Predicting public support for hydraulic fracturing
Brian F O’Neill and Matthew Jerome Schneider
The Sociological Quarterly, July 2020
This study found that support for fracking in the US was connected with political partisanship. People who said they were not Republican or Democrat were also more likely to say they didn’t know whether they supported fracking. Other key factors were the perceived effects of fracking on the environment, the economy and public health.

‘We Want Experts’: Fracking and the Case of Expert Excess
Joanne Hawkins
Journal of Environmental Law, March 2020
This study argues that the public want experts in decision-making about fracking and shale gas. But it says there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what experts can deliver. There is an excessive expectation about what experts can and will deliver in decision-making. The shale gas debate also illustrates how challenging it is to design and implement acceptable and legitimate participatory procedures.

Fracking controversies: Enhancing public trust in local government through energy justice
Frances A Marlin-Tackie, Shurraya A Polunci and Jessica M Smith
Energy Research and Social Science, February 2020
This paper looks at the use of memorandums of understanding by US local government to gain more control over unconventional oil and gas development. The authors conclude that where local government facilitated recognition and procedure justice conflicts ended with stronger expressions of trust.

Shaping the scope of conflict in Scotland’s fracking debate: Conflict management and the narrative policy framework
Hannes R Stephan
Review of Policy Research, January 2020
This paper, based on review of more than 200 newspaper articles, examines how policy coalitions have characterized their supporters, opponents, and the main regulator (Scottish government).

‘Frack off’: Towards an anarchist political ecology critique of corporate and state responses to anti-fracking resistance in the UK
Andrea Brock
Political Geography, 2020This paper uses an anarchist political ecology approach to critiquing extreme energy extractivism. It examines corporate and state responses to anti-fracking protests in the UK.

Energy democracy, dissent and discourse in the party politics of shale gas in the United Kingdom
Laurence Williams and Benjamin K Sovacool
Environmental Politics, 2020
The authors analysed the success of UK anti- and pro-shale gas coalitions in recruiting national political figures and influencing thinking and decision-making in parliament.

The Long Hello: Energy governance, public participation, and ‘fracking’
John Whitton and Ioan Charnley-Parry
The Palgrave Handbook of Managing Fossil Fuels and Energy Transitions, November 2019
The authors argue that UK fracking has highlighted a lack of transparency and access to planning and decision-making and a lack of agency for affected communities. They state that collaborating with local community to explore local needs, experience and priorities would lead to decisions that were more likely to be socially sustainable.

The discursive politics of ‘fracking’: Frames, storylines, and the anticipatory contestation of shale gas development in the United Kingdom
Laurence Williams and Benjamin K Sovakool
Global Environmental Change, September 2019
This study concluded that campaigners for and against fracking had failed to deliver a decisive blow to their opponents. The researchers concluded that the shale gas debate remained deadlocked. A clear victory for either side looked unlikely because arguments used were “often theoretical and easily undermined”. Any shift in the debate was likely to come either from a sudden event – such as a change of government or an incident at an exploration site – or from a more gradual loss of enthusiasm by either side.

Seeing through risk-colored glasses: Risk and benefit perceptions, knowledge, and the politics of fracking in the United States
Emily L Howell, Christopher DWirz, Dominique Brossard, Dietram AScheufele, Michael A Xenos
Energy Research & Social Science, 2019
This study argues that political differences in support for fracking can be understood by how people compare risk and benefit. The authors state that liberals see greater risk and fewer benefits from fracking. Those who perceive themselves as highly knowledgeable about fracking are the most likely to be polarized in their perceptions of risk and benefit and their support for the technology.

Fracking the future: The temporal portability of frames in political contests
Daniel Nyberg, Christopher Wright and Jacqueline Kirk
Organisational Studies, December 2018
The authors argue that fossil fuel expansion has continued despite its contribution to climate change because of the way it has been temporally framed. They state that industry, government and non-governmental organisations have engaged in a framing contest in debating the future of fracking.

Anticipating fracking: Shale gas developments and the politics of time in Lancashire, UK
Anna Szolucha
The Extractive Industries and Society, July 2018
The author argues that inscribing the future with particular characteristics is a powerful tool that forecloses some arguments and creates power disparities in debates around unconventional resource extraction.


Market tremors: Shale gas exploration, earthquakes, and their impact on house prices
Stephen Gibbons, Stephan Heblich and ChristopherTimmins
Journal of Urban Economics, March 2021
This paper examines whether public concerns about fracking affect house prices in areas licensed for shale gas exploration. The authors conclude that licensing did not affect house prices but fracking the first well in 2011, which caused minor earthquakes, did. They found a 3.9-4.7% decrease in the area where the earthquakes occurred. The effect on prices extended to a radius of about 25km served by local newspapers, they said.

Summary report of the scientific analysis of the data gathered from Cuadrilla’s PNR2 hydraulic fracturing operations at Preston New Road
Oil & Gas Authority, December 2020
Studies commissioned by the regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), found it was not possible to predict accurately how and when fracking would cause earthquakes. The research aimed to understand what happened during fracking-induced earthquakes at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. OGA concluded: “whilst recently-identified novel methods offer some potential, it is not yet possible to accurately predict the seismic response to hydraulic fracturing, if any, in relation to variables such as site characteristics, fluid volume, rate or pressure.”

Newdigate seismicity and link to Horse Hill HH-1 activities
Grant Hocking
GeoSierra, November 2020
This briefing paper postulates a probable scenario of a direct link of seismicity at Newdigate in Surrey with activities at the Horse Hill well, HH-1.

A novel approach to assessing nuisance risk from seismicity induced by UK shale gas development, with implications for future policy design
Gemma Cremen and Maximilian J Werner
National Hazards and Earth System Sciences, October 2020
The authors propose a new way of assessing risk associated with fracking-induced seismicity. It combines statistical forecast models for injection-induced seismicity, ground motion prediction and exposure models for affected areas. They link the volume of fluid injected with the potential for nuisance felt ground motions.

Induced Seismicity at the Preston New Road Shale Gas Site in Lancashire, UK – Site Characterisation and impact on the TLS
Antoine Delvoye and Ben Edwards
EGU General Assembly, May 2020
This study looked at the possible impact of thick sand, till and clay deposits on the amplification of seismic waves around the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire in 2018 and 2019. The authors said this amplification may lead to over-estimation of earthquake magnitude and therefore increased likelihood of triggering mitigation measures associated with the traffic light system. The authors concluded that surface seismic arrays may have been biased. They reconstructed a velocity model to compute ground motion and a seismic hazard assessment.

A shallow earthquake swarm close to hydrocarbon activities: discriminating between natural and induced causes for the 2018–19 Surrey, UK earthquake sequence
Stephen P Hicks , James Verdon , Brian Baptie , Richard Luckett , Zoë K Mildon , Thomas Gernon
Seismological Research Letters, July 2019
This study found no clear links between a swarm of earth tremors in Surrey and local oil drilling activity. The authors said the average depth of the tremors was 2.3km, below the target formations at Horse Hill. The well, Horse Hill-1 (HH-1), is exploring the Portland sandstone at a depth of 600m and the Kimmeridge shale at 800m, they said. If the tremors had been induced it was a novel mechanism that has not been documented in scientific literature. The tremors were more likely to part of background seismicity, they said.

Further potential for earthquakes from oil exploration in the Weald
Dr Andrew Cavanagh, Dr Stuart Gilfillan, Professor Stuart Haszeldine
School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, February 2019
This summary paper examined the 2018 earthquake cluster east of Newdigate in Surrey. The authors conclude that their assessment, using six criteria, supports the concern that Horse Hill oil exploration triggered the earthquakes. We infer that future oil exploration and production close to critically stressed faults in the Weald is likely to result in similar earthquake events.


Acid stimulation: fracking by stealth
Brockham Oil Watch and Harrison Grant Solicitors, November 2019
This briefing paper examines the legal and regulatory position on the use of acid stimulation in England. It concludes there is “a distinct lack of clarity over what amounts of hydraulic fracturing when it falls outside the definition of high-volume fracturing set out in law”. It says there is also a lack of clarity about regulatory and planning restrictions that should apply to these operations.

More links

Research update March 2018

Research update February 2017

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