Why Is Fracking Bad?

The Eco Experts

Fracking is currently banned in the United Kingdom

The process pollutes local water and leaks methane into the air

The most recent fracking in the UK took place in Blackpool in 2011

Since 2022’s energy crisis, the UK has been looking at its energy sources with great scrutiny. Clearly, it isn’t sustainable to rely so heavily on gas imports to generate electricity. One solution to this problem could be fracking, but this process comes with all manner of environmental problems.

In this article, we’ll run through exactly what fracking is, and why it’s so bad for the UK environment.

A black and yellow fracking machine with clear blue skies in the background and dried grass in the foreground

What is fracking and why is it bad?

Fracking is a mining technique that extracts natural oil and gas from shale rock, which resides deep below the earth’s surface.

It starts with a hole being drilled deep into the earth. Then, a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is pumped into the hole at an extremely high pressure. This creates cracks in the layer of shale rock, through which the natural gas is released.

After the gas has been extracted, the hole is sealed up either with the fluid still remaining inside it or with it having been removed.

Fracking is harmful to both the environment and society for a multitude of reasons. The most pressing issues it causes include methane production, water pollution, the increase of seismic activity through earthquakes, and health issues.

What’s more, its expansion diverts time and money away from more noble causes, such as renewable energy production and decarbonisation.


Methane is a natural gas that’s recovered from fracking. Unfortunately,  methane leaks (also known as venting or flaring) are not uncommon during the process.

Robert Howarth, an ecologist at Cornell University, suggests that anywhere between 2%-6% of the methane retrieved by fracking is released into the atmosphere by leaks and inefficiencies.

Methane is 25 times more potent than CO2, so its excessive presence in our atmosphere is detrimental to the ozone layer.

Water pollution

Fracking consumes a lot of fresh water, with each instance requiring 8 million litres of water on average – the same amount that 65,000 people would consume in a day!

Upon being mixed with around 700 chemicals, this water becomes so contaminated and toxic that even treatment plants can’t purify it.

Then there’s the issue of contamination. The holes, or wells, made by fracking are lined with steel and cement. However, if any type of accident occurs in which a leak begins, local groundwater supplies can be devastated – as was the case in Pennsylvania.

Seismic activity

Extracting water from fracking holes can create long-term pressure imbalances, leading to earthquakes and increased seismic activity.  

Fracking increases the likelihood of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3+ in local areas by 1%, according to a review that was released alongside former Prime Minister Lizz Truss’ September statement.

For example, there were 120 tremors recorded at Blackpool’s Cuadrilla fracking site, one of which lasted over 100 hours.

Health and respiratory conditions

The sand used in fracking is essentially silica. Inhaling silica can cause numerous diseases, including lung cancer, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Most alarmingly, fracking chemicals, even in the smallest quantities, can cause severe issues for both the mother and foetus during pregnancy.

Alongside this, pollutants can create greater risks for asthma and other respiratory diseases in children living near fracking locations.

Is fracking currently legal in the UK?

Fracking was legal in the UK up until 2019, when it was officially banned (this was officially known as a moratorium).

However, in September 2022 Liz Truss lifted the ban as part of her strategy to reduce strain on Britain’s economy during an energy crisis.

One month later, her successor, Rishi Sunak, reinstated the ban. Fracking is unlikely to gain legal status again due to both environmental and economic reasons.

Want to see how the UK is planning to ramp up green energy production? Check out our Guide to the UK’s Energy Security Strategy.

Does the UK actually need fracking?

Put simply, no: the UK does not need fracking.

It’s a poor option for both our environment and economy. The current Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, stated that fracking would cause “enormous disruption and environmental damage for little, if any, economic benefit”.

The total amount of natural gas in the UK’s shale is unknown. Some extremely rough and somewhat unreliable estimates state that if we extracted all the UK’s natural gas, it’d provide 17-22% of the UK’s national grid energy consumption from 2020 – 2050.

John Underhill, professor at the University of Aberdeen, asserts that the UK’s geology makes fracking ‘technically very challenging’ – so extracting most of the energy would require a large amount of money, time, and resource.

And given there’s evidence that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, why not channel that funding into something more financially viable and better for the planet?

What we know for sure, though, is that even if we did recover most of our natural gas, our use of it would be declining by the second half of the century.

So whilst it could provide a buffer of energy, fracking would delay the inevitable and necessary resolutions of decarbonisation and investment into renewable energy.

Has fracking ever happened before in the UK?

Fracking in the United Kingdom started in the late 1970s with drilling of the conventional oil and gas fields near the North Sea.

It was used in about 200 British onshore oil and gas wells from the early 1980s. More recently, fracking took place in Blackpool in 2011, with the extraction company Cuadrilla being forced to stop after an increase in local tremors.

Which countries do the most fracking?

Modern fracking started in America in the late 1940s. Now, fracking produces two-thirds of the natural gas in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and approximately 50% of the nation’s oil.

Only the USA, Canada, China, and Argentina extract enough shale gas & oil to market them. According to Forbes, fracking has failed overseas due to reasons such as:

  • Profitability: America has saturated the market. They have progressed from being net importers of energy to net exporters, since they fracked so much. This has made it hard for new players to enter the market
  • Property and land ownership rights laws: these vary internationally and the US’s laws are best suited for fracking
  • Infrastructure: in the US, a lot of shale mining posts are located next to key pipelines so it’s easy to transport the fracked gas/oil


Fracking is not a worthwhile method of energy extraction in the UK. This is due to its undeniable environmental and health hazards, alongside its lack of economic value.

Even if it was profitable, a smarter investment of time and money would be spent on renewable energy and decarbonisation, due to the long-term scalability of these initiatives.

Fracking is currently illegal in the UK, and quite rightly so, since it’s a waste of time, money, and our precious planet!

Written by:
Back to Top