Most National Parks Safe From Fracking, Say Geologists

Political parties are divided on the issue of fracking in protected areas, but it seems that most of Britain’s national parks have geology unsuitable for the controversial technique in any case, according to work published yesterday by Durham University.

Scrambling in Snowdonia, 168 kb
Snowdonia is never going to appeal to fracking companies, Photo: Geoboy

'The geology of the UK is well-known, so we can examine which national parks are potential targets for fracking, and which national parks can be ruled out' said Dr Liam Herringshaw of Durham University’s Department of Earth Sciences.

'Some national parks have no shales or coal within them or adjacent to them, so are of no interest to fracking companies. Many other national parks do contain shales or coal, but their nature means that they are unlikely to yield economic quantities of oil or gas.'

'We hope that this review of existing information about the geology of the UK’s national parks will help provide all sides involved in the fracking debate with some clarity about the potential for fracking in these areas, which currently appears to be lacking.'

In January the Coalition Government announced an outright ban on fracking in national parks, only to backtrack on this commitment a month later to say that 'in the case of areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks, given their size and dispersion, it might not be practical to guarantee that fracking will not take place under them'. 

Last week Labour promised that no shale gas exploration would take place in National Parks and protected areas if it wins the General Election.

However it seems the issue only applies to around one third of parks in any case.

After reviewing existing geological data scientists at Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences have identified the potential suitability of each of the country’s 15 national parks for fracking according to their rock type.

Their briefing lists the parks in three categories: 

Fracking possible: North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales, all of which have rocks of possible interest to companies looking to frack for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane.

Fracking unlikely: Another four parks - Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, New Forest, Northumberland – were shown to have shales or coals present, but other aspects of the geology make fracking unlikely.

No fracking: A final seven: Norfolk Broads, Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia, all have geology which rules out fracking.


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