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There's gas in them thar hills; Supporters say fracking will provide enough resources to power USA for 110 years.

FRACKING has transformed the energy market in the United States in just 15 years.

In 2000, around one per cent of America's natural gas supply came from shale beds.

That compares with today's figure of more than 25 per cent.

Backers of fracking say there is enough natural gas to power the whole country for 110 years.

The fracking revolution in oil and gas has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, boosted local economies and has had a huge effect on reducing energy prices.

It has also helped drag the US out of the economic downturn that followed the 2008 slump.

The country is now showing a national economic growth rate which is the envy of all European economies.

But as fracking floods the market with cheap energy, that in itself could make the American fracking revolution unprofitable.

And now, some administrative authorities, from New York state down to local counties in the US, are barring fracking.

In response, producers have come up with "super-fracking" which increases the blast pressure, recovers more oil or gas and lowers production unit costs.

While there have been strong and sustained opposition from activists against fracking, the geography and political situation is very different from Scotland.

While heavily populated states including Pennsylvania have seen huge development of fracking, the majority of wells sunk have been in less populous areas of the south, mid-west and south-west such as Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota.

There has also been a huge political lobby to make the US more self-reliant on producing its own energy - and less reliant on exports - a huge consideration in foreign policy terms.

The huge territory covered by Texas is reckoned to have more than 15,000 wells alone, while Wyoming, with a tiny population in a huge state area, has around 1200 wells.

Applications for fracking in areas of sparse population are much less controversial.

Advances in fracking technology have made tremendous reserves of natural gas in the US economically recoverable for the first time.

Some political figures have used the lure of future energy independence to call for fracking to be expanded.

But activists concerned with the potential environmental hazards view the process as a serious threat.

In fracking, water is blasted at high pressure into wells.

A Congressional Democrat report claimed 750 chemicals are used in the process.

The fluid flows back up the well along with natural gas and is stored on site until it can be transported to a treatment plant.

Depending upon local geology, a variable amount of fracking fluid can remain in the ground after a well has run dry.

Opponents claim fracking produces airborne pollutants including methane, benzene and sulphur oxide.

They have compiled data of fracking accidents or "fraccidents" at sites in the US and Canada.

Americans Against Fracking say: "New techniques and technologies used in fracking are more intensive and riskier than conventional drilling, making the process more dangerous than ever.

"Fracking brings rampant environmental and economic problems to communities across the country.

"Scientists now believe that natural gas is likely worse than coal in terms of driving global climate change in the coming decades.

"Fracking accidents and leaks pollute rivers, streams and underground sources of drinking water."

The American fracking revolution is one reason the price of oil has plummeted.

Since 2008, overall US oil production has risen from about five million barrels a day to more than nine million - an 80 per cent rise.

In America, the average price of a gallon of unleaded petrol has plunged to $2.76. That's about 41p a litre. Prices in Scotland are around PS1.05 a litre.

But plunging prices could affect the long-term viability of fracking, since flooding the market lowers prices and eats into profits, while production costs remain the same. This is known in America as "tight oil".

Experts say US tight oil needs to sell at $85 or $90 a barrel to be profitable. But international prices lately have hovered around $50 per barrel.

Even if today's oil prices are sustained, fracking in the US is still predicted to produce 350,000 barrels of oil a day, down from a high of a million barrels a day. And there will be capacity to increase production once prices rise. Fracking in America is not about to go away.

facts The huge territory covered by Texas has more than 15,000 wellsfacts Fracking in the United States is predicted to produce 350,000 barrels of oil a day'FRACKING ACCIDENTS POLLUTE STREAMS, RIVERS & DRINKING WATER SOURCES

CAPTION(S):

BIG BUSINESS Fracking in shale beds in America now produces more than a quarter of the whole country's gas supply. But opponents claim it comes at a huge environmental cost. Pic: Getty Images
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 21, 2015
Words:791
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