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Could Fracking Cut Carbon Emissions?


Fracking DiagramUS carbon emissions have fallen quite a bit as a result of fracking. Good news? There’s a catch 22.

Energy companies across the country are in the process of extracting gas from shale rock using hydraulic fracturing techniques, otherwise known as fracking. Gas-fired power stations emit 50% less carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity as coal-fired power stations, so energy companies and investors alike are excited by this finding.

The UK has seen lowered carbon emissions as the result of fracking and is pushing for domestically fracked gas as a way to cut energy prices and limit dependence on imported gas.

However, the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London believe that believing fracking can cut carbon emissions is short-term thinking.

Emissions can be cut short-term by gas-fired power stations; however, this is only if they replace existing coal-fired power stations and not nuclear plans or renewable energy sources. Gas-fired power stations only work in moderation. Experts caution that if too many new ones are built, it will undo the benefits.

It is only if fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that gas-fired power stations should even function at all. Otherwise, experts warn, carbon targets will not be met and gas-fired power stations will have to be shut down.

The UK is hoping to implement CSS technology, but efforts are currently on hold and the technology is emerging from its infancy. Government support is also a critical factor in full implementation.

Other countries besides the UK are evaluating fracking. Shale gas is prevalent in Poland, Australia, and China. China is particularly interested due to the volume of shale gas present in the country.

Saudi Arabia also wants to explore the possibility of fracking and has plans to drill test wells for shale gas – though the country may have a harder time since massive amounts of water are needed for fracking and Saudi Arabia has a shortage of water.

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