Frack to the future?

News editor
The Engineer

Reporting on energy supply is rarely straightforward given the variables that inform the debate.

Throw shale gas into the discussion and opinions often become militantly polarized.

So-called shale or tight gas is extracted from shales using a process called fracking, which – in its simplest terms – involves injectingwater, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to crack the shale rock and release trapped gas.

Advocates believe the process is safe and could unlock around 200 trillion cubic feet of gas whilst opponents claim it is linked to water contamination, health problems and earth quakes.

Both sides are going to come face to face this Wednesday at the Shale Gas Environmental Summit in London.

Event organisers SMi Conferences say the event will examineexisting, current and proposed shale gas extraction, with a focus on the associated environmental impacts.

The two day conference will then examine the risks associated with extraction, environmental benefits and challenges, public opposition and support, responsible development and product management.

Opponents from Frack Off, the national anti-fracking network, claim the event is nothing more than ‘greenwash’ designed to attract investors. They will gather at 1500 on Wednesday to disrupt the event and hold a “people’s assembly” to discuss the environmental impacts of fracking.

In a statement, Sophie Choudri, 24, a member of Frack Off, said: ‘This conference is all about spin. It is just the fossil fuel industry PR machine trying to tell the people in power that they should let them make lots of money.’

In May this year the UK’s Energy Select Committee published a report saying it had found no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing poses a risk to underground water aquifers, provided the drilling well is constructed properly.

Last week, however, energy secretary Chris Huhne distanced himself from shale gas when he said it ‘has not yet lit a single room nor cooked a single roast dinner in the UK.’

‘Shale gas may be significant,’ he said during the Renewable UK conference. ‘It is exciting. But we do not yet know enough to bet the farm on it. Faced with such uncertainty we do what any rational investor does with their own pension fund – we spread our risks, we have a portfolio.’

Skills are on the agenda this week at IMechE who host a lecture entitled ‘What’s your solution for the skills gap? this Wednesday.

Attendees will hear about the Equality Act and its effects on engineering. They will also be able to discuss the ways engineers themselves can broaden engagement with engineering, thereby helping to address the skills gap.

According to the event’s publicity material Education for Engineering (E4E) will give a presentation before the debate designed to share the initial results of their research into the diversity profiles of those doing STEM qualifications at age 16.

Sheffield’s Business and Innovation Network is hosting the second in a series of free annual events designed to stimulate discussion, promote the sharing of best practice and support collaboration across disciplines in science and between research and industry.

Starting Wednesday, the three day event includes workshops, exhibitions and networking opportunities.

The organizers say the first day has attracted an international line up of speakers to set the context by highlighting current political and funding priorities as well as the importance of universities engaging with industry to translate research into economic and wider social benefits.

Day two and three of the event are focused around moderated and themed workshops and includes a workshop on offshore wind power, asking whether Britain can rely on offshore wind energy.

Finally, tomorrow marks the introduction of a new £50 bank note into circulation that bears portraits of James Watt and Matthew Boulton. The pair formed Boulton & Watt in 1775, an excellent example of how private investment (and patience) can help deliver revenue via innovation.