The Engineer Q&A: fracking

Your chance to ask our expert panel about the challenges, pitfalls and potential impact of hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking is one of the most controversial engineering topics of recent years. Proponents say this method of onshore gas extraction will help the UK reduce both its carbon emissions and its dependence on foreign imports while generating significant income for the economy. Critics say fracking – which involved pumping high-pressure water and chemicals into the ground – risks water and land pollution, and that increasing any kind of fossil fuel production will ultimately work against our goal of limiting climate change.

For our latest reader Q&A we’ve assembled a panel of experts to answer your questions about the challenges, pitfalls and potential impact of fracking. The practice has become well established in the US, generating large amounts of gas but also creating numerous environmental problems. The UK stands poised to follow with its own industry, but how will the engineering, regulation and ultimate impact differ?

Our panel will include:

  • Cuadrilla Resources, the company, chaired by Lord Browne, that has begun exploratory drilling at several potential fracking sites across the UK;
  • John Cooper, sub-divisional director of Mott MacDonald’s oil & gas advisory team, which has been advising industry on the challenges in developing a UK shale gas sector;
  • Dr Anthony Ingraffea, professor of engineering at Cornell University in the US, who has been researching fracking since the 1970s – including work for oil and gas companies – but is now an outspoken critic of the industry;
  • Alastair Chisholm, policy manager at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which has warned against pursuing fracking too quickly but also that some of the negative impacts have been overplayed.

Thank you for your questions. The answers will be published in the September issue of The Engineer magazine and here on the website.