Shale gas extraction, Hydraulic Fracturing, “Hydrofracking” or just “fracking” has recently hit the headlines.
Many are concerned that this method of energy provision will cause significant damage to the environment and may have a significant effect on properties in the area.
Fracking is not new, and has been used in America for many years. The government recently lifted its moratorium on fracking, and concerns were raised when an area near a test site in Blackpool experienced 2 small earth tremors in April and May 2011. Protests have also taken place around a proposed site in Sussex.
Fracking uses large amounts of fresh water, mixed with sand and chemicals, forced at high pressure, to create fissures in rock from which gas can be extracted. Typically the amount of water used is between 4,000,000 and 6,000,000 gallons of water per well. The well sites are relatively modest in size, but the storage of such large amounts of water, with the consequent amount of waste water after completion of the process, can mean the installation of large storage tanks in the vicinity of the site. The water has to be brought to and taken away from the site, either via pipelines but usually by large water tankers moving to and from the site.
The debate continues about how this process will affect the environment, but it is important to remember that the significance to a property transaction may not be damage or the risk of damage to properties per se, but the affect on the surrounding areas by the infrastructure works mentioned above.
The governments DEFRA department has promised a report on the likely effect of fracking and other potential energy sources on the values of property, and no doubt this will be read carefully by all those likely to be affected. In the meantime those involved in the conveyancing process may wish to take advantage of the energy and infrastructure reports that can be commissioned for a relatively modest cost to see how the properties that they are looking to purchase may be affected. These searches can also be expanded to cover the location of the proposed HS2 rail link