Cuadrilla Resources has arrived in northern England to exploit the gas reserves, but it must win over the worried locals who have seen controversial US shale gas documentary, Gasland
By Fiona Harvey
|Cuadrilla Resources rig in Lancashire, England|
It is also unnervingly quiet. On a bright spring morning, in the lane just a few yards from the gate, the silence is unbroken except by birdsong.
The entire site is lined with tough plastic several feet underground so that the surface rainwater cannot permeate. "Nothing can escape," says Mark Miller, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources, the UK-based shale gas company that is hoping to exploit gas reserves in the north of England. Within a few months, not even this will be visible. If gas is found, and the fracking process begins, then the drilling equipment will be moved to another site, the wellhead will be capped with extraction equipment about 6ft (1.8m) in height, and a tall hedge will hide it from view. No one should know it is there.
Miller is here to speak to a group of local people invited to discuss their concerns about the site. He wants to show off the many safety features of the site, the lack of dust and noise, and most of all distance himself from the many recent horror stories from the US on shale gas "fracking" – short for hydraulic fracturing.
"Gasland [the US feature documentary about shale gas] really changed everything," says Paul Kelly, communications adviser to Cuadrilla. "Before that, shale gas was not seen as routinely controversial." The film showed terrifying examples of what can go wrong when shale gas drilling and fracking takes place – leaks of methane from under the ground, contamination of the water supply and the soil, the danger of explosions. Hundreds of people in the US are reported to have been affected by pollution, have had their health ruined, and lost their houses or jobs as a result of the problems there. Scenes that show residents able to set fire to their water supply because of methane contamination are the new face of shale gas exploration.
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