Advantages and disadvantages of fracking

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The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development recently released a report that suggests “an unbiased perspective” As its authors explain, on the advantages and disadvantages of shale gas and its extraction method: hydraulic fracturing, known in English as “splitting”.

The fight against climate change requires, as an urgent strategy, “that all countries stop burning fossil fuels, including shale gas”, assures the Secretary General of the Conference, Mukhisa Kituyi.

“The vision of the United Nations is to encourage the implementation of renewable energy”, assures Alexandra Laurent, Conference specialist, who recalls that 80% of the world’s energy is based on fossil fuels.

For this reason and “because energy is needed to end poverty and drive development”, in the opinion of the organization “States that own shale gas need to understand the pros and cons of shale gas when deciding their energy policies.”

“To the countries that are going to invest in shale gas, I recommend that they look at the obstacles”, Lawrence underlines. According to the aforementioned United Nations report, natural gas should contribute to a gradual transition from the current economic model. “towards a low-emission economy” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030; in particular, the one referring to ensuring universal access to affordable electricity.

Splitting

This bridge that natural gas represents between one economy and another is mainly based on the fact that its emissions are 40% lower than those of other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, nuance of the organism. Moreover, the splitting offers the advantage that can be stored and used when the energy demand requires it and cannot be covered by renewable energies.

However, between disadvantages understands the fact that natural gas is also a fossil fuel and therefore it emits carbon dioxide when burned. In addition, one of its main components, methane, has a warming potential 28 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Currently, it is estimated that one ton of methane in the atmosphere is equivalent to twenty tons of carbon dioxide”, says Laurent, who highlights the need not only to control it, but to limit it.

In 2016, methane concentrations in the atmosphere hit a record high of 1,853 parts per million, 257% more than in the pre-industrial era, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

For all these reasons, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development recalls that investments in the gas sector “should not come at the expense of renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency strategies.”

Situation

The situation is even more complicated when it comes to shale gas and the hydraulic fracturing used for its extraction method. “The large amounts of water used for fracking have raised concerns, as well as the risks of contamination of groundwater and surface water generated by the operations of its extraction”, points out the report. The authors specify that the seismic activity posed by this extraction must also be taken into account.

According to the US Energy Agency, global shale gas reserves stood at around 215 billion cubic meters in 2015, equivalent to 60 years of consumption.

Half of these reserves are located in Algeria, Argentina, Canada, China and the United States. The latter country is the main producer of shale gas, with 87% of total world production. It is also the main producer of natural gas since July 2017.

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