Will unconventional, horizontal, hydraulic fracturing for shale gas production purposes create environmental harm in the United Kingdom?

Jack Lampkin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In April 2018 Cuadrilla Resources successfully drilled the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well in Lancashire. Whilst there is an abundance of academic research on the environmental impacts of fracking (primarily in North America), there is no scholarship that specifically considers what environmental harms may occur from fracking in a UK context. This thesis is therefore an important, original contribution to academic understanding and is presented at a vital time in the development of fracking in the UK where production of shale gas is imminent.

In order to assess the potential for environmental harm, 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted with a variety of key-informants (people possessing important expertise of one or more areas of the fracking process in the UK). These key-informants came from a variety of backgrounds and included: 5 Anti-Fracking Campaigners; 3 Academics; 3 Employees from Regulatory Bodies; 2 Geological Consultants; 1 Journalist; 1 Parish Councillor; 1 District Councillor; 1 Water Consultant; 1 Oil and Gas Professional; 1 Oil and Gas Consultant; and 1 Gas Company Director. Interview questions were derived from a literature review that revealed different opportunities for environmental harm to occur based on a variety of academic and organisational research. As a result, interview questions centred on water (specifically; water aquifers, water resources, and wastewater) and other aspects (seismicity, chemical usage, well integrity and flaring).

Treadmill of Production and eco-philosophy were used as theoretical underpinnings of the research. Treadmill of Production provides an understanding of why fracking has emerged in the UK, concluding that the demise of North Sea oil and gas is leading to the increased attractiveness of more extreme energy sources in order to keep the treadmill running. The harms identified in the results chapters are forms of ecological withdraws and additions that lead to ecological disorganisation. Additionally, eco-philosophy provides three different perspectives from which to view human interactions with shale gas resources. The conclusion is that fracking clearly represents an anthropocentric approach to the creation of energy where human wants and needs are prioritised over the survival demands of humans, non-human species and the wider ecology. The thesis is best situated within the discipline of green criminology due to the fact that fracking is a legal production process in the UK. It is suggested that green criminology is in a unique position to evaluate fracking, and that this is not possible in orthodox criminological discussions that view crimes solely as violations of criminal laws.

By conducting primary research prior to the development of fracking in the UK, this research has identified key areas for environmental harm to occur based on the expertise of a variety of key-informants. This is the first piece of research of its kind and it is argued that analysing the potential for environmental harm to occur prior to the production of shale gas is more beneficial that analysing environmental degradations after they have already occurred according to the precautionary principle of environmental law.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Lincoln
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Will unconventional, horizontal, hydraulic fracturing for shale gas production purposes create environmental harm in the United Kingdom?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this