Which needs more land, fracking or wind?

With organisations like CPRE, in principle supporting fracking, while vocally opposing forms of renewable energy like wind farming; we thought we’d investigate one of the main claims made by supporters of this technology.

“Fracking requires only a few acres of land, while wind farms require hundreds.”

They are right – each well-head does indeed only take up a couple of acres.  But to frack a gas field requires hundreds of well heads.  For example it might require several hundred or even several thousand well-heads to completely frack the gas field beneath Hampshire.

Broadly speaking each well-head will have up to nine additional wells, radiating out from the head for about 2-4 km. Each well head therefore, can frack about 55 sq km (assuming a 3km average well length).

The deep layers of shale rock that holds gas covers many thousand square kilometers of British countryside. Hampshire sits on gas shale around 3,700 sq km in size, which would require 65 well-head to frack  the whole lot.

Move them closer together (2km per well) and we would need 150, each with up to nine additional wells around those.

And there’s more.

Fracking creates lot’s of traffic. Each fracking well must first be constructed, requiring large machinery to install the high pressure pumps and dig the lagoons to collect the fluid.

The water required for fracking must be transported by tanker to each well-head. The fracking fluid (which is contaminated and slightly radioactive) must then also be removed from the well head by tanker and taken to a treatment plant. All this requires massive movement of water and fracking fluid by lorry across the countyside.

This is what a typical well head looks like during construction.

fracking1The pictures below are of typical fracking fields in the US. They show how the well heads are spread out; but connected by service roads.

Fracking Image USGSFracking

But that is only the start. Once the well-head enters the production phase then the gas has to be transported from each well-head. This can be done by pipeline or by tanker. A network of pipes can be laid to connect each well head (a major construction project) or the gas can be collected (and liquefied) at the well-head and collected by tanker.

All these tanker movements happen along country roads from isolated well-heads spread every 2-10 kms across the Hampshire countryside.

Is this really what we want? Talk about industrialising the countryside. Once these fields are occupied by well-heads, they cannot be used for anything else.

Oh, there are also many reports detailing the health and water table pollution issues associated with fracking e.g.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/30/doctors-and-academics-call-for-ban-on-inherently-risky-fracking.

Compare this to wind farms

On the other hand a single wind turbine only has a “footprint” of some 600 sq meters.  All the rest of the land within a wind farm can be used, and is used, to grow crops or graze animals.

One thought on “Which needs more land, fracking or wind?

  1. I went to a very interesting talk given by Edward Dawson, trustee of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Hampshire. He gave a lot of detailed information about fracking but the bit about wind farms taking up lots of room was silly. Fracking sites are very industrialised. They have drilling rigs, tanks full of chemicals and lots of heavy traffic coming to and from. Wind farms certainly are spread out over lots of land to allow the turbines collect wind and convert it into electricity. However, wind farms are mainly covered in grass. The farming on the landscape around a wind farm can carry on uninterrupted. Fracking certainly needs to be explored futher as extracting gas for electricity generation has got to be much better than continuing to burn 60,000,000 tons of coal each year. Especially when you consider that most of the coal is imported. However, in the big picture, on shore wind power continues to be the most efficient. Catching the wind and making electricity is much better than burning lots of coal, oil and gas. Wind power is clean. Burning coal, oil and gas is filling up the atmosphere with CO2 and in the long term has the risk of killing all our grandchildren.

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