Funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to a researcher at University of Portsmouth will be used to simulate fracking under controlled laboratory conditions.
The aim of the work to be undertaken by rock physicist Philip Benson is to develop a better understanding of the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
“Hydraulic fracturing is an old technique, which has been around since the 1960s,” said Benson. “It’s been used safely in oil wells and water wells and is quite common. Using fracking to release shale gas is just the new application of the same process.
“It’s difficult to investigate the dangers of fracking in the real world – it’s very much trial by error. Small earthquakes cannot be avoided but they can be better understood and more effectively monitored. This study will use rock physics to assess the risks under well-controlled laboratory conditions.”
The research will look at how rocks deform and fracture when fluid is injected at high pressure.
“If we can link fracture size to earthquake magnitude we’ll be able to inform hydrocarbon companies seeking to apply a more robust and scientific approach to the process of fracking. I hope that this research will also help to inform public debate.”