It doesn't take up much land really, this fracking stuff

Friends of the Earth has a new little reportette out insisting that fracking will take up so much of our green and pleasant land that we’d better not do it. In order for domestic production to cover 50% of imports we’ll have to drill 6,000 wells from whatever number of wellpads. Which will just take up so much room!

However, analysis for Friends of the Earth by the Cardiff Business School found that at least one well would need to be drilled and fracked daily between 2021 and 2035 to replace 50% of gas imports.

Rose Dickinson, at Friends of the Earth, said: “This would mean an industrialisation of our countryside at a rate that nobody has yet fully appreciated and would put many more communities in the firing line of this dirty and unwanted industry.”

Oooerrr, eh?

Of course this is all rather let down by the usual innumeracy of the environmentalists. How large actually is the land area? And what is it in proportion to something useful?

The FoE research found 6,100 wells on 1,000 well pads would take up around 3,560 hectares of land (around 13 square miles), based on analysis of government figures, National Grid forecasts and other data.

13 square miles in a 94,0606 square mile country is some 0.01382% of that nation. Or, perhaps, one third of the area of Liverpool and there’s absolutely no one – not even a Liverpudlian – who wouldn’t give up one third of that ‘burb to stay warm in winter. Heck, it’s half of Bradford and haven’t they been having some depopulation issues already? It’s also a little less than a half, a little more than a third, of Brighton which might be the right place to put all the wells. Would piss off Caroline Lucas nicely which would be a job well done.

The truth being, of course, that the land area required to frack is entirely piddling.

Most especially it’s piddling in contrast to what we’d have to do without fracking. We’d either have to grow wood to burn or build windmills, place solar cells, to get electricity. And what would be the land area requirements of that to replace 50% of current gas imports? Anyone? Answers on a – rather large – postcard to FoE please for they do seem to have overlooked this vital point.

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Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat

I spotted that this morning. To add even more perspective an earlier Grauniad article on urban growth shows that about 14 square miles of countryside are converted to urban environments every year, whereas fracking will only take 13 square miles over 15 years.


This is the already existing gas well in Ryedale. It has been there since the 1970s. Yet, a mile down the road protestors are camped out protesting against a proposed new site.


Friends of the Earth ignore another oil-field revolution, the sudden ability to drill in directions other than straight down.

It is wise to ask, “compared to what.” Not just: What would we do instead to produce the same amount of energy? but also: Where would those oil-field workers work otherwise? Typically at mills or factories that would also take up about 3,560 hectares.


1. I doubt their calculations are correct and even if right as you point out they are minimal 2. The wells disappear quicker than regular wells 3. The sites are totally recoverable. 4. Fracking doesn’t pollute in any serious sense We have been missing out on the biggest bonanza ever in human history. Top jobs in a whole swathe of industries and services, cheaper, cleaner energy, energy security (looking at the Saudi’s and friends and Mr Putin), the asset is ‘free’ as it didn’t ‘exist’ before. If you really want, you can have loads of taxes on it and payouts… Read more »


If FOE are looking in, there’s every risk that your beloved windmills will shear off the top of one of the mountains they are being placed on. That’s because they’re all rotating in the same direction, so a bank of several hundred will exert quite a torque on the usually igneous rocks supporting the concrete bases. When an Ayrshire hill or Lancashire hill literally lifts off in high wind, flips over and lands on a town it won’t be a good look for your beloved renewables. Of course it won’t , but it would be a nice April Fool to… Read more »