Yes, but the technology is improving all of the time, mainly through developments in the US. The US Society of Petroleum Engineers estimate that 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing operations have been conducted worldwide, with over 1 million in the US.1
In the UK, modern shale gas extraction via high-volume hydraulic fracturing is in its early stages. There are currently two planning applications pending near Blackpool which, if granted, will allow an operator to use the technology to explore for shale gas. Further permissions are required for commercial development, after exploration testing has taken place. Around 2,000 wells have been drilled in the UK and approximately 10% of these have been hydraulically fractured2, but these were not the high-volume hydraulic fracturing that is widespread in the US.
Dr James Verdon, geophysicist at Bristol University told us that: “Conventional fracks tended to use vertical wells, and gel frack fluid (often diesel-based) while shale gas fracking uses horizontal wells, and ‘slick-water’ fracking fluid, which is water based and has fewer additives. Shale gas fracking has also tended to use larger volumes of fluid.”