To the average person living or working in Ryedale, or indeed anybody who simply visits, the question must be, “Why would anybody want to frack here?”
The answer is that beneath this beautiful landscape lies the Bowland Shale — a formation of rock that runs right across the country, from Scarborough to Blackpool:
This report by the British Geological Survey into the potential recoverable gas content of the Bowland Shale (which in places is up to two miles thick) puts it very plainly:
“Estimates of technically recoverable shale gas resources… The figure of 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) includes 19 tcf for the Bowland Shale and 1tcf for the Liassic shales of the Weald Basin [in Sussex].”
In other words, the Bowland Shale is estimated to contain approximately nineteen twentieths (or 95%) of the recoverable shale gas in the UK.
Anybody who wants to get at that gas is likely to come to Ryedale and do a more detailed survey, AONB and National Park or not.
The other thing that might make Ryedale an attractive location to frack is our low population density.
This page of the North Yorkshire Police website says that “Ryedale has a population of 51,700 people living in 24,743 households and with 0.34 persons per hectare is ranked as having the 2nd lowest population density of all 326 local authorities in England.”
That means fewer people to resist.
But it is still more than seven times* higher than the population density of North Dakota, where fracking has devastated farming.
And it also means that we care more. Because tourism and farming, the two industries that would be most affected by fracking, are the most important parts of our economy.
Two other industries that are smaller but are very important to all of us and would also be affected, are water (Yorkshire Water pumps drinking water from the aquifers beneath Ryedale) and estate agents (because of the effect of fracking on property values).
It is also slightly higher than the population density of County Fermanagh, where resistance to fracking has in some cases been intense, and where the environment minister recently rejected applications for exploratory drilling for fracking.
Just because you can. Doesn’t mean you should.
– British Geological Survey report into Bowland Shale
– North Yorkshire Police website page on Ryedale
– Wikipedia page on North Dakota (11.70 people per square mile (3.83/km2))
– Wikipedia page on Ryedale (89 people per square mile (34/km2))
– Wikipedia page on County Fermanagh (85 people per square mile)