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Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "fracking", is a technique for recovering oil and gas from shale rocks.
Shale gas extraction is widespread in the US and has been credited by some with reducing the cost of energy and in turn helping the country's recovery from the recent economic crisis.
The British Geological Survey estimates there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas present in the north of England compared to a current annual UK consumption of 3 trillion cubic of natural gas.
If 10% of the estimated reserves could be recovered, shale gas offers the potential for the UK to be energy independent for decades to come.