The Great Illusion

SooS Chronicles

2013 - 2014

New opportunities in unconventional gas exploitation let Europe dream of lightening its dramatic dependence on Russian supplies.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial method used to drill this type of gas. It is an invasive process that employs high-pressure water jets mixed with specific chemicals to break the shale rocks and to extract the gas contained in them. According to some studies, fracking would have serious consequences on the environment and it would require a strict regulation, which is still absent from the vague energy policy of the European Union.

Among the European countries interested in shale gas explorations, only three have currently granted permits for drilling to energy companies: Poland, United Kingdom and Romania.

Local farmers and activists have joined together a big anti- fracking movement that arose against this decision, while the first tests confirm that european unconventional gas deposits are poorer than expected and their extraction would have limited benefits and no significant impact on consumption.

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  • A child holds a lamb in front of his house. Paltinis, a small village in the Vaslui region, is mainly populated by Gypsies, a community entirely devoted to agriculture and livestock farming. Chevron has planned to explore shale gas and start its second Romanian fracking site in the village.

  • In July 2011 France was the first European country to pass a law (“Loi Jacob”) banning the technique of hydraulic fracturing for extracting natural gas and oil. The big popular demonstration of Villeneuve de Berg on February 2011 was an important turning point in the cancellation of the first exploration permits within the Cévennes National Park area and towards the national moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

  • Abandoned drilling rig platform for shale gas extraction.

  • A gas flare is a combustion device used in oil or gas production sites having wells and rigs. This operation consists in burning off the overproduced gas, which would be too much expensive to stock and transport. Gas flaring has serious environmental consequences and it is a significant source of carbon dioxide (as well as several other carcinogenic substances) emissions.

  • Roztocze National Park is located within one of more than 100 areas that the Polish government has granted to companies interested in unconventional gas exploration. Fracking process requires a huge quantity of water: for this reason, lots of drilling sites rise up in the nearby of big water reserves. If shale gas production started in this region, the environmental balance of the park would be surely lost.

  • Inside a damaged house in Izvoarele, Galati county. In October 2013, the village of Izvoarele was the epicenter of an intense seismic activity. People believe that the cause of the earthquakes is to be found in the experiments of hydraulic fracturing that were supposed to be conducted in the nearby town of Schela. These assumptions have never been confirmed.

  • When in June 2013 the farmers of Zurawlow, a small village in south-eastern Poland, discovered that Chevron was about to rise up a drilling site for shale gas extractions on their lands, they gave birth to the Occupy Chevron movement. After 400 days of protests and permanent occupation of their fields, the villagers managed to block Chevron's intention and to stop the operations.

  • A rig used for shale gas extractions by FX Energy, an American oil company.

  • The inner courtyard of Emil Jabłonski's house. Emil is the so tys, i.e. the village ł leader, of the agricultural district of Zurawlow. Emil was among the first farmers to take action against the shale gas exploration plans on the fields of Zurawlow. The whole Jabłonski family is involved in sugar beet, maize and wheat cultivations and cattle farming.

  • Alexandru shares a small house with a group of anti-fracking protesters. The house is located near the drilling platform and since last January it has become the Resistance of Pungesti headquarters.

  • Fracking operations produce loud noises and need a stable and strong illumination, even at night. When drilling sites lie a short distance away from houses and villages, the lives of the inhabitants suffer significant difficulties.

  • A Chevron billboard inside the central railway station in Bruxelles. In June 2014, the Belgian capital has hosted the G8 summit about clean energy and climate change.

  • A farmer in Dobryniòw, eastern Poland. Land grabbing and land pollution are big concerns related to shale gas drillings. Companies often test the presence of underground gas on rural areas: local agriculture and environment are likely to be destroyed by any future drilling for commercial purposes.

  • The entrance to the Chevron shale gas extraction site in Pungesti, eastern Romania. On the 7th of December, during some violent protests against fracking, the fences of the platform were totally destroyed by the population. Since that day, the Romanian government led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, declared the area a special security zone. This decision entails a constant presence of the Gendarmerie on site and restricted access to the village.

  • An anti-fracking protester in front of the gate of the Balcombe drilling site, West Sussex. From the 25th of July 2013, part of the population of Balcombe and activists from all over Britain gathered against unconventional gas explorations. They initially occupied the land on which the rig was supposed to be erected and then the road that leads towards Brighton. The so-called Great Gas Gala lasted 68 days: it did not prevent Cuadrilla from drilling, but it was a first and important moment of self-awareness for the British anti-fracking movement.