The potential side-effects of fracking have been the subject of hot debate recently as communities near active and planned sites worry for the safety of their homes.
Fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – is a controversial method of drilling for natural gas and oil from the shale rock beneath the land.
Water and chemicals are pumped deep into the ground at high pressure vertically and horizontally to force the gas or oil stored in the non permeable shale layer up to the wellhead for collection.
The practice is well established in the US and Canada, but has met with stiff resistance in the UK amid fears of water contamination, leaking methane, and earthquakes, among other side effects.
Reserves of shale gas have been identified across the UK, particularly in the north of England and south of London, with exploration under way in some areas and planning applications submitted in others.
Here at Adrian Flux, we looked into the potential dangers and the fracking insurance situation in the UK.
What are the dangers?
Fracking is believed to induce small earthquakes in the surrounding areas of sites, caused by the fracturing of the shale rock subjected to high pressures.
Earthquakes measuring 1.5 and 2.3 magnitude were recorded in the Blackpool area after fracking in 2011, and homeowners fear structural damage if this pattern is repeated at sites across the country as the fracking revolution gathers pace.
Critics claim that to produce as much gas as a conventional gas field with around 12 wells would require hundreds or even thousands of shale wells to be drilled, increasing the risks.
Is fracking covered as a peril under my insurance policy?
Fracking is not an insured peril under your home insurance, but neither is it an excluded peril. Fracking itself is not mentioned anywhere, to our knowledge, in any current, standard UK insurance policy.
So am I covered by the damage caused by fracking?
Damage caused by fracking would most likely be covered under one of the insured perils, namely earthquake, subsidence, landslip or ground heave.
Obviously each claim will be looked at individually, but if any of these insured perils occurred as a result of fracking, you should be covered subject to any excess.
It’s possible that your insurer may seek to reclaim the cost of the claim from the drilling company if a link between their activity and the damage to your home can be proved.
Do I need to tell my insurer I’m in an area where fracking takes place?
At the moment insurers do not ask if properties are in a fracking area, so there is no requirement to declare this. Home insurance rates are partly based on post codes, with areas that are prone to subsidence being rated higher – or with increased excesses imposed – than those with a lower risk.
Consequently, the rates for post codes close to fracking sites should only increase if claims data shows an increased risk of subsidence or earthquake over time.
There is currently no evidence that this is happening.
What should I do if I think my property has been affected by fracking?
If you believe your property has suffered damage as a result of fracking, contact your insurance provider immediately.
They will send a surveyor to inspect the property, find the cause of the problem and help you determine the next course of action.
It’s worth remembering that subsidence cover only applies to damage to the actual property and does not usually cover gardens, swimming pools etc unless the property itself is also affected.
It is well worth taking out legal expenses insurance as part of your home insurance to help recover your excess – that part of a claim you must pay yourself – from the drilling company, if liability can be proved.
If you live in a fracking area, give Adrian Flux a call on 0330 123 1232 or 0800 369 8590 free from a landline to discuss your requirements. Flux can also cover properties that have previously been subject to movement, subject to structural repairs having been carried out and a surveyors report.