“As a report in the Blackpool Gazette showed a drone photograph of Cuadrilla’s well pad near Blackpool under inches of water this week, which could lead to fields and watercourses being contaminated with fracking chemicals and drilling muds, there is news of planned incursions elsewhere.
Ineos, Britain’s biggest fracking company, wants to survey sites in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.
Clumber Park estate (below) in Nottinghamshire, is now owned by the National Trust which opposes fracking. As the trust has refused to allow Ineos to carry out tests for shale gas on this land, the company is to use legal powers under the Mines Act 1966. It has now applied to the government’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) for access to conduct seismic surveys on the 3,800-acre estate in order to gauge the best sites for drilling.
Ineos is also seeking to bypass local councils by using powers created in 2015 to fast-track plans to drill for shale gas in the Midlands without their planning approval. These enable companies to request intervention from ministers to get permission for delayed infrastructure projects deemed to be of national importance. Councils that ’unreasonably delay planning decisions’ can be overruled by Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, via the planning inspectorate.
Ineos plans to apply formally to Mr Javid within days for intervention on two delayed projects in Derbyshire and near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
As David Powell (NEF) asks “How long can the government push clean and dirty energy at the same time?” He ends with a comment:
“If the Government bows to INEOS’s bolshie demands, it wouldn’t just be an affront to the very concept of democracy. It would also be proof – in a decarbonising, climate-changing world, even as it talks big on a ‘clean’ industrial strategy – that it retains a very misguided sense of which horse to back”.
The FT reports that a majority of North Yorkshire county councillors, elected to serve the people, followed the advice of unelected officers to vote against the wishes of those who put them in post; only 36 of the more than 4,800 responses to the council’s consultation were in favour of fracking.
The government promised to go “all out” for shale. Energy secretary, Amber Rudd, announced ‘she was determined to push forward with shale and even allow extraction under national parks’ and Chancellor George Osborne has promised that local areas will receive £100,000 per well and 1% of future royalties. He also said that he would also set up a sovereign wealth fund for the north of England to invest the proceeds.
However public opposition has prevented any fracking since 2011 when it caused two minor earthquakes near Blackpool. Brian Baptie, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey, said that the analysis showed that the epicentre was within 500m of the well site and the timing of these earthquakes and that of the fluid injection [during fracking] indicated that there might be some connection between the two.
Nicky Mason, a local resident, said Third Energy had failed to disclose a gas leak at a nearby well until forced to by a freedom of information request.
The decision relates to a test, not full-scale mining activity
After changing its name four times (readers will wonder why), Third Energy will frack for shale gas at an existing well outside the village of Kirby Misperton – near the North York Moors National Park – to test if the rock below is suitable for large-scale exploitation and this will involve:
- use of a 37-metre high rig for eight weeks
- erection of a noise barrier of shipping containers
- transporting of gas by pipeline
- flowback water taken away by trucks.
As Ineos and Cuadrilla are given encouragement to reapply it is feared that further permission will eventually be given to produce on a large scale, which could lead to several hundred wells across the hills of North Yorkshire.
The FT quotes experts who foresee that the UK’s shale industry is threatened by simple economics: the tumbling price of gas.
“There could not be a worse time to be embarking on challenging gas projects,” said Howard Rogers, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. An oil and gas analyst at Jefferies, said: “There is a global glut of gas and we continue to see gas supply everywhere. That is why prices have come down so much. It means there is a big economic challenge for shale producers in the UK.” He pointed out that US prices have come down so much it could soon be cheaper to import gas from there rather than buy domestically produced supplies.
The only hope for these threatened areas appears to be a check to the paramount political-corporate desire for profit.
William Taylor* sends the news that Farmers For Action UK NI supported Protect Our North Coast in protest on Monday 22nd June outside the headquarters of the new Northern Ireland Causeway Coast and Glens Council offices in Coleraine.
Three Board of Directors of Canadian oil and gas drilling company Connaught Ltd, under the local guise of Rathlin Energy Ltd, including a former Northern Ireland Department of Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt, had been summoned to a Council Workshop, presentation and question session after which Protect Our North Coast and Farmers For Action UK NI backed up by environmental consultants made their case to a sympathetic Council.
William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, commented after the meeting that NI agriculture has been through many crises:
- foot and mouth,
- the dioxin crisis
- and recently horsegate.
He stressed that the last thing needed for the country’s clean and green image is the onslaught of oil and gas exploration leading to fracking and the destruction of picturesque environment with a huge amount of industrial traffic feeding, as much as four 150ft high 24/7 rig sites per sq mile around the North Coast, from Ballycastle to Magillian to Limavady to Garvagh to Ballymoney and drilling threats to Fermanagh and Carrickfergus.
Worst of all, according to local residents of current and previous US drilling/fracking sites are the health problems of air pollution by flaring and other airborne toxic chemicals and the effects on foetus, youngsters and grown-ups that follow. The final nail in the coffin for agriculture would be the huge risk of contaminated water tables, virtually ending the use of farm bore holes in the areas and risk to river health and native species.
In short, Northern Ireland does not need a climate-change-promoting dangerous 20-year pillage by foreign corporates who will cause and leave destruction in their wake for the sake of a dinosaur industry, as renewable energy is Northern Ireland and Europe’s future.
So say Lancastrians, facing Cuadrilla’s application to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast.
*William Taylor: Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
A clear conflict of interest? Cuadrilla chairman, Riverstone’s managing partner and senior government advisor are one and the same person
Baron Browne of Madingley, chairman of Cuadrilla & managing partner at Riverstone Holdings, the venture capital firm that backs Cuadrilla, is also acting as a senior government advisor.
The government has now issued 176 exploratory drilling licences nationwide and Michael Fallon, the energy minister, has hailed shale gas as “an exciting new potential energy resource”.
A report last month by the British Geological Survey estimated that northern England has deposits totalling 1,300 trillion cubic feet.
Voices of sanity? One from New York which has banned fracking:
and one from Balcombe,where exploratory drilling is to take place:
Frances Leader, a local resident, said the government should be encouraging investment in renewable sources of energy:
“This isn’t about one place, it’s about the whole country, and the future of the planet. We have the technology now to use renewable energy. We shouldn’t be developing new industries to pollute the planet. We should be developing new industries to unpollute the planet.”
For more news from Balcombe see http://gasdrillinginbalcombe.wordpress.com/
As with asbestos, people do not die immediately as a result of fracking operations – and earthquakes in their vicinity have, as yet, done only minor damage . . .
America’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, Bethesda, Maryland warns that public exposure to the many chemicals involved in energy development is expected to increase over the next few years, with uncertain consequences.
Its findings summarised:
- Both air and water quality are affected by extraction of natural gas rich in methane using processes that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), in which chemical mixtures are injected into wells to break up rock formations and release gases.
- Methane and fracking chemicals can also migrate into shallow aquifers used for drinking water wells.
- VOCs present in drilling and fracking chemicals can cause symptoms such as headache, loss of coordination, and damage to the liver and kidneys; benzene is a carcinogen as well. In addition these compounds help to create ground-level ozone, which can contribute to severe respiratory and immune system problems.
In 2004, though the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency issued a report concluding there is very little risk that fracking can contaminate drinking water, there are some documented contamination incidents:
“For example, in August 2006, drilling fluids and methane were detected emerging from a hillside in Clark County, Wyoming, from a gas well surrounded by a rural housing development. Ultimately 8 million cubic feet of methane were released, in an attempt to ‘kill’ the glass blowout from the well. Subsequent tests showed contamination of shallow groundwater with hydrocarbon compounds.
“The drilling boom in Colorado’s Garfield County has triggered a rash of citizen complaints that petrochemical pollution has caused adrenal and pituitary tumors, headaches, nausea, joint pain, respiratory problems, and other symptoms . . .
VOC emissions in Garfield County rose 30% between 2004 and 2006, according to Mike Silverstein, deputy director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. The county is currently conducting a health risk assessment and an ambient air quality monitoring study.
In 2011 further research findings were released by the EPA; investigations in Wyoming and Pennsylvania found groundwater containing benzenes, xylenes, gasoline range organics, diesel range organics, and other chemicals as a result of fracking.
Further evidence may be read here:
Colborn, Theo, Carol Kwiatkowski, Kim Schultz, and Mary Bachran. “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective.” Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal 17.5 (2011): 1039-056
Colborn, Theo, Kim Schultz, Lucille Herrick, and Carol Kwiatkowski. “An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations.” Y Human and Ecological Risk Assessment (n.d.): 1-22 (2012).
Science 17 May 2013: Vol. 340 no. 6134,DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009: Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality
Earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing
As major gas producer and supplier, Centrica, is said to be in ‘advanced talks’ to buy a stake in Cuadrilla’s licence areas in Lancashire, spanning 450 square miles of the most beautiful area of Bowland in order to extract gas from shale we remember the BBC’s report that a study, commissioned by energy firm Cuadrilla, found it “highly probable” that shale gas test drilling triggered earth tremors in Lancashire – due to an “unusual combination of geology at the well site”.
The American experience
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has reported earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing, and by disposal of hydraulic fracturing flowback into waste disposal wells, in several locations. Bill Ellsworth, a geoscientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, agrees that this happens but says: “We don’t see any connection between fracking and earthquakes of any concern to society.”
The National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences) has also observed that hydraulic fracturing, when used in shale gas recovery, does not pose a serious risk of causing earthquakes large enough to be of concern to the public.
However, the Nuclear Energy Institute reports that the frequency of the quakes has been increasing. In 2009, there were 50 earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0 in the area spanning Alabama and Montana, and there were 87 quakes in 2010. In 2011 there were 134 earthquakes in the same area, a sixfold increase over 20th century levels.
Bans on fracking are operating in many countries with some areas declaring a moratorium. See 2012 information on this here. A case for the precautionary principle?