“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”.
In the Financial Times, Chris Loaring of Argyll Environmental, Brighton, wrote about the suspicions of many scientists that the rapid exploration of unconventional gas deposits, such as shale and coal bed methane, might well lead to methane releases large enough to tip the planet into an “alternative climate system”.
He explains that, though shale gas is being heralded as the cleanest form of fossil fuels, its extraction and use produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, a greenhouse gas which is 33 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Most of these methane losses come from leakage during drilling, flowback of the fracking fluid, compression of the gas and during pipeline transport.
Findings disputed by industry
NATURE journalist Jeff Tollefson reports that results of initial research launched in February 2012 indicated that methane leakage rates from wells in Denver, Colorado were about 4% of total gas production.
The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences says that further research on the heavily fracked natural gasfields in the Denver-Julesburg Basin of Colorado and the Uinta Basin of Utah indicates that the leakage rates may actually be as high as 9%.
Chris Loaring ends: “It is contingent upon the government to use scientific evidence to develop a better understanding of the possible climate implications of fracking before pushing ahead with the dash for gas. As with all things, with increasing involvement and participation comes necessity or increased guidance controls and structures.
“We hope that the government’s rigorous approach to the fiscal side of fracking will be matched by its approach on the environmental side also”.