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A fracking week in Westminster (3-7 Feb 2014)

10/2/14

Transcripts of last week’s parliamentary questions on:

  • Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency inspections at Balcombe and other sites
  • Monitoring methane emissions
  • Costs of regulations
  • Production and development licences
  • Common liabilities fund
  • Disposal of fluid into the Manchester Ship Canal

With thanks to theyworkforyou.com

6/2/14
Question from Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Green)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what plans his Department has to monitor methane emissions from shale gas extraction sites.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The recent report by Professor David Mackay and Dr Tim Stone—‘Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas Extraction and Use’—recommended that shale gas production on the UK should be accompanied by careful monitoring and inspection of greenhouse gas emissions relating to shale gas production and exploration. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr Davey, will be responding shortly to the report and the recommendations. In addition the Environment Agency already includes conditions within mining waste permits to require operators to monitor methane emissions.

Question from Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Green)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many inspections have taken place by the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive of drill sites operated by Cuadrilla resources at (a) Preese Hall, (b) Balcombe and (c) Becconsall in each year of activity on each site.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uses a range of techniques to regulate shale gas work activities throughout the life cycle of a well, including engaging with well operators at the well design stage, assessing well notifications before operations start, reviewing operators’ weekly reports to ensure work on the well is progressing safely to plan, and conducting targeted on-site inspections informed by these activities.

At Preese Hall, HSE has assessed operational issues on four occasions between June 2010 and March 2012:

  • ‘notification to drill’;
  • ‘hydraulic fracture’;
  • ‘drill suspension plugs’; and
  • ‘calliper casing’.

There was also a site inspection of the hydraulic fracture operations.

At Beconsall, one assessment of a ‘notification to drill and suspend’ took place in July 2011.

At Balcombe, there were two assessments:

  • notification to ‘drill and suspend’ in April 2013;
  • and ‘to test’ in August 2013. In addition,

All weekly drilling activity reports and material changes to submitted notifications at all three sites have been inspected.

The Environment Agency (EA) has visited Preese Hall 16 times: 13 visits in 2011 and three visits in 2012. Balcombe was visited four times for compliance reasons in 2013. Six additional visits were made in 2013 for water sampling, noise pollution and water pollution. In addition, Becconsall was visited six times: four visits in 2011 and two visits in 2012.

Both the EA and HSE are also committed to jointly visiting all shale gas sites, during the current exploratory phase of shale gas development.

Question from Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Green)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment his Department has made of the effect of methane leakage from shale gas extraction on the UK’s greenhouse gas inventory.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The inventory provides detailed estimates of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions measured during the applicable year. As the shale gas industry is in the early stages of development, it is not reported in the inventory. Once the industry starts exploration and production, the associated GHG emissions will be reported in the UK GHG Inventory.

Question from Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Green)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change What estimate the Government has made of the costs of regulation of the shale gas industry during the (a) exploration and (b) commercial extraction stages.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The Government is encouraging the safe and environmentally sound exploration of shale gas to determine its potential. The UK has a robust regulatory regime for exploration and the relevant regulators consider they have the resources required at this stage of the industry’s development. We continuously look to improve the regulatory regime including the assessment of new requirements at a future production stage.

Question from Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many (a) UK, (b) European and (c) other international energy companies have applied for licences to explore for shale gas in the UK in each of the last three years.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
Petroleum licences issued by DECC are not specific to shale gas but provide exclusivity in relation to exploration for and production of all types of hydrocarbons.

DECC periodically invites applications for licences in competitive rounds. The last onshore round was in 2008, and no applications have been invited or received for onshore licences in any of the last three years. Subject to consideration of the results of a public consultation presently in progress on the strategic environmental assessment, we plan to invite new applications later this year in a 14th round of onshore licensing.

4/1/14
Question from Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will establish a wealth fund for the community benefit funds generated by the shale gas industry.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The Government has no plans to establish a wealth fund. The industry has bought forward a community benefit offer which the Government has welcomed.

At exploration stage, the industry will provide £100,000 per hydraulically fractured well site. To ensure these community benefit funds are managed and distributed independently of the operators themselves, the UK Onshore Operators Group will be partnering with UK Community Foundations (UKCF), which works for communities through a UK-wide network of community foundations. UKCF and the appropriate local community foundation will manage a consultation process to engage the local community in defining local priorities and needs, including the appointment of a community panel to decide how the money will be spent once the consultation is complete.

The industry is also committed to provide 1% of revenue at production stage. The industry will be consulting shortly about how these funds are distributed.

Question from Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what discussions he has had with the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil on the creation of a common liabilities fund to cover (a) accidents and (b) remediation of abandoned wells drilled to pump methane gas using the hydraulic fracturing process.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The operator is liable for any damage or pollution caused by his operations. As a part of the consenting process under the licences, DECC checks that operators have appropriate insurance against these liabilities.

When operations finish, the operator is responsible for sealing the well so as to ensure safe retention of all fluids, in accordance with HSE regulations and industry standards. The operator is also responsible for restoring the site to its previous state or a suitable condition for re-use, in accordance with site restoration conditions specified by the relevant planning authority. The operator must also comply with any relevant conditions of Environment Agency permits, and remains liable for any remediation which may prove necessary after the abandonment of the well.

For the longer term, DECC and the industry are also working to put in place a robust scheme that would cover liabilities even in the event that the relevant operator is no longer in business.

Question from Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the studies (a) measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the US by the university of Texas at Austin and (b) radium and barium removal through blending hydraulic fracturing fluids for acid mine drainage by Duke university; and what steps his Department is taking to prevent risks to public health from fracking.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
Public Health England (PHE) is currently preparing the final version of its independent report into the public health impacts of shale gas extraction: “Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction”. In doing so, all recently published studies of relevance will be taken into account. However, the interim findings of that report, published in October 2013, confirms that risks to public health from shale gas operations can be effectively managed provided operations are properly run and regulated.

The UK has a strong regulatory system which provides a comprehensive and fit for purpose regime for exploratory activities, but we want to continuously improve it. The Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) will work closely with the regulators and industry to ensure that the regulation of shale gas development is robust enough to safeguard public safety and protect the environment.

Question from Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister, Rutherglen and Hamilton, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when he intends to publish the post-adoption statement following the closure of the consultation period on the strategic environmental assessment on shale gas.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The consultation period closes on 28 March 2014. All responses to the consultation will be carefully considered and a post-adoption statement published as soon as practicable thereafter.

Question from Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister, Rutherglen and Hamilton, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what the evidential basis is for the assumption in the strategic environmental assessment on shale gas that production over the lifetime of a well is three billion cubic feet of gas per well.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
The assumption used for the strategic environmental assessment is based on the central estimate of well productivity adopted by the report on ‘Potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with shale gas extraction and use’ (Mackay and Stone), published by DECC in September 2013. The basis of that estimate is discussed in para. 35 of the report, and drew on data from US basins reported by the United States Geological Survey, together with UK industry views on the likely costs of exploration and production in the UK, compared to the US.

Question from Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister, Rutherglen and Hamilton, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment his Department has made of the benefit to local communities of receiving one per cent of revenue from each shale gas site.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
We are promoting exploration to determine the potential of shale gas and, at this early stage, no scenario can be definitive. The Department for Energy and Climate Change’s Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which is for consultation, estimates that community benefits to the value of 1% of revenue from production could amount to a total of £2.4 million to £4.8 million per site under the high activity scenario, assuming each well is productive for 20 years. The industry have based their estimate that potential community benefit per site would be the region of £5 million to £10 million on the Institute of Directors (IoD) report’s mid case scenario.

The two reports also have different assumptions about the size of a pad. The IoD report on a broad economic analysis of relevant factors assumes a pad with up to 40 laterals (horizontal sections)—10 wells with up to four laterals per well. The SEA scenarios, by contrast, have the specific purpose of exploring potential environmental effects and assume up to 24 laterals—24 wells with one lateral per well.

Question from Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what discussions he has had with the Peel Group about the possibility of pollution from waste water used for fracking being dumped in the Manchester ship canal.

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
No Minister from the Department of Energy and Climate Change has had meetings with the Peel Group concerning discharges into the Manchester ship canal.

United Utilities hold a permit, issued by the Environment Agency, that allows them to treat industrial effluents at Davyhulme prior to discharge into the Manchester ship canal under the environmental permitting regulations 2010. The majority of the flowback fluid from Preese Hall was removed and treated at United Utilities’ industrial effluent treatment facility (ETF) at their Davyhulme water treatment works in Greater Manchester in 2011.

Davyhulme takes in and treats a variety of effluents and a large proportion of the domestic and industrial sewage of Manchester on a daily basis. The final treated effluent from the site is required to meet high environmental standards to ensure protection of the receiving water, in this case the Manchester ship canal.

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