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Manchester loses top fracking conference

21st February 2014

The UK’s “number one shale gas conference” has moved from Manchester to Birmingham.

Delegates to Shale UK received an email today telling them the original venue, Manchester Central, could no longer accommodate the event because it had another large conference taking place simultaneously. It also said: Manchester Central “is unable to ensure all necessary security precautions can be taken”.

Shale UK is due to take place on May 13-14th and, according to the organisers, it is expecting 500 delegates. On May 14-15th, Manchester Central was due to host the British Insurance Brokers Association, which is likely to attract 5,000 people.

The communications Manager for Manchester Central, Oliver Harry, could not give any details about the decision. “Unfortunately we can never discuss any arrangements between Manchester Central and its clients, as they are always kept confidential. I’m sure you can understand that client confidentiality is extremely important to us.”

However, he did confirm that Manchester Central had accommodated 10,400 people in the past and manages more than one event on a day.

The organiser of Shale UK, Paul Gilbertson, of the events company Terrapinn, said the conference had been planned some time ago and as interest in the industry had grown, the conference needed a larger venue. He said there was no scope to expand at Manchester Central because of the other event.

Manchester Central was chosen for the conference because north west England is the centre of the fracking industry. About 12 miles down the M60 from the venue is Barton Moss, the site of the IGas exploratory shale gas drilling well, where anti-fracking campaigners have demonstrated for the past three months. The IGas chief executive, Andrew Austin, is one of the key speakers at Shale UK. Another is Francis Egan, the chief executive of Cuadrilla, which is applying for planning permission to flow test its oil exploration well at Balcombe.

When asked whether the Barton Moss protest had anything to do with the decision to move the conference, Mr Gilbertson said “None whatsoever”. But when pressed about the impact of the Barton Moss protest on security, he said: “Barton Moss would have been amongst the various plans that we had in place.”

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