Daily headlines

April 2014 fracking timeline

An at-a-glance view of April’s news about fracking and onshore oil and gas. For the current month’s news click here


The Guardian reports on REPOWERBalcombe, the scheme which aims to supply the equivalent of 100% of the village’s electricity demand through community-owned, locally-generated renewable energy.

The Salford Star reports anti-fracking campaigner, Kate McCann, is remanded in custody for six months. It is understood Mr McCann was charged with aggravated trespass and breaching bail conditions. The website says he was remanded in custody by a judge at Manchester Crown Court until his trial on October 9th.

Chester First reports an anti-fracking protest outside the headquarters of Cheshire West and Chester Council. An executive meeting of the council agreed to hold a public consultation on fracking and set up a working party to look into the evidence. Chester First says Dart Energy has permission to drill for coal bed methane in the area at Farndon and Upton.

Pretenders’ singer, Chrissie Hynde, tells Mojo magazine she is delighted her daughter could use her fame to publicise the anti-fracking campaign. Natalie Hynde was given a 12-month conditional discharge after she and Simon Medhurst glued their hands together round the gate at Cuadrilla’s Balcombe oil exploration site. A selection from the interview can be seen online in The Express.

Canadian broadcaster CBC News reports on new research on shale gas development, which says data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive”. The study, commissioned by Environment Canada, calls on the Canadian government and industry to do a better job at tracking the effects.

Cuadrilla receives planning permission from West Sussex County Council to flow test its oil exploration well. The Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association vows to fight on and says it is considering a judicial review of the decision.

Reacting to the decision, Friends of the Earth‘s Brenda Pollack, said: ““We are extremely disappointed that Councillors have not listened to local people. This is an attempt by Cuadrilla to set the wheels in motion for dirty fossil fuel extraction.”

Green Party MEP for South East England, Keith Taylor, said residents had raised serious concerns about air and water pollution and demonstrated that the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive had failed to carry out their responsibilities. “I fear that today’s decision will open the door to the dangerous dinosaur fossil fuel industry across South East England.”

The chair of the planning committee, Heidi Brunsdon, said “I thought the debate was robust. Members gave all the issues a good airing and the further conditions we agreed might not go as far as some would have wanted, but we feel they were proportionate and fair in addressing the issues that members of the committee had surrounding this application.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s Fracking Blog reports eight families who live near gas compressor stations in Arkansas are suing the operator, the Desoto Gathering Company, over alleged emission directly to the air of methane, hydrogen sulphide and other gases and chemicals.

The Telegraph reports that Texas’s biggest power company, Energy Future, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after assuming the price of natural gas would rise, rather than fall. The company is one of Warren Buffet’s major investments and the Telegraph says this is thought to be the biggest corporate collapse since Enron.

Latest public attitudes research for the Department for Energy and Climate Change shows 29% of people support shale gas extraction, compared with 27% in December last year. Opposition to shale gas extraction stands at 21%, compared with 21% in December.  59% were happy to have a large renewable development in their area, compared with 56% in December.

Dame Helen Ghosh, chair of the National Trust, tells The Guardian fracking would not be allowed on the organisation’s land because: “We don’t believe anyone understands the environmental impacts. And because we as far as possible would want to avoid anything that encourages the continued use of fossil fuels.” An interview with The Times last year suggested she was pro-fracking.

Greenpeace says more than 200,000 have now signed its petition tasking David Cameron to reconsider his position “on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, immediately and instead champion clean energy sources which do not risk our global climate, the natural environment and our health.”

The Lincolnshire Echo reports denials by Lincolnshire County Council there is a conflict of interest in its pension fund investment of £1.9 million in the French company Total, which plans to drill for shale oil in the county. David Forbes, the council’s assistant director of resources, tells the paper the pension fund operated independently from planning decisions.

ENDS reports the Green Party hopes its opposition to fracking will triple the number of MEPs it has after the European elections later this month. The party won 8.6% of the vote in the 2009 election and is aiming for 10.2% on May 22nd, which would win six seats in the parliament, up from two now.

ENDS also reports that the UK has until May 2017 to rewrite its rules on environmental impact assessments, after a revised European Directive was published this month. The new rules include a more standardised approach to deciding when an EIA is needed, a requirement to use competent experts on EIAs and requirements for monitoring after development takes place.

The FT reports the Chancellor wanted to include in the budget the findings of a report by the British Geological Survey into shale gas reserves in southern England. The paper says the report did not appear and the energy department is understood to have asked the BGS to redo its calculations

The Independent says local councils that will decide the future of fracking in Britain have investments worth millions of pounds in companies which want to use the method to extract oil and gas.  The councils deny a conflict of interest. The paper says:

  • Lincolnshire County Council’s pension fund as £1.9m in Total, which wants to drill in the county
  • West Sussex County Council has indirect holdings in Cuadrilla and will be making a decision on that company’s planning application at Balcombe on April 29th.
  • Greater Manchester Pension Fund (which invests on behalf of Salford and Trafford Councils) holds shares in Henderson Group, a major investor in IGas, which carried out exploration at Barton Moss

Greenpeace looks at the assumptions behind a report by Ernst and Young that shale oil and gas would involve £33bn in investment and could create up to 64,000 jobs. The campaign group says Ernst and Young assumed 4,000 wells on 100 drilling pad would produce 45% of UK gas demand; did not discuss the economics of producing UK shale gas; recommended public money should be used to support fracking.

ClickGreen reports National Grid has lodged a formal objection to a preliminary application by Cuadrilla to extend its search for shale gas near Elswick in the Bowland Basin. The letter, dated March 5th, concerns a high-pressure gas pipeline and a high voltage transmission overhead line, which would be crossed by Cuadrilla’s application to construct a well pad at Roseacre Wood.

Barton Moss campaigner and Happy Mondays musician, Bez, tells the Manchester Evening News he is launching an anti-fracking political party. He plans to stand in May’s council elections in Salford.

North West Shale Supply Chain Conference opens at the Winter Garden in Blackpool. Organisers, Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, says Cuadrilla Resources and Centrica Energy will share their approaches to procure for shale exploration and production.

One of the speakers is Energy Minister Michael Fallon. The BBC reports he said the Conservatives would not subsidise new onshore wind farms if it wins the 2015 general election. A Lib Dem source tells the BBC the Conservatives are trying to stop voters turning to UKIP. The organisation, ClientEarth, quoted by ENDSreport, says the policy could be challenged under EU state aid rules because it could be seen as discriminatory.

The Daily Telegraph reports Mr Fallon saying fracking for shale gas could be a vote-winner. He said “I think there is widespread support for a policy of more home-grown energy, a mixture of energy sources to reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas”. But he conceded: “We have got a lot of work to do to persuade people that it will only be allowed if it’s safe for the environment,” he said but more needs to be done to persuade the public it is safe.”

Anti-fracking protesters held an all-day demonstration outside, the Lancashire Evening Post reports. Claire McKenna, founder of Frack Free Balcombe, tells the paper: “We do not want fracking on the Fylde coast or anywhere in the UK…Fracking actually doesn’t really bring jobs into the local community because it’s specialist workers who get shipped in from wherever they’ve previously drilled.”

Daily Mail online reports a family from Texas has been awarded $3 million after a court finds chemical exposure from frack on land next to their home left them sick and suffering side effects. It is believed to be the first successful lawsuit to come before a jury in the US. More details on Norton Rose Fulbright’s Fracking Blog

Reacting to government plans to change the trespass laws to help fracking companies, West Sussex landowner, Lord Cowdray, tells The Argus “I find it a surprising decision to make when there is an election looming within a year and this decision is going to affect millions of householders”

Bloomberg reports estimates by Ernst & Young LLP that £33 billion would have to be spent to bring 4,000 onshore shale gas wells into production by 2032. The company, commissioned by the UK Onshore Operators Group, estimates this would create 64,500 jobs. 62% of the expenditure would be for fracking.

This is Cheshire reports plans by TESLA Exploration to carry out three dimensional seismic survey work in the Glazebury area, near Warrington. According to the website, IGas commissioned TESLA Exploration to carry out a feasibility study but IGas says it does not intend to get seismic data from the area.

The government says it has accepted all the recommendations in the report by David Mackay and Timothy Stone on greenhouse gas emissions from the production of shale gas in the UK. It promises to carry out research on monitoring and minimising emissions, and minimising water demand and vehicle movements in the shale gas industry. It also says shale firms will be required to use best available techniques to capture emissions.

report by Ernest and Young for Oil and Gas UK estimates the offshore oil and gas supply chain is a £35 billion industry.

Rigzone and others report that Cuadrilla is continuing to consult residents on proposals for two shale gas exploration sites in the Fylde area of Lancashire. Cuadrilla says it is “writing to more than 9,000 households and holding a variety of events to give residents the opportunity to find out more about the company’s plans”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirms that the government is looking at ways to make shale oil and gas drilling easier. The spokesman said: “Fracking is something that is very new, certainly in this country, which is why we are looking to see whether there are particular obstacles to the test drilling and piloting.” He said the Prime Minister wanted to ensure that there was not “an overburden of red tape and regulation”.

Greenpeace UK energy campaigner, Louise Hutchins, tells Utility Week “The ugly truth is that after failing to win the argument on fracking, ministers now want to change the law to render people powerless to oppose it.

Vanessa Vine, founder of Britain and Ireland Frack Free, and Anne Power, supporter of anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss, are on the five-strong shortlist for Campaigner of the Year in the Observer Ethical Awards. Anne Power and the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp are nominated in the Local Hero category.

Caroline Lucas MP, writing in The Argus, says her case at Brighton Magistrates Court (of which she was acquitted) raised questions about fracking and police tactics. She says on the day of her arrest, police leader got it wrong. She quotes the judge as saying conditions imposed on protesters were unlawful and they were so vague and unclear as to be meaningless. She says the policing on that day seemed arbitrary and disproportionate.

In a separate article, The Argus quotes Vanessa Vine, of Britain and Ireland Frack Free, as saying protests were likely at Balcombe if Cuadrilla received planning permission to flow test its well. “People are more aware of the issue than last summer”, she said. “They will be angry. There is overwhelming public opposition and there will possibly be considerable physical protest”.

The FT reports that the Queen’s Speech will include an Infrastructure Bill which will change trespass laws, allowing onshore oil and gas companies to drill without permission, in return for only minimal compensation to landowners. CPRE describes this as a “high-risk strategy” and it should be abandoned until after the election.

The Telegraph reports that a delay in publication of research by the British Geological Survey into potential supplies of shale oil and gas in the Weald, in southern England. The paper says Michael Fallon promised the results would be revealed this spring. But publication has now been delayed until after the European Elections.

The Telegraph also reports  that research, commissioned by the UK Onshore Operators Group and due to be published this week, is expected to suggest that fracking for shale oil and gas could create tens of billions of pounds worth of opportunities in the supply chain.

The newsletter of Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association accuses the CBI of faking Cuadrilla’s community engagement with the village. The CBI has used Cuadrilla as a case study on its website to illustrate the importance of building trust with local communities.

The Guardian reports that Asia’s largest oil and gas producer, PetroChina, is 10bn yuan (£950m) on shale gas fracking this year and lifted its shale gas output target from 1.5bcm to 2.6bcm.

Caroline Lucas MP, Sheila Menon, Ruth Potts, Ruth Jarman, and Josef Dobraszczyk are acquitted of obstructing the highway and a public order offence arising from the Balcombe anti-fracking protests.

Caroline Lucas tweets the verdict is “a victory for whole movement against dirty fracking & for cleaner energy”.

Planners at West Sussex County Council recommend Cuadrilla’s application to flow test its well at Balcombe for approval. The planning committee will discuss the application on April 29th.

The Daily Telegraph’s City Diary reports Cuadrilla Resources has recently issued almost 20 million class C and D shares, worth an undisclosed amount “exclusively for the benefit of Cuadrilla’s management and employees.” A spokesman for the company told the diary the new shares are held by an employment trust, from which neither of Cuadrilla’s main investors, Riverstone Holdings and AJ Lucas, will benefit.

The first appeal against conviction by an anti-fracking campaigner arrested at last year’s protests at Balcombe failed to get underway because a key police witness was ill. It will now be heard in July.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association 
calls on the CBI to correct what it calls “misleading and inaccurate” information in an article which uses Cuadrilla as a case study

London’s former mayor, Ken Livingstone, tells The Guardian Caroline Lucas (whose trial verdict is expected on April 17th) deserves a medal, not a criminal record.

The trial of Maria Sanders and Beaujolais Beauman, accused of assaulting a police officer at last year’s anti-fracking protests at Balcombe, is delayed for six months.

The Retford Times reports that an anti-fracking campaigner climbed the rig at Dart Energy’s exploration site at Daneshill. Police later confirmed that a 35-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.

Falkirk Herald reports on the public inquiry into Dart Energy’s plans to extract coal bed methane from under Lethan Moss. It says Falkirk Council believes the company has failed to demonstrate there will be no “detrimental impact” on the surrounding countryside. The council refused planning permission because the proposal went against the council’s structure and local plans and could have an adverse impact on the surrounding community.

Harry Huyton, head of climate and energy policy at the RSPB, tells Shale World that fracking must pass two tests to be acceptable to the organisation. It must be compatible with the government’s commitment to reduce emissions in line with keeping global warming to below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius and it must not damage the already fragile natural environment. He says the industry has failed on both tests.

The US Environmental Protection Agency releases for external peer review five papers on potentially significant sources of emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds in the oil and gas sector.

Research by YouGov for Ecotricity finds 62% of people would prefer a wind farm in their local authority area compared with 19% would prefer a fracking site.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the working group behind the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as saying it was “quite clear” that shale gas – extracted through the controversial process of fracking – “can be very consistent with low carbon development and decarbonisation”. A summary of the IPCC report available today does not specifically refer to shale gas.

A study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America identified methane emissions at seven shale gas pads in south west Pennsylvania that were 100-1,000 greater than estimates from the  Environmental Protection Agency.

Rigzone reports that Total has not renewed its only shale gas exploration licence in Poland. The company says its site near the border with Ukraine is not economically viable.

In its response to the government’s consultation on the next round of onshore oil and gas licences, Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association says the industry is too dangerous to proceed with. It also calls for Environmental Impact Assessments for all existing licence areas.

In another response, the government is urged to ban oil and gas exploration from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the organisation representing these parts of the country.

Frack Free Greater Manchester reports Barton Moss Community Protection Camp has organised a farewell party and litter-pick. The group says the camp, which has been outside the IGas exploratory drill site since November, will move equipment to other protest sites tomorrow (12/4/14). Reports on the camp farewell in the Manchester Evening News and Salford Star.

The Daily Mail reports the head of oil and gas in Ohio as saying there is a “probable” link between fracking and five earthquakes in the state last month. The paper says this is the first time earthquakes have been tied directly to fracking in the Youngstown area of the Appalachian foothills.

The Blackpool Gazette reports comments by county councillor, John Fillis, that if full-scale shale gas drilling went ahead in Fylde, the area’s roads would collapse under the weight of heavy lorries serving the fracking sites.

The Financial Times reports confirmation by Exxon that it has developed fracking fluids that are said to be neither toxic nor hazardous to the environment. The chemicals are said to be designed specifically for the geological conditions in Germany, where there is currently a moratorium on fracking. They have yet to be tested under field conditions.

In an article for The Guardian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for an anti-apartheid-style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry. “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change”, he said. “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future”.

The Argus reports that a six year old girl from Lewes in East Sussex has won a national award for an anti-fracking poem.

Norway’s Statoil tells Reuters it is disappointed so far on shale exploration in Europe. It says the shale basins are not as attractive as the US and fracking bans and political opposition posed too many hurdles, said Pal Halermo, Statoil vice president exploration.

Bloomberg quotes energy consultants Wood Mackenzie Ltd as saying only one in five shale regions in the world may succeed in producing commercially-significant amounts of oil and gas. The consultancy’s vice president, Andrew Latham, predicts that Argentina will drill half the shale wells in the world outside the US this year.

Chesterfirst reports that a group of anti-fracking campaigners have set up a permanent camp blocking the entrance to a test drilling site at Duttons Lane, Upton, where Dart Energy has a licence to explore for coal bed methane.

Reuters quotes General Electric as saying carbon dioxide is not likely to replace water soon in fracking because of technical challenges and limited infrastructure.

The Salford Star reports the Mayor of Salford refused to allow a debate on fracking, despite a petition with 3,000 signatures. Campaigners had hoped the petition, organised by Manchester Friends of the Earth, would force Salford Council to hold an open discussion on fracking.

The Los Angeles Times reports that California’s Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved a bill to place a moratorium on the use of fracking.

All eight anti-fracking campaigners on trial at Brighton Magistrates Court are acquitted on charges brought under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Five campaigners charged with obstructing the highway are acquitted and four found guilty. Details

The BBC reports the Polish “experiment” with shale gas has been a failure, with only one well, out of 30-40 planned for 2013, producing economically viable amounts of gas and major companies, such as Exxon and Mobil, pulling out. The report also predicts that despite growing demand for gas in China, it will be 8-10 years before that country produces “a significant amount of shale energy”.

The BBC also reports comments by IGas chief executive, Andrew Austin, that 10% of the UK’s gas supply in the next 10 years cold come from shale deposits in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. According to the BBC, the company hopes to see 15 fracking sites across the counties in 10 years.

Labour Joan Walley MP asks the government to establish shale gas extraction exclusion zones in sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources. Junior environment minister, Dan Rogerson, replies that “Each application for shale gas exploration and extraction will be assessed on its merits”.

The Argus reports that Wealden MP and former energy minister, Charles Hendry, has been employed as a consultant for Swiss-based but Dutch-owned energy trading company Vitol. The paper says he will be paid £60,000-a-year for the equivalent of one-and-a-half days a month working on behalf of the firm.

Larry Elliott of The Guardian suggests fracking could threaten the world economy in the way that sub-prime mortgages did in the global crash in 2007-8. He says getting oil and gas out of the ground is proving costlier and less profitable than expected.

Protect Barton Moss tweets “URGENTLY needs water and gas for the cooker if anyone can help”

The Telegraph reports that the energy company, Five Quarter, is planning to drill into coal seems off the coast of north east England to extract energy using Deep Gas Winning. The paper says oxygen and steam are injected into boreholes to react with rocks and coal to release synthesis gas comprising hydrogen and carbon monoxide, as well as methane and carbon dioxide.

The Guardian reports Dart Energy is expected to start drilling for coal bed methane at the weekend on the site of a former explosives factory near Daneshill Lakes in Nottinghamshire. The local MP, John Mann described the decision as “beyond comprehension”.

The chief executive of Cuadrilla, Francis Egan, speaking at a public meeting in Elswick, Lancashire, said more needed to be done to address concerns about regulation in the shale gas industry, according to a report in the Blackpool Gazette. Barry Warner, of Roseacre Awareness Group, said anti-fracking campaigners had not even started fighting yet.

Peter Brown, head of shale gas policy at the Health and Safety Executive, says the organisation’s new Energy Division, will help to regulate emerging energy technologies, such as shale gas.

The Argus reports criticism from anti-campaigners of government plans to change the trespass laws so that oil and gas companies can drill under homes without permission. The paper quotes Marcus Adams, one of several landowners who formed a legal block to prevent further drilling by Celtique Energie at Fernhurst. He tells the Argus: “Frankly, I think this is despicable and hopefully it will become a major electoral issue.”

Dallas News reports that Exxon Mobil reached a settlement with shareholders to disclose the risks hydraulic fracturing operations, including spills and pollution, pose to its business.

Cuadrilla’s chairman, Lord Browne, tells Bloomberg he’d rather face public opprobrium, legal challenges and environmental regulations in Britain than the political uncertainty that prevails in other countries. “This is the next place to go to,” he says. “It’s easier than us going to China, where there was a land-grab free-for-all with lots of Chinese companies, or Argentina or India, or South Africa. There are rules in Europe, and they are slavishly applied. And we are quite sure we can operate within those rules.”

Reuters reports comments by Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources, that shale gas production in Britain could start within four years if the crisis in Ukraine escalates to the level of national emergency. Mr Egan is reported to have told an event at Chatham House that his company is two to three years away from establishing whether its shale gas operations are commercial viable.

New Balcombe resident, Georgia Law, writing in the West Sussex County Times, says: “My short time in Balcombe has shown me that this is a village to reckon with – our strong, intelligent, passionate residents represent the very best of the British countryside and I am proud to stand with them, welly-to-welly.”

Greenpeace responds to reports that the government wants to change the trespass laws to allow oil and gas companies to drill under homes without permission. Executive Director, John Sauven, said: “Cameron’s election manifesto is shaping up to be a sure-fire formula to undermine our energy security, drive more climate change, and wreck our countryside.”

The Financial Times reports that private equity groups, commodities traders and sovereign wealth funds look set to invest in energy markets as oil companies divest of assets. The paper says major oil companies are coming under pressure from shareholders to curb spending and improve returns after years of investing in new production in challenging environments.

The Financial Times reports the government is working on plans to be included in the Queen’s Speech next month to change the trespass rules and give oil and gas companies the right to drill under private land. The paper quotes a senior government figure as saying “We want to streamline the rules and get this thing off the ground”.

The Lancashire Evening Posts reports Greenpeace criticism of Cuadrilla’s claim that fracking will bring tens of thousands” of jobs to Lancashire. Greenpeace UK campaigner Lawrence Carter says: “Like loaves and fishes, the numbers of fracking jobs peddled by the industry never stop multiplying.”

The London Evening Standard reports on the Mothers Against Fracking rally in London, joined by Bianca Jagger, Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, and Vanessa Vine of Britain and Ireland Frack Free.

Day 2 of the trial of nine environmental campaigners arrested outside Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling site at Balcombe on August 19th.

BBC Manchester reports IGas has detected gas in samples from its test well at Barton Moss.

Court of Appeal hearing for Barton Moss Protection Camp to challenge eviction is set for July 16th.

EcoWatch reports that for the first time, members of the US Congress called on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate water contamination in Dimock, Pennsylvania, Parker County, Texas and Pavillion Wyoming and links to fracking. Early results of EPA research indicated oil and gas development was linked to water pollution, Ecowatch says. In each case, the EPA closed the investigations before finalising the results.

News for March 2014

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