Campaigner tells shale industry it has to earn trust

13th May 2014

Doug Parr, chief scientist of Greenpeace, told a major conference on shale gas that the industry had to become trustworthy if it wanted public support.

Speaking at the two-day Shale Gas World, he said: “You cannot say you must trust us. All you can ask is ‘Are my actions trustworthy and deserving of trust?’”

Mr Parr described Britain’s track-record of getting public consent for big infrastructure projects as “pretty poor”.

“Some industries have found this a hard lesson to learn”, he said. “They say we are trustworthy and it just does not work like that”.

Mr Parr said shale gas was already distorting UK energy policy, with calls from government to change the electricity generating system in response.

“I think there is a very weak understanding and appreciation of what the globe will be like if we are serious about delivering no more than two degrees of warming.” The UK shale gas industry would not be immune from a cap on carbon emissions, he said, if a global agreement was reached at an international meeting in Paris next year.

Mr Parr stressed the need for a regulator that was independent and well-funded, behaved in a transparent manner and had the space to do what it needed. “Not all those characteristics are in place so you can understand that there is a certain amount of kickback.”

Trespass laws

He also criticised proposals to change the trespass law to remove the need for permission to drill under an owner’s land. “Changing the trespass laws and public consent are not compatible”, he said.

Dan Byles MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas, predicted that some backbenchers on all sides in parliament were likely to vote against the legislation if it were introduced in the Queen’s Speech.

But he said the trespass laws as they stand were an “anamoly” that needed to be “tidied up”. Once the law had gone through, the issue would die down, he said.

Mr Byles said there was currently a “fear of the unknown” about shale gas. “When you can physically go to a well it will remove the fear of the unknown”, he said.

Social licence

Andrew Austin, chief executive of Igas, which took over Dart Energy last week, repeated his view that operators needed a social licence.

“It is certainly not going to be done by force or bullying. It will be done by education. It has to be done with confidence that the environment will not be damaged.”

He said the industry would need to drill wells in a lot of different parts of the country. “10 wells, would give us an idea of what is there”, he said. He referred to the country’s single well at Preese Hall, where there had been high-pressure hydraulic fracturing. That produced productive flow rates, he said. “If we had we had 10 results like Preese Hall then we would be much more confident than we are now.” He predicted that wells would be drilled and tested by this time next year and serious production would be underway by 2020.

Andrew Quarles, technical director of Cuadrillla Resources, said shale gas in the UK had the potential to be a “strategic asset”. He said the Weald, from Kent to Dorset had “a lot of potential” and the company was waiting for the report on the region from the British Geological Survey. Publication has been delayed by the government until after the European Elections. Of the Weald he said: “This is a very interesting basin with many different series of rocks”, he said. He predicted Cuadrilla would be drilling one or two wells in Lancashire by this time next year.

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