Shale industry ready to talk about fracking

After months of shying away from debates about fracking, the onshore oil and gas industry now wants to talk.

The industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) is inviting people to submit questions about shale to its new Talk about shale website.

It said the questions will be collated and answered by “third-party experts, including academics”. Answers will be posted on the website, which UKOOG said, “will become the source of independent information, written in clear language for those interested in finding out more about natural gas from shale.”

UKOOG said Let’s talk about shale was “borne out of the recognition that the general public are subjected to a stream of information from a range of sources and much of this information is contradictory”.

Its Chief Executive, Ken Cronin, said: “Let’s talk about shale offers the public an opportunity to get to know the facts, rather than being forced into listening to what others think they should hear.”

The website invites people to ask about anything they want to know and it promises to respond within 30 days, “if not sooner”. But the small print adds that questions should be about the principles of shale only. “If your question is about a particular operator, or a specific site, please direct your questions to the relevant operator instead”, it says.

Questions submitted to the website must also be concise: no more than 250 characters, including spaces.

Spotted in Lancashire. Picture by Shaun de Bauch

Spotted in Lancashire. Picture by Shaun de Bauch

UKOOG said people will also be able to ask questions at a vehicle touring potential fracking areas. Postcards will be distributed by local newspapers and door-drops so that people can submit a question by Freepost too. The initiative also includes:

  • Presentations to local groups and organisations by geologists, academics and the business community
  • Advertising on buses and in local papers and town centres with the slogan Got a question about fracking, just ask

The initiative is to be piloted in Blackpool and Preston in north west England and Lincoln and Worksop in the east midlands. It may be expanded nationally next year.

We asked UKOOG, which is funding the initiative, how much Let’s Talk About Shale was costing. It said: “The cost is in line with an initiative of this nature which gives people an opportunity to ask their questions without feeling they are being bombarded with information.” 

We also asked who were the third-party experts who would be answering questions submitted to the website. UKOOG said they ranged from public bodies, independent consultancies and individual academics, inside and outside the industry. “The goal is to provide the public with the best possible answers in clear, jargon-free language”, it said.

  • Last month, TalkFracking launched its website, inviting people to send their concerns about fracking to the Energy Minister, Matt Hancock. In June, TalkFracking organised debates in five cities across Britain. The organisation said it invited 88 key policy makers, scientists and industry figures to take part in the debates but none took up the offer.

8 replies »

  1. I would be interested to hear what OKOOG’s answer would be to ‘do you plan to present fracking in a positive light and, where possible, play down the clear controversy, differing scientific opinion and evidence of harm? This would seem to be their aim if funded by the Gvmt and having Ken Cronin at their head.

  2. Furthur to my previous comment, I would question whether the onshore oil and gas industry have changed in anything that they do, apart from having a new van. Paid for by us – the tax payers? Ruth you say they ‘want to talk’ but they have already been doing plenty of that. Answering questions is an interesting one though. We should ask some direct ones: Will fracking bring down UK energy prices? Is there evidence of water contamination from other parts of the world where it has been done? In what way, if any, would you say ‘fracking’ could lead to the claimed ‘energy security’? Is it economically viable if adhering to ‘gold standards’ and thorough base line monitoring and environmental assessments? (An industry spokesperson said the economic viability would depend on the extent of regulation at a recent APPG. How many wells would be needed to produce a viable amount of gas or oil in the South of England/Lancashire ..etc by the way, do we have a similar tax-payer funded office for promoting renewable energy, and do they have a new van?

  3. Typical that the industry wants to engage with communities on a one-to-one basis. Bring two or three questions and we’ll give you answers to send you away happy, perhaps?
    Why do the companies avoid the transparency of public debates? Because they don’t want lots of people to hear all the questions – and the follow up, more probing questions from experts, perhaps? It is a policy of divide and conquer, which is insulting the intelligence of the British public.
    And why is UKOOG doing this now and not three or four years ago, before Cuadrilla’s first and only frack? Because the industry is failing to gain public support, perhaps?

    • Quite simple they avoid public debates because of, in the case, the unproven misconceptions normally passed around as if they were facts.
      2,000,000 wells have been fracked in the world, most in the USA and the proof is that they are not proven to create earthquakes and even if they have on one, or two occasions, nobody has been killed. No water has not been poisioned, nor have there been flu like symptoms around fracking sites and animals have not dropped dead in the fields from being poisioned by fracking… The Earth warms up and cools down, with at least three ice ages in Great Britain over the past 750,000 years. During ice ages Great Britain was uninhabitable . It is quite a natural process and has always happened and will always happen. By far the biggest danger to the human race are nuclear bombs ! Regrettably one or two, or is it three, environmental focus groups are hostile to the burning of fosil fuels and unable to make their point, they have resoughted to printing scare stories about Shale exploration and exploitation. What they have not told you previously is that some wells have been drilled and fracked in Briltain already and the dangers they have spoken of did not occur..Then we have silly stories about escaping methane. Well methane escapes all of the time throughout the world, it is called marsh-gas, it always has escaped and probably always will and the people local to wil-o-the-wisp continue to live normal lives . So if you mean public debates should be held so that unscientific theories can be aired, no-way, that is fantasy land, and the public deserve a proper and statistically backed up conversation.
      And, to look at your own wording you speak of experts, perhaps you are mixing up philosophers, with the word ‘expert’, I am afraid that philosophy is not regarded as ‘expert’ witness

      [Moderator: 1 correction at poster’s request]

  4. One of the ‘experts’ who is quoted in the press release is Professor Sarah O’Hara (‪…/pro-vice-chancellors.aspx). The only research she has done on this topic is into the public perception of fracking, which concludes that fracking is growing on us. However this is in the context that it is the second to last choice of energy production, way behind renewables. See document at: ‪…

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