Daily headlines

December 2014 fracking headlines

Our digest of last month’s news about fracking, shale and onshore oil and gas developments from the UK and around the world including:

  • The progress of the Infrastructure Bill
  • The outcome of the judicial review of Cuadrilla’s planning permission at Balcombe
  • Cuadrilla’s applications to frack in the Fylde in Lancashire
  • The impact of falling oil prices on the industry
  • Tory MPs call for tougher regulations on fracking
  • Environment Agency pension fund invests in oil and gas companies
  • Police use bail conditions to prevent demonstrations
  • Drilling results from Ellesmere Port and Horley
  • Anti-fracking protests
  • Industry group says UK progress is “glacially slow”

31st December 2014

UK’s leading fund manager warns of damage to bond markets from oil prices Neil Woodford tells the Guardian that falling oil prices could prompt a rout in the global bond market as shale companies default on vast debts built up during the US fracking boom. Independent drillers have borrowed $200bn and there are fears they default, creating contagion in junk bond markets, similar to the sub-prime mortgage collapse, the paper says. Bonds issued by shale oil companies make up 15% of all high-yield or junk bonds in the US, growing from virtually zero five years ago.

Oil set for biggest slump since 2008 as Opec battles US shale Bloomberg reports oil is heading for its biggest annual decline since the 2008 global financial crisis. Futures fell 1.8% in New York, bringing losses for 2014 to 46%. US crude inventories are forecast to rise to the highest level for this time of the year in three decades.

30th December 2014

Climate change “open to question” says UKIP’s energy spokesman In an interview with The Independent, Roger Helmer dismisses “climate alarmism”, suggesting that predicted rises in global temperatures are “grossly exaggerated”. He says a UKIP government would scrap legally-binding targets to curb carbon emissions.

Oil rigs in US drop by 37 to lowest level since April Energy Voice reports on figures by Baker Hughes that US oil rigs fell by 37 to 1,499 in the week ended December 26th, the lowest since April. Rigs drilling for gas rose by two to 340. The total rig count at 1,840 was also an eight-month low.

Bakken Club evicted as oil plunge tests shale boom Bloomberg reports that a private club in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, that once charged $25,000 membership, was evicted this month for failing to pay rent. The club owned $21,598 in rent and $1,329.90 in late fees. One cheque bounced. Bloomberg says the eviction comes as the benchmark for US crude oil fell to $52.70 a barrel, the cheapest since May 2009. The price is down from more than $107 in June.

New era of transparency ahead for oil firms and government Law firm Pinsent Masons says UK oil and gas companies are gearing up for a new era of transparency, revealing links between operators and government. New rules on financial reporting, driven by a new EU directive, is due to come into force on New Year’s Day in the UK. Martin Ewain, oil and gas partner at Pinsent Masons, tells Energy Voice: “The fact that fact that the regulation is backed by the most severe of penalties would suggest the new rules will have teeth. Preparing these reports will be burdensome for many businesses with numerous international operations. Failure to comply with these new laws could be very damaging.”

29th December 2014

High-cost oil production not worthwhile FT online reports comments by the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, that cutting production is no longer in the interests of Opec producers, the price of oil may never reach $100 a barrel again and that high-cost producers may try to hold out but their financing will sooner or later dry up. The FT says the message is simple: Those energy companies and financiers invested in any high-cost production, from US shale plays to output from Brazil’s deepwater fields, need to realise it is not worth the bother.

Brent crude closes at lowest since 2009 The FT reports that ICE February Brent crude reached $57.88 a barrel – the lowest since May 2009, while Nymex February West Texas Intermediate dropped to $53,61. The FT says Brent crude has fallen 48% this year and is on course for its biggest annual decline since 2008.

Clydebank politicians on attack over fracking vote The Clydebank Post reports a row between the SNP MSP Gil Paterson and Labour MP, Gemma Doyle over fracking. Mr Paterson criticised Ms Doyle for abstaining in a vote on the Infrastructure Bill, which proposes to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes without their consent. Ms Doyle challenged the Scottish government to ban fracking in Scotland if it was against the practice.

2015 – year of oil and gas mergers PricewaterhouseCoppers, quoted by Energy Voice, predicts low prices will force a year of mergers and acquisitions in 2015 – and possibly the first hostile takeover in the sector in living memory. Drew Stevenson, PwC’s UK energy deals leader, tells the website the industry could be “increasingly cash-constrained” with new debt coming at a cost, and existing debt coming under increased scrutiny.

Big Flats wells not contaminated by gas drilling – judge The Star Gazette reports that US District Judge Charles Siragusa ruled that the drinking water of five homes in Chemung County, New York state, was not contaminated by a nearby gas well drilled by the Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. The judge said the homeowners had failed to prove the silt and methane that damaged their wells was caused by the gas well (which wasn’t fracked) half a mile away.

28th December 2014

Environment Agency investing pension fund in industries it regulates An investigation by Independent on Sunday finds the Environment Agency pension fund invests millions in companies investing in fracking, incineration and nuclear power – all of which the EA regulates. The EA claims to integrate “environmental, social and governance considerations into all decision-making”. But its pension fund holds £50m direct investments in oil and gas companies, including Shell, BP and BG Group, as well as millions more in indirect oil and gas funds. It also invests in Riverstone Energy, which owns 44% of Cuadrilla, and Centrica, which itself is investing £60m in Cuadrilla. Cuadrilla is currently applying to frack up to eight wells in Lancashire. The EA is also investing in Barclays, the bank behind Third Energy, which is attempting to frack in Ryedale in north Yorkshire, and Total, which is investing in licences backed by IGas, Dart and Egdon Resources. The EA commissioned a report this year on the risk to its fossil fuel investments becoming stranded assets but was advised against disinvesting.

27th December 2014

PM criticised for saying he would be “very happy” for fracking to come to his Whitney constituency The Oxford Mail reports criticism of David Cameron by the Whitney district councillor, Duncan Enright. Mr Enright, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Whitney, said the PM used the comment to “get off the hook” in a difficult exchange in Parliament. Mr Enright said “I am not convinced at all by fracking because I don’t think it can contribute to Britain positively, but it would be foolish to do it in West Oxfordshire anyway”.

Investigation into Chris Faulkner The Daily Kos looks into the background of the CEO of Breitling Energy See our stories on Breitling’s ASA censure and his views on the UK climate targets

26th December 2014

Bill in favour of hydraulic fracturing is “necessary”, claims Lib Dem MP Sir Robert Smith, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, tells the Deeside Piper why he voted for the Second Reading of the Infrastructure Bill. “‘Basically, it brings the law on drilling below 300m into line with coal mining. Some areas of the country have been identified as having potential reserves of gas. Only by drilling can that potential be established”, he said.

25th December 2014

Revealed: Police using pre-charge bail to muzzle protesters Figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the widespread use of bail conditions to ban hundreds of innocent people from attending lawful demonstrations, the paper reports. The data shows that around 85% (at least 732) of people barred from protesting when bailed since 2008 have not been subsequently charged with any crime. Rachel Harger, of the human rights law firm Bindmans, says “Bail is becoming an instrument that is being used by people without recourse to the judicial process. It is to essentially punish protesters and curb their right to demonstrate. It is effectively the police conducting their own extra-judicial justice without going to court”.

24th December 2014

Anti-frackers hail medical support The Blackpool Gazette reports anti-fracking campaigners are urging Lancashire County Council to heed the warnings of doctors and follow the example of New York State by banning fracking. Helen Rimmer, north west campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said an objection to Cuadrilla’s planning applications in Lancashire by the public health charity, Medact (see our story) adds to the growing call for the council to refuse the plans. Barbara Richardson, from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said of the New York ban: “This is significant news. A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We know shale gas exploration and extraction can be carried out in the UK safely, securely and in an environmental responsible way, and we will do that.

BP says US shale boom is making energy trading more global Bloomberg reports on comments by BP’s trading unit that the US shale boom is connecting markets and changing the way oil and gas is bought and sold. Carol Howle, head of global oil Europe and finance at BP, is quoted as saying understanding one commodity in a region is no longer enough. Change in trade flows will come as the U.S. turns from an importer of liquefied natural gas to an exporter and liquefied petroleum gas export capacity increases, she said.

Opening fracking debate “no brainer” The Gazette Herald reports members of Ryedale District Council voted unanimously in favour of a public meeting to learn more about fracking and its implications for the district.

23rd December 2014

Join the dots between IGas, Lynton Crosby, City West Housing and Macquarie Bank The Salford Star reports that Macquarie, a major investor in IGas, is funding a plan for solar panels on four thousand City West Housing homes near the fracking site Barton Moss. The website says Macquarie is a former client of Lynton Crosby, the Conservative Party election strategies, who is also linked to Dart Energy in Australia, subsequently bought by IGas.

Tyndall Centre deputy director says no to fracking The UK climate scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson, tells Envisionation that if we are serious about tackling climate change and reducing the risk of a global catastrophe, then there is no room whatsoever for any unconventional sources of energy such as shale gas or shale oil.

Norway’s Statoil to reduce stake in US shale formation Reuters reports that Statoil has sold part of its stake in a shale field in the north east US to Southwestern Energy for $394 m. Statoil’s third quarter production from the Marcellus play was 130,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day, of which 4,000 came from assets included in the sale.

Ellesmere Port rig on the move Reports on Facebook “rig is down and on the move from the Ellesmere Port IGas site.”

22nd December 2014

Opec leader vows not to cut oil output even if price hits $20 The FT reports that Opec will not cut production even if oil prices fall to $20, the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi said. “It is not in the interest of Opec producers to cut their production, whatever the price is,” he told the Middle East Economic Survey. The FT says this represents the most far-reaching change in Opec policy since the 1970s. Analysts say Saudi Arabia is challenging all high-cost sources of crude, from Canadian oil sands and US shale to deepwater in Brazil and the Arctic, to protect its market share.

Oil price slump shot in the arm for global economy – IMF The FT also reports comments by the IMF chief economist, Olivier Blanchard and head of commodities, Rabah Arezki that falling oil prices could boost world economic growth by 0.3-0.8%.

Oil drop hits Bakken as Continental cuts Continental Resources, one of the largest oil producers in the Bakken field in North Dakota, has cut 2015 capital spending for the second time and reduced its operating rigs by nearly 40%, the FT reports. Continental said it planned to spend $2.76bn on wells – down from $4.6bn, which itself was reduction on the original target of $5.2bn. Drilling rigs are expected to fall from 50 today to an average of 31 next year, the FT says.

Welsh Government seeks advice on fracking moratorium Wales Online reports that the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, confirmed in a letter to Friends of the Earth Cymru that Welsh Government officials sought advice on whether Wales is able to impose a moratorium on fracking. FoE called on Mr Jones to publish the advice and act on it. But officials said legal advice is frequently sought and it would be misleading to interpret this as a policy in support of a ban.

Occidental said to be in talks for Riverstone shale driller Bloomberg reports that the Occidental Petroleum Corp, the second largest independent US oil producers, is in talks to acquire shale explorer Three Rivers Operating Co. Sources said Occidental is discussing a price below $20,000 an acre for Three Rivers. Three Rivers owned drilling rights to 82,000 acres in the Permian Basin in Texas last year.

21st December 2014

The downside of New York’s fracking ban The Guardian reports on landowners in New York State’s southern tier region who had hoped to reap financial benefits from gas production. Orchard owner, David Johnson, tells the paper “We’re just falling apart in the Southern Tier. I make a living from people coming to my farm. But we’re losing population. The people who are left have less money to spend. Every year my business decreases. We try new things, I raise prices, but the trend continues no different from any other industry in the Southern Tier.”

MP hits back at Greens’ attack on fracking stance The East Lothian Courier reports that  Fiona O’Donnell, Labour MP for East Lothian, has responded to criticism by the Green Party that she abstained in the vote to give the Infrastructure Bill a second reading. She tells the paper: “I did not support the Infrastructure Bill because the Tories have failed to listen to Labour’s proposals for more rigorous regulation of shale gas extraction. I support the Smith Agreement devolving all powers relating to shale gas to the Scottish Parliament. It is vital that the Scottish Government listens to communities as they make their views heard through the local planning process.”

John Mann MP: Do the right thing in the face of local issues Writing in the Retford Times, Bassetlaw MP John Mann repeats the call he made in parliament that if local communities say they do not want fracking or housing on a particular site they should have the right to make that decision, not a government minister.

Gas flares in Eagle Ford shale continue upward CharlotteObserver.com reports that gas flaring in the Eagle Ford, the most profitable shale field in the US, is likely to exceed 2013 levels of waste and pollution. The Eagle Ford burned off more than 20bn cubic feet of natural gas in the first seven months of 2014, according to the Texas Railroad Commission. One company flared more than 430m cubic feet of gas in 2014. Operators say they have no choice but to flare because pipeline infrastructure cannot cope with production. Regulators blame the cheap price of natural gas for hampering pipeline construction.

20th December 2014

House price fears over shale gas The Lancashire Evening Post reports on a survey by Redshift for Greenpeace which found that 45% of 500 Lancashire residents questioned were worried about the impact of fracking on houses prices and 21% were very concerned. Cuadrilla said: “There has been no evidence since hydraulic fracturing began onshore in the UK in the 1970s that house prices have been impacted negatively. This is supported by independent research.”

This is not just about our village Manuela Warburton writes to the MidSussex Times in response to a letter from Malcolm Thomason (See December 12th). She says Cuadrilla’s permission to test for oil at its well in Balcombe will lead to “disruption, traffic, obnoxious fumes and damage to the fabric of our village which already has thousands of cars and lorries thundering through it”. She adds: “This is not just about Balcombe, it’s nationwide. It includes Scotland and Wales who do not want fracking but we are up against a Government who have vested interest in seeing it through.”

19th December 2014

New EA head on fracking Sir Philip Dilley, the new chair of the Environment Agency, tells the Independent: I’m not particularly pro or against fracking,” he said. “The Environment Agency’s task is to make sure it can be done effectively without damage to the environment.

Oklahoma oil rig explosion and fire kills two and critical injures two others The Guardian reports on a fire and explosion at an oil rig in a remote area of rural Coal County, about 100 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, said no evacuations were required in the area and there were no reports that the explosion and fire caused environmental damage that would require cleanup.

Small recovery in IGas shares IGas shares ended the week up slightly on the low point this week. The shares opened the week on 54.00 and fell to 32.50 on Tuesday. At the close today, the shares stood at 37.59.

Oil crash exposes new risks for US shale drillers Bloomberg reports that tumbling oil prices have exposed weakness in the insurance that some U.S. shale drillers bought to protect themselves against a crash. At least six companies, including Pioneer Natural Resources and Nobel Energy Inc use a strategy, known as a three-way collar, that doesn’t guarantee a minimum price if crude falls below a certain level. Three-ways can be cheaper than other hedges but they can leave drillers exposed to steep declines, Bloomberg says. Three-way hedges risk exacerbating a cash squeeze for companies trying to cope with price falls.

Oil and gas expert dismisses North Sea collapse claims Energy Voice reports comments by Professor Alex Kemp dismissing claims that the North Sea was close to collapse. He said research suggested the price fall would have a serious in new fields and exploration. But he said production would be maintained in existing fields would be maintained.

Bin the bill, says Sussex businesswoman Farm owner and opponent of fracking, Beki Adam tells Talk Fracking about what she sees to be the problems with the Infrastructure Bill.

Written submissions on the Infrastructure Bill James A Coughlan asks the committee scrutinising the Infrastructure Bill a series of questions about fracking, including the implications for insurance, legal liability and the impact on local economies and wildlife areas.

Fracking row continues as SNP say their motion was ignored David Stocks, the SNP leader on North Lanarkshire Council, claims the majority Labour group refused to allow a debate on an SNP motion on hydraulic fracturing, Cumbernauld Media reports. The council voted on 18/12/14 that there should be a moratorium on fracking but the Scottish Government should introduce it, not the council. A second motion at the meeting, proposed by the SNP, which called on the council to declare a moratorium, was retracted.

More reaction to New York fracking moratorium DemocracyNow.org talks to activist and author Sandra Steingraber and Cornell University professor Tony Ingraffea, president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

18th December 2014

Westwood in No 10 asbestos protest The Daily Mail online reports that fashion designer Vivienne Westwood attempted to deliver asbestos as a Christmas to David Cameron. She was in Downing Street with her son, Joseph Corre, to campaign about the alleged health risks linked to fracking. Ms Westwood warned that fracking for oil and gas could become “the next asbestos or thalidomide”. Downing Street declined to respond to Ms Westwood’s comments about Mr Cameron’s son. Evening Standard report

Shale by-product prices track oil plunge The FT reports that the collapse in crude oil prices has been accompanied by a parallel plunge in by-products of the US shale drilling boom. This is increasing pressure on energy drillers, while handing a windfall to the petrochemicals industry, the paper says. The price of the ethane, which is processed into ethylene for plastics and PVC pipes, is at its lowest level since 1998.

Most North America shale plays still profitable at $65/barrel Rigzone reports on comments by oil industry consultancy A T Kearney that there are unlikely to be any major reduction in shale activity at $65/barrel, except in companies seeking to consolidate. Deeper, more expensive shale plays with more “exotic” completion requirements will be more sensitive to commodity prices, the company says. Decision-making to scale back activity won’t occur until $62/barrel and hard pullbacks won’t occur until under $60.

UK oil industry “close to collapse” Energy Voice quotes Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers’ association Brindex, who says it is “almost impossible to make money” with the oil price below 60 US dollars (£38) a barrel and there will be no new investments. Mr Allan says “It’s a huge crisis. … It’s close to collapse. In terms of new investments – there will be none, everyone is retreating, people are being laid off at most companies this week and in the coming weeks.” But the website site quotes accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as saying the falling oil price “should be a net benefit to our economy as a whole, even if there is some losers in the UK oil and gas sector and in particular places like Aberdeen”.

Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Chester takes anti-fracking stance The Chester Chronicle reports disagreements between Chester’s Conservative MP, Stephen Mosley, and the Labour election candidate, Chris Matheson, over fracking. Mr Matheson has posted a flyer against fracking to households in Upton, where a test drill site is proposed at Duttons Lane. Mr Mosley believes fracking “has a role to play” in the UK energy mix but won’t say if he’s happy with the Upton location.

MSP accuses MP of backing bill to give fracking companies the green light The Milngavie and Bearsden Herald reports that Milngaview MSP, Gil Paterson, has criticised MP Jo Swinson for failing to block the UK Government’s plans to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes during the debate on the Infrastructure Bill. Ms Swinson and the Lib Dems voted with the Tories to allow the bill to proceed. Mr Paterson said: “I am appalled that Ms Swinson appears to know so little about the consequences of fracking. It carries well-documented health risks and could affect house prices.”

SNP councillor hails victory for environmentalists Cumbernauld Media reports on reaction to a decision by North Lanarkshire councillors to oppose fracking at a meeting this afternoon. The SNP’s Paddy Hogg said: “It is a pleasant surprise that councillors in NLC all voted not only to oppose unconventional gas extraction but also called for a moratorium on such developments. This result has to be hailed as a victory for the concerned environmentalists in the local HUGE group who bombarded councillors with emails demanding a moratorium since Friday last week.”

25 homes evacuate an unstoppable gas leak in another Ohio fracking incident The Daily Kos reports about 25 families in eastern Ohio have been unable to live in their homes for the past three days because of a natural gas leak at a fracking well that crews cannot stop. The well is not on fire but the gas could be explosive. That article lists three previous incidents earlier in the year. It also says the leak is the third in three days linked to fracking operations in the area.

17th December 2014

New York bans hydraulic fracturing following health report The New York Times (among many others) reports Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announces a state-wide ban on fracking. It follows a recommendation by the Acting Department of Health Commissioner for New York, Dr Howard Zucker, that fracking should not move forward in New York, following a public health review of the technique. Announcing the findings of the review, Dr Zucker says: “I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered. … I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with [hydraulic fracturing]?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

Reports from: Daily Telegraph BBC News FT Wall Street Journal Boston Globe    Oil and Gas Financial Journal HydrocarbonsTechnology.Com

Reaction to the ban Long Island Exchange quotes the Republican senator Catharine Young: Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban exploration of our natural gas resources is a punch in the gut to the Southern Tier. The governor has a moral obligation to explain to the people of our region how he will alleviate rural poverty. Families desperately need jobs and economic opportunity, not government hand-outs. Our young people are leaving in droves because they feel they don’t have a future here. Our rural communities are dying a slow, painful, poverty-stricken death and hope is scarce”.

Public health and advocacy organisations urge legislature to keep fracking out of Maryland Food and Water Watch and Chesapeak Physicians for Social Responsibility called for a long-term moratorium on gas drilling and fracking in Maryland. “New York made the right decision. Science now confirms that unconventional natural gas development has the potential to cause both short-term and long-term health impacts, some of which may be irreversible”, they say in a press release.

Westhouse Securities reaffirms “buy” rating for IGas Energy Plc Dakota Financial News reports on buy ratings for IGas Energy. The company’s share price opened at 32.50 on Monday and has a one-year low of 35.20.

Horse Hill shareholders receive big boost from latest well data Pro-active investors reports shares in the companies behind the Horse Hill oil well rose in afternoon trading after an upgrade in the volume of crude oil in place. The revision puts the “most likely” oil in place at 8.2m barrels in the Upper Portland sandstone. The operators also announced that the well penetrated an “unexpectedly thick” interval of Kimmeridge Clay that also has hydrocarbon potential, the website said. Statement from Magellan, one of the investors in Horse Hill.

War of words over fracking law The Cumbernauld News reports on disagreements between Labour MP Gregg McClymont and the SNP election candidate Stuart McDonald over amendments on fracking to the Infrastructure Bill. Mr McClymont supported 11 Labour Party amendments to the bill, which he supported in the Second Reading debate. But Mr McDonald says the MP should tell constituents whether he supports plans to let companies frack under homes without permission of the owners.

D-day set for Fylde fracking bids The Blackpool Gazette reports that decisions will be made on Cuadrilla’s planning applications for fracking in the Fylde area of Blackpool on January 28th and 29th. See our story of December 1st 2014   Shale Energy Insider report

Anti-fracking protesters demonstrate in Ellesmere Port The Chester Chronicle reports people came to the IGas site at Ellesmere Port from all over the country to take part in an anti-fracking protest. The paper also reports the announcement by IGas that it has discovered “significant gas indications” in the shale at Ellesmere Port.

The Big Drop: cheap oil burns green energy The FT reports that share prices in some of the world’s best known renewable power groups have slumped in the wake of the latest fall in oil prices. Ian Temperton of Climate Change Capital, a green investment specialist owned by Bunge, the global agribusiness, said: “Policy makers will have to come to terms with the fact that if the plan is to stop using hydrocarbons before we run out of them, then they will go into oversupply and their price will fall in the long term”.

Methane emissions from fracking on the decline The Hydraulic Fracking blog reports on a study from the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas which found methane emissions from natural gas production have decreased. The study also found that the majority of methane emissions come from a small group of natural gas wells and associated equipment and that methane emissions were higher in older wells.

Bush School report says fracking could lead to Texas water shortage EagleFordTexas.com reports on a study from Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service Study, which found that water is being drawn from the aquifer in the Eagle Ford Shale 2.5 times faster than the replenishment rate. The researchers say Texas could face a 2.7 trillion gallon water shortfall by 2060 as fracking continues to grow. The report concluded that fracking was a contributor to the over-tapping of the aquifer but irrigation still made up more than half of all groundwater used in the Eagle Ford.

16th December 2014

Conservative backbench MP, Anne McIntosh, challenges David Cameron over fracking regulations when he appears before the House of Commons Liaison Committee Our report  Watch the session here

No subsidy for shale gas, says PM The Daily Mail’s report on the Liaison Committee focuses on David Cameron’s insistence that the Government is not subsidising the controversial exploitation of shale gas, despite a tax regime designed to support the fracking industry. The Prime Minister said the industry will “have to make a profit in order to succeed” but defended measures aimed at promoting fracking, which he said had the potential to provide gas for the country for 30 years. Shale Energy Insider report

Senior public order police commanders train for future anti-fracking protests Netpol reports that an FOI request has confirmed that the College of Policing use a fictional anti-fracking protest, based on Balcombe and Barton Moss, to train senior officers. The police refused to release most of the material for a course held on 9th October at Bramshill. But the facilitator guide for the Hydra simulation exercise reveals an imagined scenario called Operation Hamilton, a proposed fracking operation. Netpol says this is further evidence that the police see opposition to fracking as the most significant public order issue they face in the coming year and are preparing for it.

PCC Barnes “seeks clarity” about Kent Police fracking list  The Canterbury Times reports that Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes called an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable Alan Pughsley about the fracking debate list. Chief Inspector Steve Barlow said: “I am not  aware of the police requesting a list. I would not be surprised if Kent Police did that, we have the duty to protect the public.” Canterbury Christ Church University confirmed that Kent Police had requested a list of attendees.

15th December 2014

Police asked university for list of attendees at fracking debate The Guardian reports that Canterbury Christ Church University refused to hand over a list of 200+ members of the public due to attend a public debate on fracking at its campus. See our report of the debate. Kent police said it needed to assess “the threat and risk for significant public events in the county to allow it to maintain public safety. The debate, on 19 November, was organised by sociology academics. The audience was required to book a place. The university said it “did not feel it was appropriate to provide the information”. A panel member, Green Party councillor Ian Driver, who has no criminal record, discovered last year his political activities had been monitored and recorded by police on 22 occasions. BBC Radio Kent phone-in on 16/12/14 (available for 4 weeks). BBC News website  RT

Oil price fall threatens £1tn of projects The FT reports a warning from Goldman Sachs that almost $1tn of spending on future oil projects is at risk after crude prices fell to nearly $60 a barrel. Any cancellation of these developments would deprive the world of 7.5m barrels a day of new output over the next 10 years, or 8% of current global oil demand, the FT says. Goldman’s analysis is based on 400 oil and gas fields but excludes US shale.

Chevron pulls out of shale gas project in Ukraine The FT reports that Chevron has told Ukraine it will pull out of a $10bn shale gas exploration project agreed last year. Chevron lost interest in western Ukraine shale after findings in nearby Poland and Lithuania with similar geology showed worse than expected reserves, the FT says.

Shale gas found at Ellesmere Port IGas announces early results from its Ellesmere Port exploration well including a 1,400ft thick shale section. Early analysis suggests the well drilled through Sabden Shale and Bowland Shales. IGas says “Significant gas indications were observed across the shale section”. The statement also says the well encountered an 800ft thick interval of coal measure.

IGas shares fall Despite news of shale gas find (see above), IGas shares continue to fall. At noon, the price was down 1.6 as 37.40p.

UK energy firms go under as oil price tumbles According to The Guardian a report by accountants Moore Stephens due out today will conclude that 18 business in the UK oil and gas services sector became insolvent in 2014, compared with six in 2013. Although the increase was from a low base, the figures are regarded as significant because insolvencies in the industry had been rare over the last five years. The firm’s Jeremy Willmont told The Guardian: “It is clear that oil and gas majors are already cutting costs. Both Shell and BP have recently announced cuts to investment in a number of major projects. Smaller players are also reconsidering their capital deployment. If this retrenchment continues the result will be less work for oil and gas services companies.” Reports in The WeekThe Scotsman and STV

Shale gas not worth the risk, Quebec environmental agency says CTV News Montreal reports that Quebec’s environmental review board has concluded that exploiting the province’s shale gas deposits is not worth the risk. The report stated that Quebec would receive $71m-$475m a year but there were too many potential negative consequences to the environment and society. It added that risks of air, water, noise and light pollution were exacerbated because the gas deposits were in the densely populated area between Montreal and Quebec City. A moratorium has been in place in Quebec since 2011.

Whitehall forecasting isn’t enough to deal with fracking perils David Walker, writing on the public leaders network on The Guardian website, says the Treasury is failing to look ahead at future risks, which could include, among other things, fracking, energy supply, obesity, ageing, infectious disease and climate change.

14th December 2014

Leading Tory backbench MP ‘failed to declare interests’ The Independent reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg has been reported to Parliament’s standards watchdog for potentially breaching the rules on declaring financial interests in the House of Commons. The paper says he spoke in four debates in support of tobacco, mining and the oil and gas industries without declaring he is a founder and director of Somerset Capital Management, a company with multi-million pound investments in the sectors. The paper says the company holds £23m investments in tobacco, £3.07m in mining and £2.4m in oil and gas producers.

Fracking and the Infrastructure Bill Sussex businesswoman, Beki Adam, was interviewed on the BBC South section of the Sunday Politics about her concerns about the Infrastructure Bill and fracking in general. Available for 29 days on the BBC Iplayer (go to 40 minutes in).

150+ anti-fracking campaigners gathered outside IGas drilling site at Ellesmere Port Campaigners told BBC North West Tonight the IGas exploration was the “thin end of the wedge” and they did not want fracking anywhere. BBC Iplayer (link available until 6.20pm 15/12/14)

Protest group says John Muir would have thought that fracking was daft The East Lothian Courier reports that campaigners are invoking the spirit of the conservationist and son of Dunbar, John Muir, in their fight against fracking. Dunbar Anti-fracking team, which already has more than 120 followers, gathered at the town’s statue of John Muir to launch their campaign against fracking. DAFT member, Chris Eden, said: “John Muir worked hard to protect forests in California from needless commercial exploitation by loggers and land speculators. Now we want to follow Muir’s example and prevent fast-buck companies from polluting the county that inspired his love of nature.”

Grangemouth could become a “European hub of fracking” at cost of hundreds of millions to the taxpayer John Mitchell, in a letter to the Alloa Advertiser, writes about a meeting in Bowmar, at which the audience was told that at least one company wants to sink 1,300 wells in the central belt of Scotland. He says the meeting also heard that drilling could affect the beer and whisky industries because they require a certain quality of water. Ineos’ proposed investment of £640m in fracking, and its recent acquisition of 729 sq miles of exploration licences could “make Grangemouth the “European hub of fracking” with £230m of tax payers’ money”.

We need to band together Mark Long, in a letter to the Mid Sussex Times, writes about threats to the countryside, including fracking, house building and industrialisation. “The government is enthusiastic about fracking which will bring heavy industry into the most unspoilt parts of our countryside”, he says. “Those of us who care about the countryside need to band together”, he says, “and fight these proposals until our last gasp”.

Lewes Lib Dem leaves party over issues including fracking Lewes District and Town councillor, Amanda Dean, has left the Lib Dems to become an Independent, saying she was “unsettled” by the party’s approach to issues including fracking. “I am very worried the party seems to have slipped into the Conservative’s view of fracking without any proper debate about what the Liberal view of fracking should be”, she tells the Sussex Express.

13th December 2014

Medical charity condemns conclusion of Public Health England report that fracking is low risk and objects to Cuadrilla’s Lancashire planning applications. Our report  Reaction from Lancashire anti-fracking campaign groups 

Fracking sign of contempt for North Ryedale resident Sue Cuthbert, in a letter to the Yorkshire Post, writes that fracking should never be allowed in or near a national park. In response to Third Energy’s proposals to drill in Ryedale, she says “the geology of this area is full of faults, so no drilling company can tell us that this process is safe”. She adds: We live in a crowded country and must always preserve all of our beautiful countryside and national parks for future generations. If we don’t, they will rightly think that we were insane”.

Oil price collapse claims WA’s Red Fork Energy ABC News reports that Red Fork Energy is the first West Australian company to fail because of falling oil prices. The Perth-based company drills shale rock onshore in the US. It called in receivers this week, the website reports. It quotes Macquarie private wealth resource analyst, Bevan Sturgess-Smith, as saying most players in shale oil and gas were heavily in debt. “Their costs of production are a bit higher, they’ve only been in the game really for a few years so their debt structure is a little bit higher than other companies, more mature companies,” he said.

12th December 2014

Study of peer-reviewed science finds majority indicate risk A study by PSE Health Energy of 400 peer-reviewed research into fracking suggests most indicate potential risk or adverse health outcomes.

Health worries pervade North Texas fracking zone The Centre for Public Integrity, the US nonpartisan, non-profit investigative news organisation has a feature on illness in the Barnett Shale area of North Texas, the birthplace of modern hydraulic fracturing. The feature says regulators and politicians dismissed complaints and the link between environmental exposure and harm was hard to prove. But CPI said new research suggests proximity to fracking can pose risks. Dr Anne C. Epstein, who reviewed the evidence for the Lubbok Board of Health in Texas, said: “I think the level of evidence that we currently have is enough to invoke the precautionary principal and take precautions to protect the public who live close to oil and gas development against the potential health effects of toxic exposure.”

UK fracking industry risks domination by foreign companies that fly in staff and equipment and profits out Our report  Lancashire Evening Telegraph  Shale Energy Insider

Hundreds gather at INEOS Grangemouth The Linlithgow Gazette reports on a peace anti-fracking demonstration by an alliance of groups in Bo’ness, Falkirk, Glenrothes, Portobello and Cumbernauld. Speaking on behalf of the demonstrators, Maria Montinaro said: “What most people do not realise is the scale of these proposals and the impact on the local environment. For example, in respect of exploration licence PEDL 133 – which covers 330 square kilometres of the district – INEOS would need to drill 1300 wells, 600 for coal bed methane and some 700 for shale gas.”

“No evidence” to justify a ban on fracking A report by Kenneth Green of the Fraser Institute (a Canadian public policy think tank) concludes there is no evidence of any “unmanageable risks” associated with fracking, according to Shale Energy Insider. The report argues that bans on the technique are delaying the process of risk identification and management. “Governments in Canada are faced with a choice—they can ban hydraulic fracturing despite the fact that expert panels have shown the risks are manageable, or they can work with industry to manage any risks in a pragmatic way while allowing Canadians to reap the benefits of their natural resources,” Green said.

Protesters pollute Balcombe resident, Malcolm Thomason, in a letter in the Brighton Argus, welcomes the rejection of a judicial review of the decision by West Sussex County Council to grant planning permission to Cuadrilla for its exploratory oil well in the village. Mr Thomason accuses members of Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association, which brought the judicial review, of being “happy to run one, two or three cars, flying planes polluting the atmosphere every day without any consideration where the fuel comes from. The same letter, headed Let’s hope there’ll be no more protests, was printed in the Mid Sussex Times.

UK Shale Gas: A trade union view Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary of the PCS union, writing in the TUC blog Touchstone, discusses casualties of truth in the fracking debate. He looks at the impact of communities, integrity of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well, the regulatory framework, and fracking and climate change.

Rig count shows big weekly drop as oil price fall continues The Houston Chronicle reports a 2.7% fall in the active rig count in Texas in one week. This is the deepest dip in the US, the paper says.

Halliburton cuts 1,000 employees as sanctions slow Russia Bloomberg reports that Halliburton plans to make job cuts in the Eastern Hemisphere as it strives to cope with a five-year-low in oil prices.

11th December 2014

IGas share price 52-week low London South East reports that that the IGas share price reached a 52-week low of 40.00p at 12.42pm today. The share price opened this morning at 45.25. The 52-week high was 164.50p on January 20th 2014.

IGas “speculative” The FT reports that IGas lost 14.8 per cent to 39p after Canaccord Genuity raised concerns over its debt levels. The FT says the broker, which added a “speculative” tag to its previous “buy” recommendation, forecast that at current oil prices the liquidity and leverage covenants on IGas’s $165m of bonds “could be challenged”. Sleekmoney.com report

Fracking frenzy – how shale gas is threatening the planet Friends of the Earth Europe, writing in The Ecologist, says the world is in the grip of a “fracking frenzy” that threatens polluted aquifers, runaway climate change, destruction of biodiversity, and worthless sub-prime investments. The article says: “After a decade of industrial-scale expansion in North America, the destructive nature of the fracking industry is now apparent to the wider world, with significant damage to the environment, health, climate, wildlife and society”.

Fylde gas roadshow a ‘PR stunt’ The Blackpool Gazette reports on the outcome of the UKOOG Let’s Talk About Shale roadshow. See our story Barbara Richardson, of Roseacre Action Group, tells the paper: “The campaign is a blatant PR attempt to try and convince the public fracking is safe, despite the ever-growing opposition. They are trying to make it appear they are listening to people and reassuring them by answering their questions, but in reality the answers received fall far short and do nothing of the kind! Despite all the assurances we get that the UK has a strong regulatory regime there are many, including our own MPs, who do not yet think that the regulations are robust or far reaching enough.”

Communities should get bigger share in profits from fracking Will Smith, senior portfolio manager at CQS (a $14bn hedge fund owned by Tory donor Sir Michael Hintze), tells The Yorkshire Post: “We’ve got to have that debate about who gets the economic impact from all of that [fracking]. I hope we get that and I hope it’s an informed debate. Mr Smith welcomed the government’s support for fracking but said “It’s at a local level that you’ve got to have a license to operate.” He said Europe could lose jobs and industry unless it welcomed shale gas and argued there was an “awful lot of disinformation out there”.

21 MPs named for committee stage of the Infrastructure Bill Details here

Disclose climate risk in fossil fuel investment, says UK Minister The Guardian reports that Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, speaking on the side lines of the UN climate negotiations in Lima, has said companies should be required to disclose their investments in fossil fuels. He said investors deserved to know whether their holdings were at risk. “We are seeing a move from carbon capitalism to climate capitalism. We know with climate change we have got to move out to a low-carbon agenda and we are already seeing the signs that the market is going to be helping to drive this,” he said.

US getting rid of oil addiction as price plummets in glut Bloomberg reports on falling oil consumption, despite an economic upturn and falling prices. The website quotes Christopher Knittel, from MIT, who said oil demand and growth in GDP used to go together but now “they’re in some ways almost independent of each other”. Bloomberg says greater fuel efficiency, changing demographics and increases in renewables and biofuels help to explain the fall of 0.3% in oil consumption. Inner city populations, who tend to be younger and not to use cars, grew at more than double the overall rate of US urban areas.

Injection wells in faults could trigger earthquakes, Devon executive chairman says TulsaWorld.com reports that Devon Energy’s Larry Nichols said he doesn’t think fracking causes earthquakes. But he believes that injecting wastewater into existing faults could trigger them. Nichols, who heads the $32bn oil and gas company, said: “There’s no logical way” fracking could cause an earthquake. However, disposing of saltwater into a fault zone could cause an earthquake to happen sooner.”

Fracking companies fail in disclosing risks to investors and communities A report on 30 US major oil and gas companies reveals that many are failing to disclose the risks of fracking, according to Bakken.com The risks assessed include use of toxic chemicals, water consumption, waste management and air emissions. Some, such as BHP Billiton, made improvements on last year’s scores, moving from almost last to top this year. PowerSource report

10th December 2014

Ryedale MP not supporting bill The Gazette and Herald reports that Anne McIntosh will not support the government on its Infrastructure Bill and will try to persuade it to adopt amendments to its clauses on fracking. She tells the paper: “The Conservative Party recognises climate change and global warming and says we should not be relying on fossil fuels as they contribute to global warming. Shale gas is a fossil fuel and I believe we should not be looking to use it. In preference, I would generate energy from waste using our residual household waste and allow local communities to benefit from distance warming through cheap heating and hot water.” Third Energy said: “We are confident that the information in our literature is accurate and is available to provide full briefings to interested organisations”

Complaint over Third Energy brochure The Gazette and Herald also reports that Frack Free Ryedale is making a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about a brochure sent to residents living near the KM8 well in Kirby Misperton, where the company plans to apply for permission to frack. A spokesperson for the group said: “We believe that some sections of the Residents’ Brochure are both inaccurate and misleading, and severely underplay the risks that fracking poses to the water supply, the environment and local communities.

Fracking slammed at Nature Rights Tribunal The Guardian reports on the testimony of people from Oklahoma and North Dakota about the effect of fracking on their lives. They were giving evidence at the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature. The Guardian reports that one said “We’re having a funeral a week… We’re this close to being fracked to death.” Another described how dumped radioactive frack socks were “off the charts on the Geiger counters” and were being found by their children who said “Hey, we’re catching bugs with our nets”. Shannon Biggs, executive director of Movement Rights, described the impact of fracking in North Dakota: “You take land that is beautiful and full of life and vibrant with a dynamic sense of biodiversity, and we turn this landscape with fracking technology into waste land that is poisoned land [with] sick animals and sick human beings.”

Review finds environmental impact and toxicity of fracking biocides still largely unknown A review of more than 200 research papers, led by Colorado State University, finds than nine of the 16 major biocides used in fracking have been reported to have chronic toxicity effects, seven have no evidence of chronic toxicity and three may change into products with toxic potential. The study also found: all the 16 major biocides used in fracking are also used in other industrial processes and products; surface spills are the most likely cause of environmental pollution; little is known about how fracking chemicals change, are absorbed or transported once they are injected into deep formations – so little is known about the type and toxicity of compounds in flowback fluid. Link to report abstract

Anti-fracking High Court action “bankrolled by wind farm millionaire” The conservative news website, Breibart.com, reports that bloggers have “uncovered” a newsletter from Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association which explains that Ecotricity was underwriting costs of the group’s judicial review. See our story from May 29th 2014

Cuadrilla and Centrica sponsor Young Engineers 2015 competition ShaleWorld.com reports that the two companies are providing a £12,000 prize fund to the school that can best inspire teenagers to become the next generation of British engineers. It quotes Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive: “Having seen the talent that is being nurtured in Lancashire’s schools I am confident that our young engineers will rise confidently to address those challenges.”

Politicians go underground to find out about fracking in Somerset The Somerset Guardian reports that Labour, Lib Dem and Green general election candidates joined caver and anti-fracking campaigner Mark Lumley to visit Fairy Cave Quarry and caves to talk about fracking. The Conservative candidate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, declined, describing the trip as a “publicity stunt”. Mr Lumley said: “It’s not about protecting the caves, although I think they should be, it is about what disappears under the Mendips.”

Concerns over water contamination by fracking raised by Bassetlaw MP The Retford Times reports that John Mann MP argued in parliament (during this week’s debate on the Infrastructure Bill) that people opposed to fracking should be able to stop it happening in their local MP. He raised concerns about pollution of the aquifer. “Even the industry have identified this as a problem, pointing to the regulations, safety and its competence in how they have dealt with this elsewhere. We do not want the Bassetlaw aquifer damaged in any way and we need absolute confirmation and commitment that this will not and cannot happen.

Call for council ban on fracking in Fife The Courier reports that Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling on Fife Council to use its local development plan to ban fracking. Frack Off Fife is lobbying the council for a two-week extension to the consultation on the plan. It claims people are unware comments are being sought on unconventional gas extraction.

50,000+ signatures The Courier also reports that a petition against fracking in the Central Belt has so far attracted more than 49,000 signatures and a separate one against coal burning in the Firth of Forth has been signed by more than 2,500 people.

Plant expansions fuelled by shale boom to boost greenhouse gas and toxic emissions Inside Climate News reports that motivated by an abundance of gas at least 120 petrochemical facilities are planned around the US. The resulting CO2 emissions will be equivalent to 28 coal plants, the website says. 34 are planned for Louisiana and 50 in Texas. In these states, 68 projects have been approved to emit up to 65.5 million tonnes a year of CO2 equivalent. 16 more, which would add 31mt, have received draft permits or have applications pending.

Oil price falls below $65 for first time in five years The FT reports that the price of internationally traded oil fell below $65 after Opec lowered forecasts of demand for crude to the lowest level in a decade. The FT says the forecast underlined the looming supply glut facing oil markets amid surging US shale output and weakening global demand. This raises hopes of a boost for consumers but piles further pressure on oil companies.

Duddleston Heath application postponed again Shropshire Council confirms it will not consider Dart Energy’s application to drill at Duddleston Heath near Ellesmere at its planning committee next week. Councillors said they were “minded to reject” the plans for coal bed methane extraction, against the advice of officers, when they last considered the application on October 24th. The decision was postponed until a planning meeting scheduled for December 16th. But the meeting’s agenda, published this week, does not include the application and a council officer says the application will not be heard before Christmas.

9th December 2014

200+ UK campaign groups sign letter to David Cameron calling for a moratorium on fracking Our report  Kent News  Talk Fracking film  Canterbury Times and KentOnline.co.uk

Cuadrilla promotes future shale skills Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, spoke of the need to nurture a skilled workforce for a shale gas industry. Shale Energy Insider reports that Mr Egan told a meeting of 100 representatives of business, local authority and education: “At Cuadrilla we are working very hard on a solution to deliver the natural gas present in the shale beneath our feet here in Lancashire. Supplying cost effective, secure and safe energy for the future is a significant engineering and social challenge”.

Anti-fracking protests step up campaign in South Wales WalesOnline.co.uk reports that campaigners against fracking in the Vale of Glamorgan have a petition calling on Evfil Ltd not to allow Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd not to drill for gas on its land. Coastal has planning permission for the site in Llantrithyd.

Chester anti-fracking protests stage show of solidarity outside court The Chester Chronicle reports about 20 campaigners against fracking were temporarily refused entry to Chester Magistrates Court on Friday December 5th for the hearing of four people charged with trespass and blocking the entrance of the IGas site at Ellesmere Port. The four have pleaded not guilty. Their four-day trial is due to start on March 31st next year.

US shale industry faces endurance test after Opec rejects cuts The FT reports evidence of the impact of Opec’s refusal to cut production is emerging on US producers. On Monday, the FT says ConocoPhillips, the US’s largest exploration and production company, unveiled plans to cut capital spending by about 20 per cent next year to $13.5bn. Last Friday Baker Hughes, the energy services group, said the number of rigs drilling for oil in the Eagle Ford shale of south Texas had fallen by 16 since October to 190. Drillinginfo, a consultancy, published figures showing that the number of permit applications for new wells fell by about 30 per cent in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford areas last month compared with October.

Energy Recovery announces launch of VorTeq for fracking industry Nasdaq reports on the release of the VorTeq hydraulic pumping system. It says this is the first product engineered to increase runtime and reduce maintenance costs by rerouting abrasive frack fluid away from existing hydraulic fracturing pumps.

8th December 2014

MPs warn ministers to improve fracking regulations as Infrastructure Bill gets 2nd reading Our report   Extracts from the debate  Link to Labour amendments

Labour calls for tougher shale gas regulations Business Green reports Labour will table 11 amendments to the Infrastructure Bill in what it calls an attempt to tighten regulations of the UK fracking industry. They will include measures to designed to strengthen protections for National Parks and force shale gas developers to disclose more information on their activities, Business Green says

SNP and Plaid to block fracking bill Scottish Statesman reports that the nine SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs at Westminster will mount a joint attempt to send the Infrastructure Bill back to the House of Lords. They plan to submit an amendment today which declines to give the bill a second reading because of clauses that would allow drilling and the storage of any substance below 300m without the consent of the landowner. SNP Press Release

Frack Free Sussex launches benefit album FFS posts a YouTube trailer for its fund-raising album. The group says more than 100, mostly local, artists have contributed 20 tracks.

Australia’s Northern Territory government looking to release fracking report The chief minister of the Northern Territory government tells the Guardian he received the report of an inquiry into the environmental risks of fracking last week. “I’m still going through the report which is hundreds of pages long,” he said. “The government will look to release the report once it’s been considered by cabinet.”

Use shale proceeds on energy efficiency The Energy and Utilities Alliance calls for revenues from shale gas to spent on a national programme of energy efficiency for homes

A bill is about to throw British green policies into reverse Caroline Lucas, writing in the Guardian’s Comment is Free column, criticises the Infrastructure Bill for emphasising road investment, maximising the recovery of oil and gas and “paving the way” for shale and a new fossil fuel industry.

New study finds decrease in methane emissions from fracking NorthcentralPA.com reports on research by the US Environmental Defense Fund and University of Texas which finds that methane emissions from the upstream portion of the supply chain are 0.38% of production. The study found that pneumatic controllers (devices that use gas pressure to control valves) had emissions that were above the 17% reported by the US government’s Environmental Protection Administration. But emissions from the process of removing liquids from the well bore were slightly below EPA estimates.

Smith Commission: Labour pushes for fracking vote The Scotsman reports that Labour is to push for part of the Smith Commission to be devolved early by asking MPs to vote for handing over controls on fracking. A Labour amendment to the Infrastructure Bill would allow control of shale gas in Scotland to be given to the Scottish Parliament before the next election, the paper says.

Bid to make National Parks safe fracking free zones The Yorkshire Post reports on a Labour amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which would make a “presumption in favour of rejection” for fracking in National Parks.

Imposed fracking fears raised for Inverclyde The Greenock Telegraph reports that local councillors raised concerns about industrial-scale fracking in Inverclyde without public consultation or the right of objection. An SNP motion before the full council is calling on the authority to support the devolution of energy powers to the Scottish government.

Plaid calls for amendments to the Infrastructure Bill to grant the Welsh Government power over fracking in Wales Press release

7th December 2014

UN climate talks call future of energy majors into question The FT reports that major oil and coal mining companies would cease to exist in their current form in 35 years, under measures being considered by UN negotiators considering a legally-binding global climate pact. One proposal at the UN climate talks in Lima this week would phase out these companies by 2050. Another option would allow fossil fuels to be used but only if countries could ensure net zero emissions by 2050.

Labour seeks to tighten UK shale gas rules The FT reports that Labour will try to tighten the regulations governing the extraction of shale gas today, during the second reading of the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons. Some Liberal Democrat MPs and a handful of Tories are also expected to voice concerns about the industry, amid hardening environmental opposition. Labour will put forward a number of amendments to “close key loopholes” in the environmental regulations governing the industry.

Tough stance on fracking in Calderdale Council The Halifax Courtier reports that Calderdale Council passed a motion to “take all possible steps” to protect Calderdale’s environment and people from problems arising from fracking.

Shale gas pipeline developer threatens to seize land The Idaho Statesman, quoting Associated Press, reports that the developer of a $750 million natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania into New York has threatened to seize land from reluctant landowners through eminent domain. A letter obtained by the Albany Times Union tells landowners who have refused to sell rights of way for the Constitution Pipeline that they have until Wednesday (December 10th 2014) to accept offered prices. After that, developers will take them to court to force such sales for possibly less money. The letter was sent from the law firm Saul Ewing, the website says. Project opponents filed a complaint against the letters with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. His office declined comment but confirmed receipt of the complaint.

6th December 2014

Fossil fuel investing a risk to pension funds, says Ed Davey The Telegraph reports a warning by Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, that investing in fossil fuels is becoming increasingly risky because global action to tackle climate change will curb demand, forcing companies to leave unprofitable reserves in the ground. Financial authorities must examine the risks posed by coal, oil and gas companies to prevent pension funds investing in what could become “the sub-prime assets of the future”, Mr Davey said. Mr Davey told the paper: “If pension funds are investing in companies or banks that have on their balance sheets huge amounts of assets in fossil fuels, and those assets don’t give the return that people expect – because of changes in technology where low-carbon becomes cheaper or because of the world having to take action against carbon emissions – one has got to protect those pensioners and those investments.”

Pressure grows for Wales to have the same power to control fracking that Scotland expects to gain Wales Online reports on growing calls for the National Assembly of Wales to have the same control over fracking that the Scottish Parliament is due to gain. The Wales Office is studying the commission’s proposals and aims to present cross-party plans for the further devolution of powers by St David’s Day. A Welsh Government spokesman said: “If onshore oil and gas licensing powers are to be devolved to Scotland, there are no reasons why such powers should also not be devolved to Wales.”

Expert to talk at anti-fracking group meeting The York Press reports that Frack Free York has invited water engineer, Peter Rolinson, to speak about water pollution issues and shale gas extraction. The meeting is at 7.30pm at the Fulford Arms on Thursday December 11th.

Fracking demo planned for Grangemouth INEOS HQ The Linlithgow Gazette reports that Bo’ness Community Council, part of the anti-fracking group Concerned Communities of Falkirk, is planning a protest outside INEOS Grangemouth on Sunday December 7th.

Formation of fracking protest Fife Today reports that an anti-fracking group in the Largo Bay area is starting to form, following a meeting on Thursday December 4th. A further meeting is planned for December 11th. The group aims to change the law in the Scottish Parliament to prevent fracking in Scotland.

Call for fracking debate in Pendle The Burnley Express reports Liberal Democrats on Pendle Council are calling for a study on fracking to initiate a local debate. The party has tabled a motion at the next council meeting on Thursday December 11th. It calls for evidence on the practicability, likelihood and desirability of shale gas exploration and exploitation in the area.

5th December 2014

Balcombe residents’ group loses judicial review into the way West Sussex County Council’s planning committee gave permission to Cuadrilla for flow testing and flaring its exploratory oil well Our story Reaction from West Sussex County Council and Friends of the Earth  and reaction from Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association   Our detailed report on the ruling. Reports by BBC Sussex   ITV News  Brighton Argus   Energy Voice  Littlehampton Gazette

High Court judge rules against camp outside Rathlin’s West Newton drill site in E Yorkshire and awards initial costs of £10,000 Our report

Fracking chemicals could pose risks to reproductive health, say researchers The Guardian reports on a call that people living near fracking operations should be monitored to assess the risk of chemicals to human health. Researchers at University of Missouri, found that many of the 750 chemicals used in high pressure hydraulic fracturing were associated with fertility and developmental problems. While the chemicals have been linked to various health effects, ranging from poor semen quality and endocrine problems to miscarriages and low birth weight, very little is known about the levels of chemicals that people are actually exposed to from fracking operations, making it impossible to assess the real risk, the paper says. Lead researcher, Susan Nagel, said: “We desperately need biomonitoring data from these people. What are people actually exposed to? What are the blood levels of people living in these areas? What are the levels in the workers?” Report by The Ecologist

Fracking fund idea attacked The Lancashire Evening Post reports on heated debates over plans for a shale gas sovereign wealth fund for the north of England. Lancashire campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Helen Rimmer, accused Mr Osborne of putting “powerful interests and big polluters ahead of our health, homes and wellbeing.” She said “People in the North West won’t be fooled by yet another attempt from the Government to buy their support for fracking.” A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We are delighted with George Osborne’s announcement that a new investment fund will be created from shale tax revenues and will be reinvested locally in Lancashire and elsewhere in the north of England.”

4th December 2014

Reaction to government plans for shale industry announced in Autumn Statement Our report

Church of England challenges BP and Shell over global warming The Guardian reports that the Church of England will submit shareholder resolutions calling on the two oil companies – which represent two of the top five investments in its £9bn fund – to take action to adapt their businesses for a low carbon economy. Edward Mason, the head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners for England, said in a blogpost that, as shareholders, the church had a vital opportunity to influence companies’ climate change strategy.

Russia Today favours anti-fracking stories The Spectator reports on how RT is an enthusiastic reporter of almost any protest against fracking anywhere, “reflecting the interest of the Russian state and Gazprom in discouraging competition and keeping energy prices”.

US oil reserves highest since 1975 US proven oil reserves last year rose to their highest level since 1975 the FT reports. It says this is the latest sign of the shale revolution and the 80% rise in US production. The paper says it suggests that higher production can be maintained in the longer term, although falling prices are expected to lead to cutbacks in activity and a slowdown in output growth over the coming months.

Eagle Ford Shale Yields Billionth Barrel ABC News reports estimates from analysts Wood Mackenzie that the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas field in South Texas has yielded its billionth barrel of crude oil, natural gas and condensate last month. The firm said the field accounts for 16% of US daily oil production. More than half the Eagle Ford production comes from 10% of its 20,000 square mile area.

Environmental groups seek to defend Denton fracking ban The Hydraulic Fracking Blog reports that environmental groups, Earthwork and the Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DDAG), have filed a petition to intervene in the state of Texas’s lawsuit challenging the ban on Fracking in Denton. The groups argue that they would have been able to successfully defend the fracking prohibition if the suit had been filed against them. Earthwork and DDAG also contended that they would be prejudiced if the fracking prohibition was found to be invalid.

3rd December 2014

Government announces £5m fund for public information on shale regulations The autumn statement also includes details of a Sovereign Wealth fund for shale and £31m for research centres Our report

New research finds government commitment to shale reduces public confidence in independent and objective decision-making Our report

PetroChina leads $4 billion shale expansion in China’s southwest Bloomberg says PetroChina has joined Sinochem Group and two local state enterprises to form a venture in the south western city of Chongqing. The area holds over 2 trillion cubic meters of exploitable shale gas, the municipal government claims.

2nd December 2014

UKOOG’s Ken Cronin tells a meeting at Westminster that progress of the onshore drilling industry is “glacially slow” Our report

Emails reveal previously unreported structure failure at the only fracked site in the UK Vice News reports calls for a rethink on fracking following the disclosure of emails about increased pressure in the annulus of the Preese Hall well in Lancashire. The website says damage was contained within the well and there was no evidence of methane or fluid leaks. Cuadrilla denies that the emails indicate a loss of wellbore integrity but an HSE spokesperson said increase pressure in the annulus may be interpreted as a well integrity issue. MP Caroline Lucas said: “Ultimately, no amount of monitoring can make fracking safe. The only safe and responsible thing to do with shale gas is to leave it in the ground.”

Crawberry Hill campaigners told to take down tents and move caravans The Hull Daily Mail reports East Riding Council has told campaigners opposed to Rathlin Energy’s drilling site at Crawberry Hill near Beverley that their verge-side camp is a hazard for road users. The council has said it will take further action, including eviction, unless the site is cleared.

Truth is “the first casualty” in the energy and climate debate The Carbon Brief reports on an energy debate organised by the Spectator magazine. It says there were frequent, casual expressions of sceptical views on climate change. It was, the report says as if the world’s governments hadn’t just signed off on a statement saying that global warming was “unequivocal” and that without action warming this century would reach four degrees. Providing more or better information is unlikely to change these sorts of attitude. Yet they mustn’t hold sway if public support and political will on tackling climate change are to win through on the road to the Paris climate talks next year.

What does the oil price crisis mean for fracking? Greenpeace Energy desk examines the effect of falling prices on shale gas and oil. At this point, it says it’s more a political matter than economic. “A low oil price will likely hurt fracking, but it will hurt a lot of other people first”, Energy desk says

Hillary Clinton says fracking carries environmental risks The Guardian reports that possible presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, expresses concern about the environmental costs of fracking in a speech to the League of Conservation Voters dinner in New York. She said: “I know many of us have serious concerns with the risks associated with the rapidly expanding production of natural gas.” She also said: “Methane leaks in the production and transportation of natural gas pose a particularly troubling threat so it is crucial we put in place smart regulations and enforce them – including deciding not to drill when the risks to local communities, landscapes and ecosystems are just too high.”

Shale billionaire Harold Hamm urges calm, after losing $12b in three months Financial Post quotes Harold Hamm as saying US drilling will slow as producers cut back amid falling oil prices. But declining activity won’t be as harmful to the industry as some fear. “Nobody’s going to go out there and drill areas, exploration areas and other areas, at a loss”, he said. “They’ll pull back and won’t drill it until the price recovers. That’s the way it ought to be.”

1st December 2014

Decision dates set for Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking applicationOur report

Lancashire anti-fracking campaigner due to arrive at the European Parliament in Brussels at end of 14-day walk Our report  Blackpool Gazette  Natural Gas Europe

Community fears over Kirby Misperton fracking The York Press reports comments by anti-fracking campaigners that an entire community will feel the impact if Third Energy gets planning permission to frack for shale gas. Opponents say people will be affected by lorry movements, potential pollution of the aquifer and the impact of increase greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. Third Energy tells the paper: “Third Energy is committed to sharing the benefits from our activities with the local community; either directly through increased employment or through the opportunities for local businesses to benefit from supplying goods and services for our operations. Most passers-by are oblivious to the location of our facilities in the area.”

Superglue protest An anti-fracking protestor superglued his hands together around part of a tanker lorry at the Crawberry Hill drilling site near Beverley, the Hull Daily Mail reports.

MP calls for tighter watch on fracking The Blackpool Gazette covers the adjournment debate on fracking (25/11/14), at which Fylde MP Mark Menzies calls for greater regulation of fracking Our report

BG Group cut share package for new chief exec Energy Voice reports that BG has reduced the share award to its new chief executive, Helge Lund, from £10 million to £4.7 million after criticism from shareholders.

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