Call for fracking to begin in UK – but government decision on CCS absurd, says Task Force

Task Force reportThe industry-funded Task Force on Shale Gas has recommended fracking should get underway to establish how much gas there is in the UK.

But its chair, Lord Chris Smith, has criticised the government decision to cancel a £1 billion competition to develop technology for carbon capture and storage and questions the medium-term viability of shale gas without it.

The final report of the Task Force says:

“The government and local communities should make more of an effort to allow initial, exploratory wells to be established in order to be able to make reliable estimates of recoverable gas in place and potential production rates. Without such information operators cannot make the economic decisions that might lead to the development of a viable industry.”

It said shale gas:

  • Would improve UK energy security
  • Would create thousands of jobs (but predictions were based on inadequate data)
  • Be unlikely to reduce gas prices
  • Have an uncertain impact on house prices

CCS decision “absurd”

Lord  Smith

Lord Smith

Lord Smith said the UK needed to do everything it could to create a long-term carbon future.

“We need gas for the short term, of course, but it’s not a long term option particularly not if you don’t have CCS.”

“In the medium term, particularly with the commitments made in Paris, we’re getting into dangerous territory if you abandon CCS.”

“It’s absurd what the Government has decided, because it really sets us back.”

“A serious development of CCS is in our opinion essential for the medium term viability of any significant shale gas industry.”

Lord Smith is the second person this week to link the future of shale gas to CCS. Yesterday, Professor Paul Younger said UK fracking was no longer viable with the cancellation of the CCS competition. Link

The Task Force, launched in September 2014, said its role was to provide an impartial, transparent and evidence-based assessment of the potential risks and benefits of shale gas extraction in the UK. It said operated independently of funders. It has produced three other reports this year on regulation, and environmental and climate change impacts of shale gas.


In the latest report it recommended:

  • A number of exploratory shale gas wells to indicate how the industry might develop
  • Greater clarity on tax arrangements for the industry
  • Operators should outline as soon as possibly how they intend to provide £100,000 of community benefits for exploratory wells.
  • Government and industry should define exactly what is meant by communities when referring to wider community payments
  • Administration of community benefit payments should be independent and not be left to operators or local authorities.

What the Task Force said

Energy security

“It [the Task Force] believes that the development of a shale gas industry in the UK will improve the UK’s energy security, and that this must be seen as a major driver for the development of the industry.”

“The internal European market for gas means that Europe as a whole would benefit from the reduction of UK gas imports and the enhancement of UK energy security.”

UK gas prices

“The impact of a shale gas industry in the UK alone would not be sufficient to reduce prices in Europe. This is because the UK’s shale gas output is likely to be small in comparison to the size of the European market. Similarly, the EU’s combined shale gas industries are unlikely to have a large impact.”


Based on evidence it considered, the Task Force concluded a shale gas industry in the UK would create thousands of jobs. But it said predictions are based on “less than ideal amounts of factual data coupled with intelligent guesswork”

“The development of a shale gas industry would provide substantial employment for the UK. However it will not be possible to ascertain an accurate estimate of the scale of this opportunity until we have a clearer idea of the amount of recoverable gas. For this reason it makes sense for exploratory drilling to begin so that a clearer decision can be made.”

Impact on other industries

The Tasks Force said shale could help the steel and fertiliser industries and it said it was confident the impact on tourism could be mitigated and minimised.

“The current regulatory system, which can make recommendations regarding vehicle movements and hours of operation, which could potentially impact on tourism, is well-suited to perform this function. Beyond this there is no evidence to suggest that shale gas operations should be treated any differently to comparable industrial operations.”

House prices

“The impact on property values of those properties affected by operations is uncertain. In the US any negative impact has been offset through royalty payments to the extent that those properties have actually increased in value. In the UK, both industry and Government must ensure that any community payment scheme directly and appropriately assists those property owners directly affected by shale operations. However, the US experience also shows that after completion of a well pad, property values tend rapidly to recover.”

Community payments

“The Task Force has been struck by the lack of clarity over exactly how payments will be collected, administered and spent, or indeed what the precise definition of ‘community’ is. This lack of clarity, in our opinion, makes it difficult for residents living near to potential shale gas operations to understand precisely how they might benefit.”

Reaction to the Task Force report

Link to Task Force report

1 reply »

  1. The recent report on fracking you link to is an easy read but sadly lacking in substantial evidence to support claims made. I would have preferred seeing around one hundred plus reports referenced to demonstrate comprehensive information gathering.

    A rather disappointing final report. Isolating economic impacts and potential benefits, without referring to other related deficit, from a wider frame of reference as to financial implications and ramifications does little to produce optimism or trust in those writing it.

    I have already written asking them to be clearer about land ownership and mineral rights, as they seem rather uninformed and ill educated about this issue.

    Sad they show little research into the US reports, research and science to feed their own assumptions and conclusions as well, especially relating to seismicity and findings in the US which are still evolving. Geo physiology is a science in its infancy as geophysicists in the US, already alarmed at what impact fracking is having, are finding out. A rather thin if poorly informed reference to this aspect of fracking. Sad really when so much research is already in the public domain in the US.

    Found the suggestion of a university in Blackpool hilarious. What! They are rolling out fracking before they have trained up expertise in it? And to think we were once the envy of all governments with regards to our academic excellence, now we are a Mickey Mouse trainer, on the job, while those who should be paying attention to flaring will be busy talking to students instead……great way to conduct excellence on site! Clearly who ever designed this has never ever taught, and trained up at the same time!

    Still I expect there is a lot of money to change hands to buy a new ”certificates” for sons of wealthy families looking to cash in on the industry.

    As to the forever dumbing down of hazardous accidents and violations of regulations in this country delivered by the current secretive oil and gas and other industries in the UK, that is particular cause for concern and shows how cavalierly they conducted their fact finding and assessment.

    Rather a disappointing tour sadly, though some of the recommendations regarding pre assessment of sites, before drilling was good but they fail to factor in the fact that the EA is currently a shop for selling permits and licences, as is the Water industry, and little information abut impacts on freshwater and agriculture and that life depending upon non pollute supplies. Clearly a lack of due diligence in this regard.

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