Shale is energy security opportunity, not a disaster – Minister

AndreaLeadsomThe Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, rebuffed suggestions this morning that there was widespread opposition to fracking around Britain. Instead, she said, it offered the opportunity for a new home-grown energy source.

She was responding in the House of Commons to a question by the Labour MP for Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, whose constituency includes the village of Calow. Last year a planning inspector ruled against a scheme there by Alkane Energy and Seven Star Natural Gas for two exploration wells. (DrillorDrop report)

Dennis SkinnerMr Skinner asked:

“Does the minister accept that there is widespread opposition to fracking in all parts of Britain? Will she congratulate, as I have done, the Calow residents in Bolsover for refusing to allow a drilling operation and getting it stopped, not only by the local authority but by her own inspectorate?”

Mrs Leadsom replied:

“I think it’s quite extraordinary Mr Speaker that honourable members opposite continually talk about the potential for shale gas as if it is some kind of disaster.”

The honourable gentleman himself comes from a very honourable and long-standing mining area. Now mining has a legacy that we will be dealing with for many years to come.”

“The shale industry on the other hand offers the opportunity to really create a new home-grown energy source that is vital for our energy security into the next decades.”

KevinHollinrakeBefore Mr Skinner’s question, the minister answered questions on fracking regulation by Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk Malton.

His constituency includes the village of Kirby Misperton, where Third Energy has applied for permission to frack for shale gas. The constituency has 38 licence blocks for onshore drilling, more than any other constituency.

Mr Hollinrake asked Mrs Leadsom whether a single regulator and more independent monitoring – proposed by the Task Force on Shale Gas – would increase public confidence and give further protection to sensitive areas.

Mrs Leadsom replied:

“The Task Force’s 2015 report says that the regulatory regime is currently fit for purpose but my Honourable Friend rightly points out the proposal that if a shale gas industry does develop the government should consider creating a bespoke regulator.

“And on this I can absolutely assure him we will keep the regulatory regime under review to make sure it remains fit for purpose. On his second point about independent monitoring, I entirely agree with him and that’s why we’re already grant-funding baseline monitoring in North Yorkshire and Lancashire.”

  • More parliamentary discussion on shale gas and onshore drilling coming soon in Fracking Week in Westminster

19 replies »

  1. It’s interesting that Dennis Skinner should take this view about shale.

    Bolsover is hardly an economic powerhouse right now, and could probably benefit from a jobs boost.

    It has a long history with mining, as the Minister noted, but it was also home to Coalite – credited with with helping to reduce the problems of smog with its smokeless solid fuel after the introduction of the Clean Air Act.

    And so, not only is Bolsover forever linked with fossil fuel extraction, but it was also at the forefront of developments that enabled people to continue warming their homes with fossil fuels, but in a more environmentally acceptable way (before natural gas took over in the 1970s and 1980s).

    Why wouldn’t Dennis Skinner want to see Bolsolver being part of the next chapter in the story, utilising shale gas as a cleaner alternative to coal in electricity generation and helping to substitute for higher-emissions LNG?

    The former Coalite site also attempted to be at the vanguard of another environmental improvement, repurposing it’s plant in order to process scrap tyres into a range of products just as the EC Landfill Directive was banning tyres from landfill http://www.edie.net/library/Oil-from-old-tyres/1258

    Unfortunately, it didn’t gain much in the way of political support at the time and eventually went out of business because of the decline in use of solid fuels for home heating.

    • Why wouldn’t Dennis Skinner want to see Bolsolver being part of the next chapter in the story, utilising shale gas as a cleaner alternative to coal in electricity generation and helping to substitute for higher-emissions LNG?
      Because it isn’t.

      • Sorry, are you really trying to claim that burning gas instead of coal to create electricity doesn’t produce less CO2 and air pollutants?

        Or that using massive amounts of energy to liquefy natural gas, before shipping it half way around the world then re-gasifying it on arrival isn’t worse than using gas extracted directly from the ground in the UK?

    • While I recognise your argument about Bolsover’s rich heritage and long-standing involvement with fossil fuels, it side-steps the issue of environmental impact.

      The fracking industry is far more intrusive – not only does it have an adverse affect on the landscape (as did mining), it

      1) pollutes the atmosphere. Un-flared methane is extremely poisonous and also 72% more harmful to the environment than the same amount of smoke from a coal-fired facility.

      2) creates black rain, which destroys crops, plants and surface water, thereby rendering useless any farmland within range.

      3) results in a best-case scenario of 7% well-casing failure. Over a 10 kilometre block there are likely to be 110 wells, making it a likelihood that 8 wells will fail in a 6 mile radius. This results in uncontrolled and unpredictable gas leaks from the ground and into water sources, rendering groundwater unsafe.

      4) has a more unpredictable impact on the geology of an area. Britain’s geology is much more complex than in Pennsylvania or Queensland; more fractured and unstable, and much more prone to earthquakes, as tests have already shown.
      5) leaves a lasting legacy of toxic waste.

      Need I go on…?

      • 1) Agreed – methane pollutes the atmosphere. But it has to get into the atmosphere first. It is worth reading the following article:
        In order to reduce production released methane operators should be made to use hydraulic actuated production valves and air instrumentation. As far as I am aware UK operators no longer use gas actuated valves. Not sure about the 72% more harmful to the environment than an equivalent volume of coal fired exhaust fumes, but perhaps this is correct. However if it is correct, we have a much bigger problem than fracked gas wells with all the methane that is going into the atmosphere naturally over the planet generated from source rocks (shale) but with no geological seal, melting perma frost and marsh gas. And don’t forget cows, a major contributor to atmospheric methane. Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day (or about 26 gallons to about 53 gallons), while others say it’s up to 500 liters (about 132 gallons) a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day. So are you advocating we all become vegetarian and stop drinking milk?
        2) Not sure I understand how methane CH4 can turn into black rain. I did an internet search and the only articles that came up were related to Saturn’s moons and Uranus – including http://www.kidsdiscover.com/quick-reads/raining-diamonds-uranus/
        3) Where does the 7% well casing failure figure come from? And are you sure that all these casing failures result in “uncontrolled and unpredictable gas leaks from the ground and into water sources, rendering groundwater unsafe”. If this data is correct for the UK there will be no shale gas wells permitted to be drilled. Casing failure usually means collapsed casing due to excess pressure on casing annulus, formation salt movement, full casing evacuation and inadequate collapse design, corrosion or drilling wear. None of these scenarios should result in formation gas permeating from reservoir to acquifer via the annulus.
        4) As an engineer I am unable to comment on if our geology is more complex or not than the US or Australia. However I do recall reading not too long ago that there is very little, if any shale gas production in Australia. There may be a single well or field producing in the Cooper Basin part of which is in SW Queensland. Perhaps you mean CBM and not shale gas? CBM has been produced in Queensland since 1996; CBM is generally produced from coal seams which are much shallower than shale gas formations (in the UK).

  2. Minimal typo, do u want typos pointing out? An inadvertent “the” before Kevin. Before Mr Skinner’s question, the minister answered questions on fracking regulation by the Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk Malton. Will forward study link email from Marianne at NTN Loo

  3. The MP’s in favour of fracking don’t care what the general public want. they want to go ahead regardless because they can only see the bigger longer term picture through the eyes of money. I don’t want my home (and by home I mean the wider area in which live and have been brought up in) destroying. Fracking will destroy more jobs that it creates. I find the whole desire for fracking to be quite a psychopathic/sociopathic process, there is no compassion or care for what will be destroyed and a complete lack of learning from past mistakes. Fossil fuel needs to STOP if we are to secure this planet for future generations. We need investment in renewables. We need to clean up our environment, work holistically and preserve nature. Also fracking around and underneath the National Park of the North Yorkshire Moors puts at risk so much diverse countryside, idyllic streams, valleys, moorland, and ancient woodland. To me fracking this area is like defecating in your front room. Its nothing short of vandalism. As an ordinary member of the general public I want to see fracking banned completely from the UK and no amount of persuasion and sugar coating will get me to change my mind. You just KNOW deep inside when something is just plain WRONG. Knowing that fracking may become a reality in the near future completely breaks my heart and I despair for this world.

    • I totally agree with what you have written and I am sure there are plenty more who would say the same. We must protect our children, our homes, our environment and our planet. Renewable energy is the answer in the long term.

      • Renewable energy on its own can’t currently meet all of our needs, and it won’t for decades more yet.

        Surely it’s better to make incremental gains with coal-to-gas switching and renewables being deployed together unless/until renewables can go it alone?

        Even then, however, there will be a lasting role for natural gas as the starting material for manufacturing a wide range of chemicals that we depend on for pharmaceuticals, plastics etc, even when/if it’s no longer used as a fuel.

        • Renewables don’t harm the environment fracking doesn’t that is a fact. This.government has taken away all incentives for renewables so that we become dependent on fossil fuels. Counties like Germany are embracing the new technologies in a big way and their.climate is not unlike our. Why.are they and nearly all the world doing the same in a big way? It makes.sense, our country is so out of step with the.thinking of.the rest of the world on new clean green technologies it’s unbelievable. How we.will ever meet our climate change targets is a mystery. When all the water had gone and the fish are dead, we can’t eat money.

  4. If Andrea Leadsom does not think there is widespread opposition to fracking across the UK, she really should get out more. Kevin Hollinrake acknowledged last year that the majority of his constituents are against fracking, and opposition is growing daily since the announcement that the whole of North Yorkshire, and much of the rest of the north, is now in a fracking area. New anti-fracking groups are springing up all around the country every week support for fracking is at an all-time low (23% according to the DECC Wave survey), all opposition parties are now anti-fracking, and there is still not a single area of the UK that has accepted the bribes offered to allow the industry to set up shop near their towns and villages. No opposition? Gimme a break …
    As for the energy security myth that Mrs Leadsom keeps peddling, it’s interesting that we currently export 25% of the gas produced by the UK – see UKOOG’s own figures on the website below. If energy security is such an urgent priority, why is this allowed to happen? The reason of course is that the UK operates in the European Energy Market, allowing free trade of gas to anyone who wants to buy it. As all the companies are privately owned, they can sell to whoever gives them the best price. The same would be true of fracked gas – there is currently no way that the government can force companies to sell it to the UK. Unless they nationalised the whole industry of course …

    • It’s true that around 24-25% of gas is exported – but it’s not necessarily the case that it’s gas we’ve exracted from UK reserves; some of will be gas that we’ve imported and subsequently exported.

      Sounds crazy at first, I know, but it’s driven by a combination of supply-and-demand and infrastructure constraints.

      At times when gas demand in Britain is low and we have an excess of gas in the system, we export it – whether that’s because we simply have more gas than we can use or store at that particular moment in time, or because demand is higher on the continent.

      It’s not a case that Britain just routinely sells its own gas to the highest bidder whilst importing gas from elsewhere.

      • The UK-Belgium interconnector (IUK): This pipeline runs between Bacton in Norfolk and Zeebrugge in Belgium, and connects Britain to the mainland Europe gas network. This pipeline has an import capacity of 25.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year. It is the only pipeline that is bi-directional, meaning it can both import gas to Britain as well as export gas to mainland Europe. The direction of flow depends on supply and demand and relative prices. There are three other gas pipelines from Europe – these are one way only, into the UK.

    • But surely the more gas reserves we have in UK and are able to competitively produce, the better off we will be – the Government taxes UK produced oil & gas wherever it ends up, and the tax take will increase with increased production, and we will import less LNG from Qatar / gas from Europe. Personally I doubt that shale gas will be able to compete; however we do not know this yet. This is why several exploratory wells need to be drilled and tested to assess reserves and commerciality. It may be that shale gas will not work in the UK at current prices. Posters on this site keep saying how expensive it is to exploit shale gas. If they are correct, it will never happen in the UK.

  5. Fracking in National Parks and AONBs is despicable and totally unnecessary. Amber Rudd lied when she said these would be protected prior to the election. There are now 500 anti-fracking groups in the UK. Even the head of the BGS has said that Britain is too small and densely populated to even contemplate fracking.

  6. mar g – please explain what this LA gas storage methane well control problem has to do with fracking? It is an old oilfield used for gas storage. A utility company injection well has failed. Nothing to do with fracking.

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