Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 22nd January 2016

WestminsterIn this Fracking Week in Westminster

In a debate on The Energy Bill, MPs discussed:

  • Methane emissions and meeting carbon targets
  • Local decisions on fracking planning applications
  • The Scottish moratorium
  • Falling oil prices and the viability of shale gas

Also: the impact of fracking on the steel industry, answers on water demand for fracking (including the golf course analogue, again) and ensuring shale gas is a substitute for imports.

Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

Debate on the Energy bill

18th January 2016

Geraint DaviesExtract of speech by Geraint Davies, Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West
Does the Secretary of State accept that the reason we have the massive deflation in oil prices, other than Saudi over-consumption, is fracking? The latest evidence shows that 5% of methane from fracking goes into the atmosphere, and methane is 83% worse than carbon dioxide in effecting climate change. Will she therefore hold negotiations with the United States about reducing this methane emission and put the brakes on fracking, so that we can actually lift the price of oil and have a more sustainable future?

Amber RuddExtract of speech by Amber Rudd, Energy and Climate Change Secretary
I make two points to the hon. Gentleman. First, the reasons for the fall in the oil price are multiple and complex. I will not analyse them here now, but there is not, as he suggests, just one cause. Secondly, the US has considerably reduced its emissions because of fracking, which of course we welcome.

Any oil and gas demand that we do not meet ourselves through domestic production has to be met by imports, at significant extra cost to the economy. Industry and government share the same ambitions and are working closely together to manage the remaining resources effectively and efficiently. As we progressively decarbonise our economy, we will continue to need oil and gas for many decades to come. It is far better that the jobs and revenue are in the UK, offsetting imports where we can. Maximising economic recovery from the UK continental shelf must be part of a balanced plan for a diverse and progressively lower-carbon mix.

LisaNandyExtract from speech by Lisa Nandy, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary
We very much support the right of local communities to decide, but we do not understand why the Government do not. The real-time actions they are taking in this Bill will, in effect, block wind farms where there is strong local support for them. Moreover, the Government are taking exactly the opposite approach to fracking applications and seeking to deny local communities the right to decide what happens in their areas.

The key thing is that we take communities with us. We have to go to local communities and make the case for how we create jobs, provide energy stability, cut bills and take action on global warming. If we do not take communities with us, we will not do any of that. That is why, I say to Government Members, it is completely hypocritical to argue one thing in respect of wind farms and precisely the opposite when it comes to fracking applications.

PeterLilleyExtract from speech by Peter Lilley, Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden
It is amazing to me that the SNP can abort two potentially valuable industries in Scotland—underground coal gasification and fracking—which might have provided alternative jobs for the people in his constituency, and I hope he will look closely at that.

Wherever we are on the spectrum on global warming, from sceptical to alarmist, we can surely all agree on one thing: that we should try to achieve the targets to which we are committed for reducing CO2 at the least cost to our constituents, because it is ultimately they who bear it either through their budgets or their jobs.

JulianSturdyExtract from speech by Julian Sturdy, Conservative, York Outer
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend; it is very important that this is community-led. There are places where there will be community support for onshore wind, and that must be seen through. I would go one step further—this is probably where I disagree with Ministers—because I think that the same should apply to fracking as well.

Jonathan ReynoldsExtract from speech by Jonathan Reynolds, Labour/Co-operative, Stalybridge and Hyde
It is hypocritical to have one set of provisions for renewable energy and a completely separate set of provisions for fracking: if one set is good for one sector, it has to apply to all of them. That is the kind of inconsistency or incoherence that many people find frustrating.

Oliver DowdenExtract from speech by Oliver Dowden, Conservative, Hertsmere
Many of the most beautiful parts of this country have been defiled by ghastly, ugly, enormous wind farms that nobody has consented to. [Interruption.] Opposition Members mention fracking from a sedentary position. A fracking station tends to be a small building and most of the work is done underground. The ghastly great wind farms are often dozens of feet high and block the landscape for miles around. It is not a sensible comparison.

James CartlidgeExtract from speech by James Cartlidge, Conservative, South Suffolk
Members, including Lisa Nandy, asked this question: if communities have a say in onshore wind, why should the same not apply to fracking? I see the point they make, but that planning currently rests with the minerals planning authority of the higher authority—in Lancashire, that meant Lancashire County Council. As a result of the time that it is taking, I understand that the decision will eventually go to the Secretary of State.

My position is that fracking is clearly incredibly controversial. The point is that, because of some of the stuff coming out in the media—warnings of terrible things that could happen—I do not see how a district council in that climate would ever approve a fracking application, and yet that industry potential offers so much. We at least have to give it a go. Indeed, shale production could create up to 74,000 jobs, many in areas of high unemployment. It has to be said that it is easier for the MP for South Suffolk to support it—east Anglia apparently has no shale deposits—but we have to recognise the different context. Renewables is a developed industry and shale has not got going. We have exploratory drilling but no commercial drilling. We at least need to give it a chance to get commercial drilling going to see what impact it has in reality, so that we can get away from some of the hysteria and examine the potential. It could be a vital economic resource for this country.

Extract from speech by Lisa Nandy
I am sorry to detain the hon. Gentleman on this matter, but is he really arguing—I cannot honestly believe he is—that, because fracking is incredibly controversial, communities should be denied a voice? Surely that is a reason why communities should be given a say.

Extract from speech by James Cartlidge
That is the point I am making. If there is a lot of hysteria about a sector, it can be very difficult to achieve a rational, objective decision. Let us not forget that the whole point of planning applications is that they must be considered in a semi-judicial and balanced fashion. That might not be possible—that is just a statement of fact—and yet, strategically, we need that industry. That is my view. I know it is divisive and that not all hon. Members share that view. As I have said, if I were an MP in Lancashire and had the problems that some of my hon. Friends have had, it would be difficult to cope with that pressure, but there is no doubt that shale has huge strategic potential.

SimonHoareExtract from speech by Simon Hoare, Conservative, North Dorset
Does my hon. Friend share my view that, with the plummeting price of oil and while the oil price is as low as it is, there is no way that the OPEC countries will allow another country to develop a commercial fracking enterprise, and therefore that the costs associated with the planning process, land acquisition and so on will not present a sufficient dividend on the investment to support a UK fracking sector?

Extract from speech by James Cartlidge
That is a very interesting question and I am not sure I am qualified to comment. I saw in some of the City commentaries today the first predictions of US shale production falling in response to the price and predictions that they will go lower.

JamesHeappeyExtract from speech by James Heappey, Conservative, Wells
Be that as it may—US shale production might be about to fall—but the US has not yet started to export what it has. When it does, it will undoubtedly have a big impact on the liquefied natural gas markets both in Europe and the Far East.

There is an inconsistency, however, whereby the localism that we advocate so strongly for wind turbines is not being extended to fracking and gasification, so I hope there might be some scope for incorporating that.

None the less, I think that our push for a fracking industry may be premature, given that there is already a surfeit of liquefied natural gas on the European and Asian markets. A significant amount is also being stored in the United States, which is awaiting the opportunity to export it, and that will serve the European market further. Moreover, the Iranian rapprochement gives an opportunity for even more oil and gas to flow.

JamesStuartExtract from speech by Graham Stuart, Conservative, Beverley and Holderness
How does my hon. Friend square his argument? He is in favour of maximising returns from the North sea but cannot see the same argument for maximising gas on land, to keep money here and avoid handing it to a foreign regime.

Extract from speech by James Heappey
I square it simply by having a profound concern for how the industry might affect the areas in which it is sited. Some areas will have a geology and a community that support it, and that is for them to determine, but my plea is that Ministers extend to fracking the same localism as we advocate so strongly for wind.

Westminster Hall debate on UK steel industry

21st January 2016.

TomBlenkinsopExtract of speech by Tom Blenkinsop, Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
There is a global, geopolitical war going on between oil and shale gas, as well as the onstream effects of renewables. They have forced down the price of oil, which has been a key factor for steel, whether that is in procuring contracts or gaining work, particularly at Hartlepool or Corby, where tubes are made.

There is a mismatch, in that the new markets developing for potential steel contracts and the R and D that could be invested in them differ very much from the steel sites that already exist. If we are looking at the new future for a tube site, it is more than likely going to be non-conventional onshore or offshore gas. The industry —we will be talking about this next week in a separate debate—requires a different type of tube, which is non-welded. There are no non-welded tube sites in Britain. At some governmental level, there has to be liaison with industry to find out what new industries are coming and to ask whether we are investing and helping those industries or potential suppliers to put in the new factories that will supply the product they require to develop that market.

In the Chancellor’s autumn statement we heard that an announcement to the stock exchange had been made about the withdrawal of the last £1 billion to support carbon capture and storage. That is integral to any future of shale or non-conventional gas. In a world in which oil has fallen below $30 a barrel and the world market will retrench and retain fossil fuels for the current period, CCS should, in many ways—mainly because of the emissions targets that we are all now signed up to—precede renewables as the step for any nation to take to develop its power generation if, indeed, that country is going to buy in cheap fossil fuels while shale, oil and conventional gas all fight one another for customers. That is a massive opportunity for the steel sector to take hold of

AndrewPercyExtract of speech by Andrew Percy, Conservative, Brigg and Goole
An important issue raised by Angela Smith at the steel summit was our position on the future of fracking and whether it provides a market for the steel industry, as it has in the United States. I am somewhat in two minds about fracking, not least because there are eight potential sites in my constituency at the moment. We need to get a grip on that industry and make a decision on where we are policy-wise.

Written Energy Questions

21st January 2016

MichelleDonelanQuestion by Michelle Donelan, Conservative, Chippenham
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what estimate her Department has made of how much fresh water will be used during each exploratory fracking operation.

AndreaLeadsomReply by Andrea Leadsom, Energy and Climate Change Minister
The volume of water used will depend on the site, but estimates suggest that the amount needed to operate a fracked well for a decade may be equivalent to the amount needed to water a golf course for a month, or the amount needed to run a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant for 12 hours.

In order to carry out hydraulic fracturing activities, an operator is required to seek an abstraction permit from the Environment Agency if more than 20 cubic metres per day of water is to be abstracted from surface or groundwater bodies. If water is instead sourced from a mains supply, the water company will need to ensure it can still meet the conditions of the abstraction permit that it will already be operating under. Whichever source an operator chooses to use, a thorough assessment will be made considering the existing water users’ needs and the environmental impact before permission is granted.

The Infrastructure Act 2015 states that the Secretary of State will only be able to issue hydraulic fracturing consent if satisfied that planning authorities have consulted the relevant water company.

Question by Michelle Donelan
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what information her Department holds on (a) how much methane gas an average shale gas drilling site releases into the atmosphere and (b) what technology reduces the amount of methane gas so released.

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The Department for Energy and Climate Change has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

19th January 2016

Question by Michelle Donelan
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what proportion of (a) known available oil and gas reserves and (b) reserves estimated to be found as a result of fracking she plans to be left unexploited.

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The Department for Energy and Climate Change has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

18th January 2016

Huw Irranca-DaviesQuestion by Huw Irranca-Davies, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, if she will ensure that any exploitation of shale gas in the UK is (a) a substitute for, and not in addition to, imported gas and (b) does not lead to an increase in carbon emissions.

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The shale gas resources beneath Britain have the potential to bolster our energy security and add new sources of home-grown supply to our real diversity of imports.

We are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and natural gas, the cleanest of fossil fuels, will help us in meeting that target. Reports[1] have shown that the carbon footprint of electricity from UK produced shale gas would likely be significantly less than coal and also lower than imported Liquefied Natural Gas.

This will be especially significant as we displace energy generation from high carbon fuels as coal.

[1] Mackay-Stone report (requested by DECC), Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas Extraction and Use, Sept 2013.

Business of the House of Commons

21st January 2016

Chris BryantExtract from a statement by Chris Bryant, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
We have seen a dramatic increase in the use of statutory instruments since this Government came to power. They are now churning out 3,043 a year, compared with 1,891 a year under Labour. That is a 60% increase. And they are on more important matters: fracking in national parks, slashing working tax credits and cutting support for poorer students. Surely it is wrong to limit the powers of the Lords in relation to statutory instruments, when 3,000 such measures are being pushed through the Commons on unamendable motions every year.

 DrillOrDrop has a daily digest of news, updated as it happens. Link here

2 replies »

  1. What a pity they didn’t discuss the fact that as a man produced EQ rolled out coinciding with the exact longitude and latitude of the North Sea oil drill station, coincided with the death of sperm wales dredged up on the coast at Skegness…..still as long as someone makes a fast buck in the corridors of power, and can blame anyone except those responsible for the deaths of protected Orca species and Sperm Wales and other aquatic life, how great they look discussing everything else but their complicity in killing off sea life wholesale……………….

    All grandchildren need to be given a record of who is in charge now, who is profiting from killing precious rare aquatic species so their heirs and descendants can be sued by future generations…my fully recorded evidence has for a long time been registered across the globe…………………

    PEDL, read ruddy ridiculous pedalling till we get found out……and to think PEDL regs no enforcement get out of jail free for the landed rich rats, feeds the fracking roll out where all land waters will deliver the same result….what evil people run this country, it beggars belief

    • Evidence please. As far as I know there are no oil fields off Skegness. There are some gas fields. Are these producing earthquakes? If so why are they not continuous / being recorded?

      The data on:


      Does not show an earthquake off Skegness in the period when the whales beached. It is possible that submarine activity (sonar) or seismic surveying may have played a part but your earthquake does not appear to have happened. Very few of recent earthquakes are offshore.

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