Live news as it happens at the 11th of the inquiry at Blackpool Football Club into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans for the Fylde area of Lancashire. Check our Inquiry page for more information, posts and links.
Estelle Dehon, barrister for Friends of the Earth, begins her case with questions to its climate change witness, Professor Kevin Anderson (left), deputy head of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester. Professor Anderson will be cross-examined by Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven. The inquiry will also hear from FoE’s waste witness, Alan Watson.
The inquiry resumes on Wednesday at 10am with Friends of the Earth’s health witness, Mr David McCoy.
In response to questions from the Inspector, Wendy McKay, Alan Watson said most treatment centres did not deal with radioactive waste because it would contaminate the sludge. He explained that greater volumes of onsite waste would lead to greater risks of spillage. The more pipework you had, the greater the risk of failure, he said.
Ms McKay asked whether an operator could predict whether the flowback would be quick. Mr Watson said it depended on the geology and drilling processes and was hard to predict.
Cuadrilla claims onsite treatment not possible
Ms Lieven put it Mr Watson said it was in Cuadrilla’s interests to treat as much waste onsite as possible. Mr Watson said the decision would come down to economics.
Ms Lieven said there was no legally permitted technology that would allow onsite treatment.
Mr Watson said there was no best practice reference note for onsite water treatment, which may be why Cuadrilla had claimed this. But he said the Environment Agency had approved a draft permit for Third Energy at its Kirby Misperton site which included onsite electro-coagulation treatment.
Mr Watson said Cuadrilla was proposing to remove sand onsite. “It has to be wrong to say there is no legally approved technology”, he said.
Ms Lieven asked whether there was onsite treatment technology to remove radioactive waste (NORM). Mr Watson said the fluid could be reinjected so it was not classed as waste.
Ms Lieven said she would leave it there.
Dispute over flowback data
Ms Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said the Environment Statement estimated five two-way HGV movements during initial flow tests. Mr Watson disagreed with the traffic estimates because Cuadrilla’s waste management plan had predicted four times the volume of flow back fluid than the ES. He said “We should have consistency of data between the two regimes”.
Ms Lieven dismissed the discrepancy as a typing error and said the ES figure was correct. Mr Watson said it was not a typing error and a competent company should have picked it up in its revisions.
Ms Lieven said even if Cuadrilla had been 100% wrong in its waste figures that would still only result in 10 two-way HGV movements, she said. Mr Watson replied:
“That might not make a big difference for you in London but if you are a horse rider on these rural roads, that can make a huge difference to your quality of life.”
Ms Lieven said there were already HGV movements on the roads around Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.
Ms Lieven asked if Cuadrilla could reduce flowback volumes. Mr Watson said it could not be stopped. But reducing flow back would result in longer periods of flowback over time and that would extend the duration of the project.
Ms Lieven put weekly flowback figures to Mr Watson. He said there was no information from Cuadrilla about how the figures had been calculated and the assumptions that had been made. Mr Watson added:
“The fact that they had not published this speaks volumes to me about the confidence they have in the data.”
He accused the company and the Environment Agency of shooting itself in the foot.
“The environmental permit process is supposed to be a participative process that members of the public and NGOs can check and validate the data.”
“This has prevented the public and NGOs participating in the process by keeping the speculative figures out of the public domain.”
Mr Watson had said flowback data from Preese Hall might be a more useful predictor for Preston New Road than data from wells in the US.
Ms Lieven put it him that a near vertical well would flow back greater volumes than a horizontal well.
Mr Watson said this was true in the short-term. He said horizontal wells initially flowed back more slowly but the total fluid could be the same or greater and the flowback was more contaminated because it has a longer contact with the ground.
Who is responsible for waste?
Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, asked Alan Watson about two planning guidance documents. Paragraph 122 of the National Planning Policy Framework requires planning authorities to assume other regulators will do their jobs effectively. Paragraph 112 of Planning Policy Guidance Minerals mentions flowback fluid as an issue for the Environment Agency.
Ms Lieven said the only responsibility planning authorities had on flowback was storage and traffic. Alan Watson, waste witness for Friends of the Earth, disagreed. He said flowback affected strategic waste disposal centres.
Ms Lieven then turned to the environmental waste permit granted by the Environment Agency for the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites.
The permit application said 10-40% of the injected fluid would be predicted to return, Ms Lieven said, and the EA considered this to be accurate.
Mr Watson said this figure was for the proportion of volume returned between fracturing stages. The EA did not say anything about total flowback volumes or the returns from the flow test, he said. The EA knew the difference between fracking and flow test flowback, he said.
Ms Lieven said the 40% was the maximum proportion of flowback. Mr Watson said neither EA or Cuadrilla had given a figure for maximum flowback volumes.He said in the waste management plan, which was part of the permit, the company had said all the expected fluid could return. The total volume of flow back could be greater than the volume of injected fluid, he said.
Ms Lieven turned to the EA’s summary of responses to the permit consultation. There had been comments about a lack of treatment capacity. The EA had considered issues of capacity, Ms Lieven said. Mr Watson said he had challenged the EA on this and it had not considered the availability of capacity, which was different from capacity.
Ms Lieven said the EA had concluded that if there wasn’t capacity the operation would have to stop. Mr Watson agreed but he said that didn’t deal with the landuse issues from a lack capacity. Ms Lieven said the risk lay with the operator. Mr Watson said the risk lay with all of us. “We all bear the costs”, he said, “which is a planning issue”. He said:
“If you tie up all the capacity with one operation that has landuse implications. There is no getting round that”.
Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla would have to stop work if it reached a cap on waste production. Mr Watson said there would be seismicity implications if it had to stop work. He said DECC had ruled specifically that local authorities should scrutinise waste treatment capacity so that problems would not arise.
Ms Lieven said the advice from DECC predated the Planning Practice Guidance on minerals. Mr Watson said DECC had not updated its advise or withdrawn the guidance.
Ms Lieven said if there were a shortage of capacity for off-site treatment, Cuadrilla would have to stop work. Further off-site treatment capacity would come forward.
Mr Watson said the fracking experience at Preese Hall had shown that waste remained on site for a long time. He said stopping work could extend the period of planning permission and increase traffic from the site.
The inquiry takes a break until 2pm
Is waste a planning issue?
Cuadrilla had argued that waste issues should not be considered by the public inquiry because they had been dealt with by the Environment Agency when granting the environmental permits for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
Alan Watson, who has been giving evidence on the capacity of treatment works to deal with waste from the sites, said:
“All the evidence I am giving is relating to land use planning. Nothing I am saying challenges the Environment Agency to make assessments on technical issues.”
“All these issues relate to either landuse implications by transport or indirect planning implications, such as strategic facilities.”
He said the Department of Energy and Climate Change had emphasised the need for planning authorities to ensure there were no issues with waste treatment capacity. Mr Watson added that the Environment Agency had no remit to consider the traffic implications of waste treatment.
Mr Watson added:
“Even if you were promoting shale gas you would not take up all the treatment capacity with one exploratory rig. You would treat the waste on-site and leave the strategic capacity for other industrial users.”
“To tie up such a high proportion of the strategic infrastructure on one exploratory well has got to be a landuse planning issues. It is unacceptable.”
Cuadrilla “between a rock and a hard place” on flowback
Alan Watson, for Friends of the Earth, said Cuadrilla could regulate flowback volumes but it was “between a rock and hard place”. He said:
“Anything thing that reduces rapid flowback increases the risks of seismicity and compromises fluid by leaving it in the ground longer.”
“Any more NORM (radioactive material) in flowback means it could exceed treatment capacity.”
He said Cuadrilla was “bumping along the bottom” on its work in reducing waste. It was planning to strip out sand onsite but had no plans to reduce contaminants.
Best practice aimed to do more onsite waste treatment to reduce traffic movements, Mr Watson said.
“Cuadrilla haven’t done this at all.”
“High flowback would threaten viability of projects”
Alan Watson, for Friends of the Earth, said Cuadrilla relied on data from its well at Preese Hall for analysis of flowback fluid.
But he said the company was trying to distance itself from the Preese Hall data on flowback volumes. Emails between Cuadrilla and the Environment Agency showed that flowback rates at Preese Hall reached 70%, much higher than those predicted for Preston New Road (about 40%).
“The flowback rate at Preese Hall is unprecedented. It is the only data we have. It presents Cuadrilla with a problem for treatment and goes to the viability of this application”.
Mr Watson said Cuadrilla had compared Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood with rates in the US. He said the company should use sensible analogues and not try to compare the new sites with US shales with much lower flowback rates.
Big discrepancy in flowback figures, inquiry hears
Mr Watson said Cuadrilla’s Environmental Statement (ES) estimated flowback would be 21,250 cubic metres for each site but the waste management plan estimated 22,000 cubic metres of flowback per well.
Mr Watson said some of the flowback could be reused but not all of it.
“You end up with 22,000 cu m per well for the flowtest, a total of 88,000 per pad and dramatically more than the figures given in the ES of 21,250 for the site.”
“The difference that makes is profound. This has been assessed by the Environment Agency and had not been picked out as a mistake. It is included in the environmental permit. But there is no assessment in the ES for producing the increased volumes or the increased traffic.”
Mr Watson said there would be greater difficulty of coordinating the sites. It would be much more likely to exceed on-site storage capacity. The UK treatment capacity had been assessed on the much lower figures. There would be a huge under-capacity in available treatment capacity, he said.
Capacity at proposed treatment centres
Alan Watson, for Friends of the Earth, said there were two issues about the proposed treatment sites at Stoke and Leeds: the volume of waste generated and the capacity of radioactive waste (NORM) they could handle.
The Environmental Statement did not give details of the range of contamination levels of waste from the sites, Mr Watson said. That is a particular concern for the treatment centres.
The level of radioactivity in the waste is likely to exceed the concentration in the permit for a proposed treatment centre at Stoke.
The other site, the Knostrop facility in Leeds, had a limit on the concentration of lead in the waste it took. If waste was at the higher end of the scale, then it would exceed the lead limit for the Knostrop site, Mr Watson said. Other waste customers were already using part of the capacity at Knostrop so capacity could be exceeded by the Cuadrilla waste. This would be mean that site would not be available for the radioactive waste.
If this happened, Mr Watson said the waste generated by the site could not be disposed of. He said it would start to build up on the sites and it would require more storage than is currently provided.
If more flowback were generated than predicted there would be higher numbers of traffic movements, Mr Watson said.
Operations on the sites would have to be stopped, prejudicing the close coordination between the sites which is essential to allow treatment of the flowback. This would then extend the length of operations. Mr Watson said:
“You would end up with more traffic movements to service the storage, more visual impacts, the possibility of exceeding the bunded area of the site, creating greater risks to surface and ground water.”
UK Treatment capacity
Alan Watson, waste witness for Friends of the Earth, said Cuadrilla had estimated the two sites would need variously 65%-68% of the “sub-regional” treatment capacity but it did not define what it meant by “sub-regional”.
The company had identified treatment facilities in northern England but named them only as sites A and B for commercial reasons, he said.
Mr Watson referred to a parliamentary answer which said three facilities in Stoke on Trent, Leeds and Middlesbrough were capable of handling NORM from fracking sites.
None of those facilities are in the sub-regional level, Mr Watson said.
It is a little worrying that the evidence is not born out by the facts, he said. Cuadrilla had suggested that the impact would be significantly lower than in reality.
Mr Watson said he identified the sites named by Cuadrilla A and B as the Castle Environmental facility in Stoke-on-Trent and the FCC Environment site at Knostrop in Leed. Stoke was a much smaller site, he said, so Cuadrilla would have to rely on the Knostop site in Leeds for most of its waste disposal.
Flow back fluids
Mr Watson said flow back fluids came back to the surface in large volumes. High volume hydraulic fracturing generated more flowback than conventional oil and gas developments. The Naturally Occuring Radioactive Materials (NORM) needed to be treated at specialist, strategically-important, treatment works.
The cumulative effects of the proposals at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood would use 68% of the identified treatment capacity. Cuadrilla had identified two sites but not named them or given details about the permitting arrangements. This was unhelpful in deciding the application, Mr Watson said.
Mr Watson said 75% of injected fluid had flowed back at Preese hall, compared with 40% predicted for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. An email between the Environment Agency and Cuadrilla had redacted the volume of flowback fluid at Preese Hall and this was not available to the inquiry.
Minimising the impacts of waste would require unprecedented coordination of the two sites. A contingency of storing waste on site would have landuse planning implications and a variation of the environmental permits, Mr Watson said.
Estelle Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, introduces her witness Alan Watson, an engineer, specialising on waste issues and planning.
Asked about Wytch Farm compared with the proposed sites. Professor Anderson said it was not a fair comparison. He couldn’t say how often the Lancashire wells would need to be stimulated but it would be more frequent than Wytch Farm.
The inspector, Wendy McKay, asked about policies that could achieve emissions reductions.Professor Anderson said there were a range that should be considered but they could include personal carbon accounts.
Ms McKay asked Professor Anderson about the role of opposition and the implications for costs. Professor Anderson said:
“Certain developments give rise to public concern. The way the public opposes something has an impact.From a practical point of view, thinking about shale, if you are going to have a patchwork of industrial plants across the UK, you will experience significant opposition. That will add additional costs. Opposition itself has a cost on security of supply.”
Ms McKay also asked about the status of the Paris Agreement. Professor Anderson said it was a legally-binding commitment but he didn’t know how it would be enforced.
Ms Dehon asked Professor Anderson about the government statement, which said shale gas should be developed in a “safe, sustainable and timely” manner.
Professor Anderson said sustainable had to take account of climate change commitments, which meant shale gas had to be developed before 2030, when gas had to be phased out.
Ms Dehon asked whether Professor Anderson would support alternative forms of gas extraction. Professor Anderson said Cuadrilla’s estimated emissions included flaring and transport. For other techniques, he would need to look at the source and level of emissions.
Ms Dehon asked about the exploration for conventional gas. Professor Anderson replied:
“Within a very tight carbon budget, what would be the purpose of that project? If there were lower emissions, you have to say what is the purpose of using those very scare resources. I am technology independent, I am interested in the emissions and the purpose of the project.”
Professor says he would not support shale gas applications in the UK: the maths don’t add up
Professor Anderson said there was a statement by the Prime Minister from the Paris Conference that could be used to apply to planning. He said:
“It would be strange to me think it would be appropriate to focus on a document from the past [the ministerial statement], given the importance of the Paris Agreement”.
Professor Anderson said the Prime Minister was passionate in his statement from the Paris Conference about the need to keep to the 2 degrees of warming. The latest science would interpret that statement to develop the best form of energy generation.
Ms Lieven asked Professor Anderson whether the government had made any statements about Paris could be applied to planning. He said he was not aware of any.
Ms Lieven asked if there were any circumstances that he could support shale gas. Professor replied:
If you were not to renege on domestic and international climate change agreements then I could not support shale gas because the maths don’t add up.
If you were to renege on the agreements then there were a range of new options, including coal, becomes available.
Ms Lieven asked Are there any applications for shale gas you would support in the UK
Professor Anderson replied: “Not in the UK”
“Foolhardy” to develop shale gas for a five year window
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, put it to Professor Anderson that the ministerial statement by Amber Rudd represented the current ministerial position on planning decisions for exploring for shale gas.
Professor Anderson said he was not a planner and could not respond to that.
Ms Lieven said the statement said it should be taken into account in planning decisions.
Professor Anderson said the Paris Agreement should also have some impact on planning decisions.
Ms Lieven said the ministerial statement applied to exploring for shale gas. Professor said it also applied to developing.
Ms Lieven referred to the section of the statement which said securing supplies of natural gas, including shale gas, for years to come was a key requirement for the UK to successfully transition to a low carbon economy. This is the government’s position, she said.
Professor Anderson agreed, adding:
“‘Gas for years to come’ means up to 2030. By 2030, the emissions from electricity generation must be just 100g per kilowatt hour or less.”
“Once we get to 2030 we need to rapidly ramp off gas for electricity generation”.
On the timing of the bridge to a low carbon future, Professor Anderson said.
“The bridge needs to come to an end by 2030. The important point is the time frame. The bridge comes to an end by 2030.”
Cuadrilla had said shale gas would get going by 2025. Professor Anderson said:
“You would have five years where shale gas would have a role. Is it appropriate to develop an industry with a five year life-span?”
“Given the bridge finishes at 2030, shale gas would have no role to play after that. There would be a five-year window – it would be foolhardy to develop it for that time frame”.
Ms Lieven asked if the statement had referred to a date. Professor Anderson said the minister was aware of the research and had chosen not put a date on it.
Amber Rudd’s statement
Estelle Dehon, barrister for Friends of the Earth, referred to the statement by Amber Rudd, which supported the shale gas industry.
Professor Anderson said since the statement, the UK had signed up to the Paris Agreement.
“I take the Prime Minister at his word and the agreement as it stands and translate that into what it means for energy generation.”
“I am defending the government’s position. I think it is very important that we stand by our commitments”.
“Cuadrilla under-estimated methane emissions”
Professor Anderson said there were many issues with the production of methane. There are an array of potential sources of methane that could be very significant. But scientists are still trying to understand the mechanism and quantify the volumes, he said.
The estimate in Cuadrilla’s environmental statement (ES) was inevitably conservative and an under-estimate, he said.
The International Panel of Climate Change and increased the relative importance of methane to global warming from 24 tp 34, Professor Anderson said. The ES had used the lower figure.
Cost of electricity generation
Professor Anderson talked about the long-term costs of electricity generation. He said over the long-term, onshore wind power looks more attractive than fossil fuel generated electricity, which needed to buy the fuel every year.
Wytch Farm “not a good comparison for shale gas”
Professor Anderson said Wytch Farm was a conventional production facility , which does not need “ongoing industrial intervention”.
It is a well-contained site, with a bund and tree planting, he said. It is a stand-alone and leave-alone. It is a different form of production to shale gas. It is not a good comparison, he said.
“They are two very different industrial projects.”
“Energy security should not be a driver for shale gas”
Professor Anderson said the Government’s scrapping of Carbon Capture and Storage and the cuts to subsidies for low energy technologies had changed the policy landscape.
Estelle Dehon, barrister for Friends of the Earth, asked Professor Anderson about security of supply. He said the key issue was the security of energy services we rely. We are not interested in the security of supply, he said.
If we are seriously concerned about security of supply services, the most cost-effective way to do this would be to reduce demand. This is often missed, he said. We always concentrate on supply, rather than demand.
Energy security should not be a significant driver for a shale gas industry, Professor Anderson said
Emissions for exploration alone “irresponsible use of carbon budget”
Cuadrilla estimated the shale gas projects would generate 118,000-124,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 5-9% of Lancashire’s carbon budget and 0.007-0.01% of total UK emissions for each year of the project.
Whether considered regionally or nationally, the emissions remain very high,he said. He criticised the allocation of 120,000 tonnes from the schemes to a non-productive project.
Professor Anderson said:
“If we are not to breach the 5th carbon budget or the Paris Agreement, we cannot have any further development of fossil fuel sources within the UK”
Professor Anderson said the flaring of the gas made the proposed projects were particularly carbon intensive.
“Emissions of between 118,000 and 124,000 for exploration for its own sake is an irresponsible use of the UK carbon constrained budget. It is equivalent to 18 months of car travel in the Fylde.”
“Only if this project would result in a full-scale shale industry could the emissions be justified, but only if the industry could operate within the constraints of 2 degrees of warming.”
“A shale gas industry has been shown to be incompatible with the UK’s last two carbon budgets”
The role of gas as a bridge fuel
Professor Anderson said gas emissions in electricity generation could not be reconciled with the UKs existing carbon budget, he said.
Under existing carbon budgets,he said, gas can only have a marginal and declining role in energy generation post 2030.
Professor Anderson referred to a report by the UK Energy Research Centre published this week on the role of gas a bridge to a low carbon future. He said the UK was well across the bridge and that post 2030 we would need to be getting off the other side of the bridge, coming off gas, as a transition to a low-carbon future.
He said the report was based on the 4th carbon budget and did not take into account the Paris Agreement. The 5th carbon budget and Paris Agreement would make the carbon account more stringent and the need to get of the bridge more quickly, he said.
Will coal be replaced or displaced by shale?
Professor Anderson said the government’s decision to phase out coal power by 2025 meant there would be no substitution post 2025 of coal by shale gas. In the interim there can be substitution of coal by natural gas, he said. Post 2025 there will be no coal to be substituted by shale gas.
The coal that the UK imports will be used elsewhere in the world. Climate change doesn’t mind where the carbon is burned, he said.
Professor Anderson said: “If we start to use gas in the UK and not use the coal, some of it will be available on the world market and some of that coal will be burned elsewhere.”
From a climate change perspective you have to look at a global level, he said. Ihe UK was well across the bridge and that post 2030 we would need to be getting off the other side of the bridge, coming off gas, as a transition to a low-carbon future.
Is shale gas “lower carbon”?
Estelle Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, asked Professor Anderson, about a 2011 document that Professor Anderson had co-written. This concluded:
Shale gas, subject to best practice and combusted in combined cyclic gas turbine power stations will deliver power at lower emissions than is possible from coal-fired generations.
We were considering shale gas produced with the understanding at the time of best practice extraction from the US, he said, and burned in the best power stations we would have. It would still be high but lower than coal-fired power stations.
We are learning a lot about the geology of shale, he said. Since 2011 there have been other issues raised about the production of shale gas and fracking and whether that will release additional methane above those we were aware of in 2011.
It will take some years before we understand fully, he said, but his colleagues had reservations that shale gas will deliver lower emissions than coal.
“Erroneous to regard any fossil fuel as low carbon”
Professor Anderson told the inquiry:
“It is erroneous to regard any fossil fuel as low carbon. Natural gas is almost identical in climate change terms as shale gas. Both are 75% carbon by mass and emit large amounts of co2 when burned.”
Estelle Dehon, barrister for Friends of the Earth, asked Professor Anderson about a report by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change about low carbon technology. On the basis of this document, Ms Dehon asked whether the committee considered gas to be a low carbon technology. Professor Anderston replied:
“Gas is not considered to be a low carbon technology.”
He said a low carbon economy referred not just to energy generation but to other industries. A zero carbon economy was not feasible because there would always be a significant volume of greenhouse gases from food production.
To meet the 2 degrees target on warming required a zero carbon energy system, not low carbon energy, Professor Anderson said.
Low carbon energy was defined by the committee as 100g of CO2 per kilowat hour. The previous target was 50g of CO2. Natural gas produced 400-450g of CO2, so four times higher than average target for all electricity generation from 2030. Coal was even higher.
Without a doubt, shale gas is not low carbon energy.
Professor Anderson added:
100g is not low carbon. It is the point you have go through at 2030. This has to be reduced continuously. By 2050, I would say before that, it would have to be lower than 100g
Kevin Anderson introduction
Professor Anderson said he worked before becoming an academic as an engineer in the oil and gas industry in the North sea. He has co-authored reports on the climate impacts of shale and unconventional gas.
The inquiry heard that Professor Anderson was commissioned by Nature to review the Paris Climate Agreement. He is giving evidence to the inquiry for free and not as a representative of the University of Manchester.