Shale companies won’t try to frack on the edge of villages, says Energy Minister

Andrea LeadsomThe Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, suggested today that shale gas companies would not apply to frack in sensitive areas, such as the edge of villages.

Speaking to a new parliamentary group on shale gas regulation, she also argued that the planning system would protect the landscape from thousands of frack pads. And she said the Government planned to announce soon how it would prevent fracking from the surface of National Parks.

Mrs Leadsom told the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Shale Gas Regulation about the criteria she thought companies would use when looking for fracking sites:

“Number one: don’t bother with a national park – we are consulting on not allowing that anyway and we hope to make that announcement very soon.”

“Number two: don’t bother with sensitive sites, you know, right on the edge of a village that you won’t get through planning anyway.”

“Number three: make it as concentrated on each frack pad as you can – so you have 10 boreholes on one frack pad. Don’t have one there and one over there two miles away because that adds to the cost.”

The minister said:

“Developers are business people. They are not there to destroy the environment. They are not there to upset the community.”

Mrs Leadsom’s appearance at the meeting came as North Yorkshire County Council announced that a shale planning application by Third Energy would be considered on 20 May 2016. The company wants to frack, test and possibly produce gas from an existing well less than a mile from homes in Kirby Misperton and Little Barugh.

The minister said there had been “so much misinformation” about shale gas and fracking and “a whole kind of mania about the world’s going to end”.

She added:

“Then the issue is are you going to have sort of 3,000 frack pads and the answer is no. The planning system would ensure – where that impacted on visual amenity and didn’t make sense because of the cumulative impact – that would be a perfectly legitimate planning reason to disallow further frack pads.

“The planning regime as it exists today would absolutely prevent massive cumulative impact.”

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11 replies »

  1. What does Ms Leadsom consider the edge of a village – Third Energy have a site that is, I believe, only half a mile from a village and the traffic will pass through the centre of the village. By her account surely that makes it a sensitive site? So will Third Energy have their application rejected by the local planning authority?

  2. “Then the issue is are you going to have sort of 3,000 frack pads and the answer is no.
    Expect it’s more like 4,000 – sort of!!!!
    She seriously has no idea what’s she’s talking about.

    • Of course she knows what she’s talking about; she has a degree in Political Science (see, it’s got ‘Science’ in the title) coupled with 25 years in the Banking and Finance industry. So oodles of experience in the energy business, which she appears to have omitted from her biography.

  3. So why all the applications for test drilling on the edge of villages. I know of several (including one less than 200m from our village) that are extremely close. Don’t believe much that comes out of any of the blue team.

  4. Ms. Leadsom’s comments remind me of those of the Chancellor’s father-in-law, Lord Howell, when he remarked that his conclusions, based on the advice of “just about all the expertise in the planet on shale oil and gas and fracking issues” (Journal of Energy Security. May 12, 2014) was that fracking should start in Britain “in carefully selected and remote (derelict) areas” such as “the north east, the north west and all the places where the Industrial revolution has left the worst historical scars”. Here, apparently, “they have the gas and they have the local wish to see fracking investment”. This expertise argues that “it is a waste of time and money trying to engage with and bribe rural communities that do not want it” (ie. fracking)”. Elsewhere in the article, Howell opines:”Every time Ministers open their mouths to claim that fracking must start everywhere around Britain…..they lose thousands of Tory votes.” “Villages and their environs where homes are worth a million will be unimpressed by £100k offers, and by assurances that ‘only’ two years of heavy truck traffic will disturb them. ……even after installation the thump of compressors can be sensed up to two miles away, as well as the whiff of diesel from the compressor pump engines.”
    “Developers are business people. They are not there to destroy the environment. They are not there to upset the community.” Indeed, Ms. Leadsom. They are in this case there to make money, and if the community is to be upset, the environment destroyed, then these are unfortunate side effects not to be allowed to impede progress towards the greater goal.
    Ms. Leadsom further discerns ““a whole kind of mania about the world’s going to end”. I must have missed something, but I do have serious concerns about whether Ms. Leadsom is up to the job. This kind of hyperbole is at variance with the sober accounts I have read of the dangers posed by the continuing exploitation of fossil fuels to the planet. Is she sceptical about climate change?
    “The planning regime as it exists today would absolutely prevent massive cumulative impact.” But isn’t she in favour of by-passing local authority controls if discerning the democratic will takes longer than Tory dogma believes reasonable? Would she not like to simplify the planning process – even if not right now, (Single fracking regulator rejected – for now!) – to promote what the government believes to be the national need? What kind of Tory is she anyway. Surely not a rebel?

    • The feedback I got from two people who were at the meeting, both very competent and professional, and working in the industry with prior experience in Government, was that the Minister is definitely “up to the job”. She was clearly very well briefed, understands all the issues, and spoke fluently about the subject and various issues. The transcript of the meeting will be published so we can all see it rather than the odd extract on blogs like this. Climate change is not the issue here, everyone agrees we need to continue with gas, perhaps increase gas usage if renewables increase and nuclear stalls further. The issue is do we use gas from UK or increase imports from overseas. Assuming planning permission is granted for some sites, it will then be a question of economics, which gas is lower cost – this is what we will use.

      I believe she also addressed the issue of a single independent regulator – this will be looked at once it is determined there is a viable shale gas industry in England. One fracked well to date and a few sites in planning do not make a “viable shale gas industry”.

      Anyone on this board at the meeting last Wednesday (other than I assume Ruth)? It would be interesting to get some additional feedback.

  5. Mrs Leadsom says “don’t bother with sensitive sites, you know right on the edge of a village that you won’t get planning through anyway”.
    Seems she’s unaware of Cuadrilla’s recent applications in Lancashire. Their Roseacre Wood site is less than 1km from the village of Roseacre and just across a field from some homes and their Preston New Road site is 100m, yes that’s right 100m from a personal friend’s house.
    Of course Mrs Leadsom said”you won’t get planning through anyway”. Cuadrilla didn’t. Lancashire County Councillors refused both sites. But guess what! Cuadrilla and the Government are bad losers and are having none of that local democracy nonsense. Following the six week Public Inquiry the final decision is to be taken by that ‘localism’ Secretary of State, Greg Clark. The same Greg Clark who is a member of the Conservative Government who is going ‘all out for shale’. The same Greg Clark who, along with Amber Rudd and Liz Truss sent a letter last July, following LCC’s refusal of Cuadrilla’s plans, to George Osborne setting out their plans for getting the public onside with the aim of having full scale fracking within 10 years. Nice to know Greg’s impartial.


  6. Shale gas is quite simply the best fossil fuel partner for renewables such as solar and wind. It is absolutely obvious that renewables are an intermittent source and will need a back up for cold evenings in February, for example, when we have a high pressure system, freezing weather and no wind or solar power, but massive demand for power even in reasonably well insulated homes. 85% of homes are heated by natural gas, please what will replace that…practical suggestions for the next 20-40 years needed. Note that today even there are significant reductions in gas supply from Norway due to supply outages.. we have no control of this input. Anyone who thinks the shortfall next winter could be covered by batteries, tidal power or hydro, etc is living in cloud cookoo land. The forecast from the National Grid is that electricity capacity margins will be dangerously low next winter. If the La Nina weather system effects us and we have an unusually cold winter there could be significant power cuts, first in industry, but potentially in domestic supply. Already 3000 people die each winter from cold homes, so the potential for massive loss of life due to premature changes in UK energy policy is very real. THIS IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. Please we need to think about covering the next 20-40 years while at the same time building a sustainable, low carbon energy supply at a cost which doesn’t drive the working person into energy poverty.

    • We already know the answer. It’s cheaper to continue to import.
      It’s also better for the general public as they have not given consent to Frack in and around their communities.
      Continuing reports from Australia, Japan and America advise us the Shale Gas industry is dead in the water. It is a dangerous process and throughout a wells life cycle there are countless risks of damage and contamination. Regulation is the management of damage and how much we are prepared to live with.
      I have yet to read of one community around the world that does not regret having the shale industry as a good neighbour.
      Please find me one.

      • If it is cheaper to import then thats what we will do. But you do not know this, nor does anyone else yet. The only way to determine the delivered cost of any gas is to drill and test exploration / appraisal wells and establish recoverable reserves. Then plug these numbers in the economic model which includes all the CAPEX, OPEX, well costs, infrastructure costs, hassle costs etc. Costs of shale gas and associated products for other countries are not an indicator for the UK. Only then can a proper cost comparison vs imports be made.

        Why are you all so frightened of a few exploration wells if you are so sure it is cheaper to import? Why are INEOS importing shale gas products to Norway when the same product is available in Norway and Europe? How is the US able to export liquified shale gas overseas if it is more expensive than “conventional” gas / LNG from Norway / Qatar / Russia / Indonesia / Australia / Oman ……..

        And different areas of UK will have different costs. The test data from Cuadrilla’s well indicates high productivity and low costs.

      • Julie, I didn’t think there was any shale gas production in Japan? Japanese companies have or had very large interests in US and now Saudi shale gas but I don’t think they have shale gas production in Japan? There is a small amount of shale oil production in Japan. Of course Japan is the biggest importer of LNG in the world and will no doubt be importing shale gas if it is not already. It is the second largest importer of coal (behind China).

        If there is a shale gas industry in Australia it is very small and only starting up. They do have a large CBM industry which is very different to shale gas.

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