Industry

IGas exec predicts fracking in the NW will be “incredibly difficult”

arrests

Arrests at the eviction of the anti-fracking protest camp at IGas’s site at Upton in Cheshire

A senior figure in IGas gave an insight this morning into how the shale gas industry sees communities in different areas across England.

Gary Stringer, the company’s head of sustainability, predicted problems for the industry in the north-west. But he said he could see a way forward in the south and opportunities for discussion in the east midlands.

Speaking at the Shale World conference in London, he said.

“In the north west it’s going to be incredibly difficult. The groups over there are organised, very very effective in terms of the language that they use and to sensationalise absolutely everything.”

He said the industry had a problem dealing with this because it tended to use what he called “engineering and technical speak”. He said:

“We get technical too soon. We try and argue there isn’t a highway problem because it’s only 0.1% but actually, no, there’s a sharp bend and that causes a problem when the kids go to school. It’s getting down to that sort of level.”

IGas describes itself as the largest independent producer of oil and gas onshore in the UK. As well as operations in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, it says it has interests in 38 licences across southern England and the east Midlands.

In contrast to the north-west, Mr Stringer said of the Weald in southern England:

“There is a way forward by just being totally open and honest. Putting yourselves out there.”

He said IGas had six planning applications in the Weald linked to existing sites. He described how the company had organised an exhibition in what he said was a “very affluent village”. “We had the most fantastic response and turn out”, he said.

“We didn’t go with the big consultant boards that we’ve used elsewhere. We had a set of easels and it was a very relaxed environment in this particular venue and that worked.”

But Mr Stringer said that came from having existing operations in an area. It was, he said, much easier if companies already had a presence than going for a greenfield site.

Mr Stringer described the east midlands as slightly different

“We have strong anti-frack pressure groups up there.

“Yet when we have engaged with them – I’ve been to several liaison groups and a couple of actual exhibitions – it’s quite a grown up discussion.”

He said local politicians were prepared to listen. “That was quite refreshing”, he added.

12 replies »

  1. I live in Sussex and I’d be happy to have fracking occur in my area if it is a well designed and well regulated site. In other words my attitude to shale exploration is exactly the same as to any other industrial development.

    By the way Heathfield in East Sussex is actually the historical home of natural gas in the UK with gas being found by accident there and used for many years to light the local railway station, that was in 1896!! Google the local website if you are interested.

    Just to say shale gas is not “unconventional”, there are 350,000 wells in America’s huge backyard which now produce over half of US gas production and has enabled a drop in co2 emissions (contrast with German reliance on filthy brown coal) and gas prices to the US working family which are half those in Europe.

    Lastly just to repeat that it is completely logical that solar and wind generated electricity will need an equal amount of reliable backup to cover periods such as a cold, still night in February when the sun and wind will produce nothing. Please what do you want that back-up to be, gas, coal or nuclear and at what cost, and in what timescale. The only green alternative at the moment seems to be the burning of biomass.

    • Well Mark, after less than 20 words you have just said you would not be happy to have Fracking in your area…as constituted the industry in the UK is certainly not well regulated.

    • Let’s straighten up some of your points. .. drop in cos but massive hike in methane which Is far more dangerous to the ozone. Gas prices falling will not be the case for us as the gas has to go through the European market. Tidal power, that is the answer for a small island like us. Other than that, Yeh, let’s frack :-/

    • You sound very much like an investor Mark. Either that or you are extremely lacking in knowledge. This country’s regulations are severely lacking and when there is contamination there is nothing that can be done about it and people, as well as wildlife, will suffer. Google it Mark and wise up.

    • Unconventional refers to the fact that it has to be fracked to flow, it will not flow without intervention. Conventional gas, you drill a well and the gas flows. It is not about how much gas is produced or how many wells have been drilled. It is about how the gas flows.

    • But Mark, looking at the bigger picture, in terms of climate altering GHG emissions, the world has more natural gas reserves than it can afford to burn, so finding more is just adding to the problem. Also fracked gas is potentially as bad as coal due to fugitive (seeping out from unexpected places) emissions, which the industry rarely factors in. Finally, developments in energy storage are moving on really quickly which means soon we will not need fossil fuel back-up to renewables.

  2. When someone characterises the actions of others as “Grown Up” I think it says something about how they see themselves and what kind of people they are. The phrase is only a couple of words but it is very telling. This is an issue that I explored in my book “Credo” where I tried to understand the mind state, the personalities of the people running the fracking companies. On pages 248 to 250 of my book I explore this idea of what “being grown up” means to a particular kind of person that becomes a technologist and manager. Of course this is a generalisation and not everyone will be the same but it’s a generalisation that Gary Springer’s remark seems to confirm.

    “Meanwhile, as humanity reaches the limits to economic growth, technology becomes more “extreme”.
    More energy is deployed, more violently, on a bigger scale to extract energy and ores that are only
    available at lower and lower grades and thus, require the shifting of more and more rock. Deep sea
    drilling, or fracking for shale gas and oil are examples of a trend to taking on ever greater technological
    challenges with ever bigger risks. But, as we have seen, belief in technology has many of the
    characteristics of a religion. It is an integral part of modern culture. The idea that that human technical
    ingenuity might fail us is a challenge to a faith that few are prepared to contemplate.

    It follows from the strength and intensity of this faith that when, eventually, it does fail, the
    disorientation, the sense of being lost, of being utterly unable to understand what is happening, in large
    parts of the population is likely to be profound. The contraction or crash after the limits to growth will
    not only be a period of economic difficulty or chaos, it will be a cultural or even a quasi-spiritual crisis.

    Another God will have died and the disorientation in the political economic elite will probably be
    greatest of all.

    Economics is a subject that tells us that rational people pursue their individual interests in conditions
    where they are well informed. In this book, I am challenging this idea and trying to create a more
    realistic understanding of people, with all their frailties, and the difficult and uncertain conditions in
    which they act. To conclude this chapter therefore, I want to consider technologists and the companies
    that they run or work for as ordinary human beings operating under conditions of uncertainty and
    conflicts of interest and see how that might give us a different view of current technological and
    economic trends.

    I start with an assertion – it hurts to have one’s professional competence challenged and it hurts even
    more to have to acknowledge that one is in error. I know, because I’ve had things pointed out to me
    that ought to have been in my area of expertise which I did not know. It will hurt even more if other
    people have been damaged by one’s error. In these circumstances, perhaps one’s job and one’s status is
    at stake. When such personal risks are at stake, the ability to service one’s own debts, the ability to pay
    for one’s house and sustain relationships may all be put in jeopardy. The temptation not to acknowledge
    one’s personal errors, or those of one’s company or industry are going to be great in circumstances like
    these. Whole groups of upstanding people make mistakes and then dig themselves into deeper holes
    by elaborate conspiracies to cover up the truth, using their connections to do so. One has only to look
    at the way that large numbers of police contrived to cover up their errors at the Hillsborough Football
    disaster. In 1989, 96 Liverpool football fans died in a crush due to errors in crowd control, and the police
    conspired to direct the blame for this away from themselves onto the football fans.

    There are a variety of collective and individual psychological manoeuvres that make it possible for
    people to live with the injury that they might impose on other people, or have already imposed on other
    people. If we follow the ideas of Adam Smith that moral behaviour comes about when people are able
    to empathise, and can see in another person’s fate what might happen to them, then it is necessary to
    create a distance between oneself and the “other”. To be able to live with what would, otherwise, be the
    worry of putting risks upon other people for one’s own benefit. To see “the other” as an inferior whose
    feelings and needs can be dismissed will help. It will help too to see relationships with people and
    communities in strictly instrumental terms. They are “things” to be managed, technical problems not
    intrinsically different from engineering problems. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger reflected
    upon the philosophical roots of technology and viewed it as a process of conceptually “enframing” our
    understanding of “being”. The mentality ends up “enframing” human beings as just another “standing
    stock”, which are Heidegger’s words for “human resources”, or people conceived only as means to ends.
    (We are here to serve the economy, “cogs in the machine”, rather than the other way round). (Heidegger,
    1950)

    One of the great insights that psychotherapists have uncovered in the 20th century is the way that our
    adult personalities are powerfully influenced by what emotional challenges we face as infants and
    children and the way that we manage these and come to understand them. As a massive generalisation
    we can say that if we are “made to feel small when we are small”, if we are humiliated for our
    vulnerability, this will be reflected in our later adult thinking and behaviour. All the trappings of “being
    grown up”, of being able to exercise the power and influence that as a child one did not have, will be
    extraordinarily important. Getting attention as a child only when one “performed” in the way expected
    by parents may be an unrecognised driver of adult people’s behaviour too.

    These may help us to recognise that the choice of a career path may reflect what has happened in earlier
    life. For small boys who have now grown up, engineering and technology might provide a variety of
    paths where they can immerse their attentions, emotions and energies manipulating complex things
    and abstract processes as an alternative to the bewildering, confusing and frustrating world of people,
    whose unpredictability and emotional responses are the sorts of thing that they had too much of as a
    child. People like this may have highly developed “hard skills” but poor “soft ones”. The hard skills entail
    qualifications and experience with a high level of technical detail and expertise which in effect commit
    them to continue to follow a career in a field that is damaging to human society. Examples would be
    those engineers and ancillary professionals engaged in extracting more fossil fuels who do not deeply
    question the ethical implications of this, for that would entail questioning the purpose of their life.

    From this point of view, the assertion by NGOs, civil society organisations and communities that
    proposed technological developments are a risk to them that they do not want to carry, might be
    considered, on the other hand, an affront to the technological competence of some of the engineers,
    a statement of the anti-scientific and emotional anti rationalism of tree huggers, fools and weirdos.
    The engineers and company managers might feel themselves to be the true grown-ups because they
    know what they are doing… thank you very much… and the people who confront them are just another
    irritating problem to be managed in meetings with other real grown-ups like policemen and politicians.
    From this point of view, one can see why the managers of engineering and technological companies
    might routinely over estimate their own competence and routinely discount the problems and the costs
    of their endeavours.

    Or perhaps not… one of the features of the oil and gas industry for a number of years now has been the
    dawning realisation that the work force is ageing and approaching retirement age. There is a shortage
    of young personnel to replace them – perhaps because young people are smart enough to be able to see
    that it is not in their best interests to join up to a declining industry. On this optimistic view, the current
    enthusiasm for shale gas and mega technologies is the final, yet very destructive, thrashing around
    of a dying industry, promoted by old men who are better off consigned to retirement. Smarter young
    people are trying to pioneer and develop smaller scale and local technologies that are more realistic in
    the times that we live in – the convivial technologies with ethical features that respect and match local
    communities and local ecological systems.

  3. No Mark, we no longer need fossil fuel back up. What is needed is storage facilities for the energy which is created. Fossil fuels are SO last century!!!

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