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.