Politics

Fracking Week in Parliament – week ending 15 July 2016

Westminster

In this Fracking Week in Politics:

  • Tom Pursglove on British steel and the fracking industry
  • Antoinette Sandbach on protecting protected areas from fracking
  • Graham Evans on threats to Frodsham Marshes
  • Energy and climate change questions, House of Commons
  • Fracking and Brexit
  • Welsh responsibility for oil and gas licensing

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

Energy and Climate Change questions

14 July 2016

Tom Pursglove MPQuestion by Tom Pursglove, Conservative, Corby
As the Minister will know, the Corby steelworks plays a vital role in manufacturing steel tubes which can be used for fracking purposes. Does she agree it is very important that, wherever possible, we use British steel, not just because it supports the industry and the jobs it provides, but because the quality and safety of the product is far superior to that of foreign competitors?

Andrea LeadsomReply by Andrea Leadsom, then Energy and Climate Change Minister, Conservative, South Northamptonshire
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I have had a number of meetings with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss exactly this point. In its 2014 report “Getting ready for UK shale gas” Ernst & Young said there would be significant benefits for jobs and growth from a successful UK shale industry, including a projected need for over £2 billion-worth of steel.

Antoinette SandbachQuestion by Antoinette Sandbach, Conservative, Eddisbury
What steps she is taking to ensure that protected areas remain protected from the development of shale gas.

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
Strong protections for sensitive areas are already provided by the existing regimes. Those regulations ban fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other sensitive areas to a depth of 1,200 metres. In response to our consultation on 28 June, we have confirmed that fracking will not be permitted from wells drilled at the surface of our most valued areas, including sites of special scientific interest.

Question by Antoinette Sandbach
I am grateful for the Minister’s response. Petroleum exploration and development licences have been granted in areas with green-belt and nature conservation status in my constituency. Can she reassure me that her recent announcement about protection from surface drilling will extend to the green belt and sites of special scientific interest?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I can reassure my hon. Friend that the planning process will take into account all issues related to sensitive areas. I can also tell her that fracking will not be permitted from wells drilled at the surface of areas such as national parks, the broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites, sites of special scientific interest, Ramsar sites and Natura 2000 sites.

Graham Evans 1Question by Graham Evans, Conservative, Weaver Vale
On the north side of the River Mersey, Fiddlers Ferry power station has closed down, while on the south side we have the blight of the new wind farm being built. Will my hon. Friend reassure my constituents in Frodsham and Helsby that the scientifically significant Frodsham marshes will not be blighted if fracking goes ahead?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
We have more than 50 years of drilling experience in the UK, as well as one of the best records in the world for economic development alongside protection of the environment. All onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas, are subject to the planning system, which addresses impacts such as traffic movements, noise, working hours and so on. National planning guidance states that any new development must be appropriate for its location and must take into account effects on health, the natural environment and general amenity, as well as any adverse effects from pollution. I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend that his constituency will be protected.

EU referendum debate on energy and environment

12 July 2016

Robert SymsExtract of speech by Robert Syms, Conservative, Poole
The UK Government have to do our best to increase capacity, and that means nuclear power, more gas and fracking. I know a lot of people do not like fracking, but there is a natural resource that we have to make use of.

Geraint DaviesExtract of speech by Geraint Davies, Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West
We run the risk of being fined by big fracking companies. Loan Pine sued Canada for hundreds of millions of dollars when there was a moratorium on fracking in Quebec. I do not want that to happen in Wales, Scotland or elsewhere when companies are given the open door by the new Administration.

I am pleased and honoured to be a member of the Council of Europe. I am a rapporteur on both TTIP and fracking, and I hope that the advice from the thorough reports will be taken up by the Government.

david MowatExtract of speech by David Mowat, Conservative, Warrington South
If the world were to replace all the coal that we currently burn with gas, that would be equivalent to five times, or a factor of 500%, more renewables. To pretend that that is not part of the solution is just plain wrong. One reason that people regard it as not being part of the solution is that the pathway has been mistaken for the objective.

Yes, at some point we need to get to an emissions level below that which is afforded by gas, but the truth is that emissions are cumulative. Geraint Davies said that we may well be close to the 1.5% in terms of particulates and all that goes with them. That is true and it is a cumulative effect. Carbon does not go out of the atmosphere for a very long time. It is not just about pathway. For that reason, gas should have been far more of a factor in this than it has been.

Geraint Davies
On the related matter of where we are, is the hon. Member as concerned as I am about the leakages of methane from fracking, which are 5%, given that methane is 83 times worse than CO2 in global warming?

David Mowatt
I recognise the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. If methane were being released from fracking at that level, it would represent that percentage. However, I do not think that that is the case in the United States of America. I am prepared to be corrected on that, but I do not think anything like that amount of methane is being emitted by fracking in the United States of America.

Geraint Davies
I can provide the hon. Member with satellite evidence of this. The figure is somewhere between 3% and 8%, with the best judgment being that it is 5%. That makes it two and a half times worse than coal in terms of global warming.

David Mowat
I do not accept that that is true, but if it was, it would apply to fracked gas only and not gas generally. Most of our gas is liquefied natural gas from Norway and Russia. That said, various papers have been written on the amount of methane coming out of wells in the United States, and I do not think that the evidence is quite as the hon. Gentleman said. I think we should leave it at that for now, and maybe have a coffee afterwards.

Phil BoswellExtract of speech by Phil Boswell, SNP, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
There have been about 18 legislative changes in the oil and gas sector in the past 15 years. Allied to that, there has been the withdrawal from green initiatives such as the zero-carbon home policy. The green deal home improvement fund was abolished. Solar subsidies have been cut and the onshore wind farm subsidy has been removed. The door has been opened to fracking and a cap for biomass fuel subsidy has been introduced. The UK Green Investment Bank has been privatised, the green tax target on renewable energy investment has been abandoned and green car incentives have been cut. Particularly significant for me, as I worked on one of the projects, was the cancelling of the competition for carbon capture and storage.

Stewart McDonaldStewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South
My hon. Friend is illustrating the sorry place the Government have now taken the country. It is no longer Britannia rules the waves: it is Britannia waives the rules.

Extract of speech by Phil Boswell
The Government have instead put all their eggs in the dual basket of fracking and nuclear energy, neither of which looks to be progressing very smoothly, and that makes achieving the UK’s mandatory climate change targets highly unlikely.

Debate on the Wales Bill

11 July 2016

Hywell WilliamsExtract of speech by Hywell Williams, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Arfon
I welcome clauses 22, 23 and 24, which confer competence on Welsh Ministers in relation to onshore petroleum licensing, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, about which the Welsh people care a great deal. If the people of Wales do not want fracking, our Government should be able to ensure that it does not happen.

Given that the Welsh Government and the National Assembly as a whole voted unanimously against fracking in Wales, I hope that the Secretary of State will work with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that until the Bill is passed, the United Kingdom Government honour that unanimous opposition in Wales and no new licences are issued there.

I hope that, at the end of the debate, either the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary will give some indication that that will be the case.


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5 replies »

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/05/02/why-were-still-so-incredibly-confused-about-methanes-role-in-global-warming/

    Extracts:

    “People are placing too much emphasis on methane,” says Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the paper’s authors. “And really, people should prove that we can actually get the CO2 emissions down first, before worrying about whether we are doing enough to get methane emissions down.”

    “But all of these gases are different — after a pulse of methane is emitted into the atmosphere, half of it is no longer there after 8.3 years, and then only a quarter is left after another 8.3 years, and so on. That’s very different from the behavior of a pulse emission of carbon dioxide, some of which remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years.”

    “But if we don’t get carbon dioxide under control and peak emissions by 2050, the new study suggests, then today’s methane emissions become irrelevant. They simply won’t be causing warming any longer. But a significant amount of the carbon dioxide we emit today will still be in the atmosphere.”

    “This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cut methane emissions – there remain many other reasons for doing so, including climate-related ones. For instance, if gas drilling operations in the U.S. cut down on accidental releases of methane then they will have more natural gas to sell in electricity markets — and if that natural gas displaces coal, overall carbon dioxide emissions will go down.”

    So fugitive methane emissions may not be so bad after all?

    • But I thought all of the protesters and their friends are experts in all the fields they are protest against from climate change to noise and traffic risks to interpretation od demonstrated rights and rules of law. Was that why they take matter into their own hand by blocking road and trespassing because they think everyone else don’t know jack and they are right.

  2. It is extremely worrying how lacking in knowledge about fracking many of these MPs are. With regard to methane – all the scientific reports I have seen state that methane is very serious in terms of climate change because although the “life” of methane is shorter than CO2 – the global warming potential is so much worse. One scientist going against the scientific flow does not reassure me. Rather like Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, who despite being a meteorologist is a climate change denier. I prefer to go with the consensus of scientific opinion – and that is unequivocally that methane is a significant problem to the planet.

    • Hi KT – I think you will find that most scientists agree with Raymond Pierrehumbert. Of course anti everything groups like FOE, Greenpeace etc. will not.

      More for you here:

      From: HOLLINRAKE, Kevin [mailto:kevin.hollinrake.mp@parliament.uk]
      Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2016 10:59 AM
      To: HOLLINRAKE, Kevin
      Subject: Climate Change Committee report on shale gas

      I promised to update you with any news on shale gas exploration. You may have recently read the Climate Change Committee report on shale gas that provides a detailed independent assessment of its compatibility with our commitments to tackle climate change https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CCC-Compatibility-of-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-UK-carbon-budgets.pdf Their assessment is that exploiting shale gas by fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with UK climate targets unless three tests are met:

      Test 1: “Well development, production and decommissioning emissions must be strictly limited. Emissions must be tightly regulated and closely monitored in order to ensure rapid action to address leaks.”

      The Environment Agency, which is responsible for monitoring and mitigating risk associated with this kind of gas drilling, has undertaken extensive work and studies on the issue of methane leaking into the atmosphere as a result of gas extraction. Oil and gas operators must minimise the release of gases as a condition of their licence from the Government. Operators have to submit detailed plans on how they will minimise waste gases, including methane, and the Environment Agency carries out spot-checks and unannounced inspections to ensure that companies are complying with their plans.

      Minimising waste gases can include controlling emissions by using ‘green completions’, which is equipment that collects and separates the gas from the frack fluid, so that it can be handled separately. Green completions can reduce methane emissions by as much as 95 per cent compared to venting.

      Test 2: “Consumption – gas consumption must remain in line with carbon budgets requirements. UK unabated fossil energy consumption must be reduced over time within levels we have previously advised to be consistent with the carbon budgets. This means that UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption.”

      With North Sea production declining, there is considerable room for shale gas to replace imported gas. In its UK Future Energy Scenarios report, National Grid stated this week that the UK could be importing 93% of its gas by 2040. The report also points out that the cheapest way to create low-carbon hydrogen is from gas with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), and I fully support efforts to develop this technology.

      Test 3: “Accommodating shale gas production emissions within carbon budgets. Additional production emissions from shale gas wells will need to be offset through reductions elsewhere in the UK economy, such that the overall effort to reduce emissions is sufficient to meet carbon budgets.”

      The report states that with a high level of shale gas production, fugitive methane emissions would be around 11 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per annum in 2030. This is around 3% of the average annual allowance in the Fifth Carbon Budget period (the Fifth Carbon Budget recommends a level of 1,765 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent for 2028-32, an average of 353 million tonnes a year). The Government has confirmed its commitment to meeting the Fifth Carbon Budget, and at up to 3% of the total, shale gas emissions can be accommodated.

      It should also be stressed that emission from UK production of shale gas are included within the carbon budgets, whereas emissions from the production and transportation of imported gas are not. Therefore, shale gas does not add to the UK’s overall carbon footprint – indeed the report confirms that lifecycle emissions from shale gas are slightly lower than from imported LNG.

      I will continue to press the government to make sure that shale gas exploration meets our climate change obligations. If it is clear that exploration cannot be carried out whilst staying inside acceptable environmental limits then I will call for a moratorium.

      Kind regards

      Kevin Hollinrake MP
      Member of Parliament, Thirsk & Malton Constituency
      House of Commons
      London
      SW1A 0AA
      02072 194 746

    • The concensus is fracking is safe with the current regulations and rules. And the planning recommendations is safe with current rules which are set by concensus of group of experts in their field. Would you accept it?

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