Complaints to advertising watchdog over INEOS fracking supplement


A local newspaper supplement about shale gas in the East Midlands has attracted three formal complaints to the advertising watchdog.

One complainant listed 40 statements which he said were a breach of the advertising code.

The eight-page supplement, paid for by INEOS Shale, appeared in 10 newspapers owned by Johnston Press last week. DrillOrDrop report

Titled FRACKING What everyone should know, the pull-out said it was time to “set the record straight” about shale gas.

But according to the complainants, some statements in the supplement were misleading, exaggerated, unsubstantiated or subjective.

A spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told DrillOrDrop today:

“I can confirm that we’ve received complaints about the newspaper ad (8 page insert) by INEOS. The three complaints we’ve received came in on Friday and over the weekend and the nature of the complaints appear to challenge whether various claims in the ad are misleading.

“At this stage, we can’t comment beyond confirming receipt of complaints and that we’ll assess them to establish whether there are grounds for an investigation.”

A spokesperson for INEOS said:

“We are confident about the contents of the supplement and will provide the ASA with any assistance they require should they require it.”

One complaint was by John Hobson, who opposes fracking on the Refracktion website and regularly contributes to DrillOrDrop. He has  posted online his full complaint, which runs to 12 pages and covers 40 statements.

He argued that INEOS had presented subjective, unsubstantiated or exaggerated opinion as fact.

His complaints include:

  • INEOS ignored the issue of fugitive methane emissions when arguing that gas was less damaging to the climate than coal and oil
  • INEOS said incorrectly that fracking did not cause tremors that damaged property
  • INEOS suggested incorrectly that shale gas would reduce energy costs and without this heavy industry would cease to exist

On the final point, Mr Hobson said:

“Firstly, even representatives from the industry itself agree that UK fracking will not reduce gas prices. Secondly it is absurd to claim that heavy industry will simply disappear if we don’t frack in the UK as gas is readily and plentifully available at prices below that at which UK shale could be produced.”

The ASA and fracking

The ASA has dealt with complaints from both sides of the debate about fracking.

Refracktion made a complaint to the ASA about a brochure published by the shale gas company, Cuadrilla in 2013. Of the 18 issues raised in the complaint, six were upheld, one upheld in part and 11 were not upheld Ruling.

A year later, the ASA upheld all six issues in a complaint by a Balcombe resident to a pro-shale gas advert in the Telegraph paid for by the American company, Breitling Energy Corporation Ruling.

In 2015, the ASA upheld a complaint by Lord Lipsey about an anti-fracking advert by Greenpeace. But in 2016, the ruling was reversed when the organisation appealed to the ASA’s independent assessor Ruling. A complaint against Third Energy was also not upheld Ruling.

Earlier this month, Friends of the Earth agreed not to repeat claims it made in a leaflet about the effects of fracking. This followed an informal resolution of two complaints, including one from Cuadrilla. DrillOrDrop report on the arguments in this case.

A further five complaints against anti-fracking groups have been informally resolved between May 2013 and February 2016.

Making the case for and against fracking

The two sides in the fracking debate in the East Midlands are making their case in the same Derbyshire village tomorrow (Tuesday 31 January 2017).

INEOS has an exhibition about its proposed shale exploration site in Marsh Lane, south of Sheffield. An alternative exhibition, by opponents of the plans, will be held nearby.

DrillOrDrop will be reported from both events.


INEOS exhibition, 2pm-8pm, Green Lawns Community Centre, 8 Warren Walk, Marsh Lane, Derbyshire S21 5RX. Details

Alternative exhibition by opponents: The truth about fracking, 2pm-8pm, Marsh Lane Community Centre, Main Road, Marsh Lane S21 5RH. Details



36 replies »

    • I really cannot see any basis for a complaint. Ineos have used the IOD report, AMEC, RAE, Royal Society BGS and other reliable independent reports. Using reports from anti frack groups mean they will have no chance. The first thing the ASA will do is to only look at 3 or 4 complaints anyway. They dont do big numbers anymore.

      The key points of earthquake risk (and there is some risk, but its minor) will be easily dismissed. The Fox Creek incidents would appear to be unique to the geology, as they are non existent in the US.

      Fugitive emissions is another dead end as its been looked at by Mackay and Stone and the poor practice in the US is not permitted here.

      Ineos will hope to make money on this deal and that means gas must be cheaper than imports. I am sure they will have done their sums! As major users of gas they have a big interest in that.

      • The IPCC estimates fugitive emissions at 1-3%. That would include a lot of older wells, where emissions tend to be a bit higher. So, with a fleet of wells that use current technology, the UK could expect minimal fugitive emissions of methane. Good luck to all!

        • Really? Perhaps you’d better let the ASA know that Peeny says fugitive methane emissions are not a problem – that should get Ineos off the hook 🙂

      • “Using reports from anti frack groups mean they will have no chance.”

        Who has used reports from anti-fracking groups Ken?

        Most of my complaints were simple – many of the 40 were noted because Ineos stated opinions and presented them as facts, or drew conclusions hat were not supported by any evidence – like their ridiculous assertion that without UK shale gas “heavy industry ..will cease to exist in the UK” which is patently obviously twaddle.

        As to your “The first thing the ASA will do is to only look at 3 or 4 complaints anyway.” – well that’s why I listed the 4 most egregious complaints first, before providing the complete list demonstrate the extent of Ineos’s, how can I
        put it politely, “carelessness” 🙂

        I’m amused that you seem to think the Fox Creek quakes are unique – have you not heard of the Preese Hall fracking induced tremors then Ken? Are you not aware of Prof Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology – British Geological Survey’s observation that “What you have to be able to do when you decide you want to hydraulic fracture is make sure there are no faults in the area. That’s really very very important”. Maybe you are not aware that the Fylde / Bowland Shale is a faulted area? I mean there must be some reason for that comment

        I doubt you can write off the divided scientific opinion on fugitive emissions with your usual mantra of “It’s all been looked at and it’s perfectly safe” – the ASA certainly won’t allow that as a reason for presenting subjective opinion as fact I’m afraid, but then you’ll know that as you have tried to get a ruling out of them on more occasions than I can remember.

        How much IS the imported price of Natural Gas ken, and what papers can you point us to that suggest UK fracking will be cheaper? I’m afraid “Ineos will hope to make money on this deal and that means gas must be cheaper than imports” is what logical folk call a “non-sequitur”

      • Biggest issue in that Doc is the use of the word reserves. “We have huge reserves in the UK right under our feet”. No. There are no reserves of shale gas whatsoever in the UK. Reserves must be proven and must be commercially viable. Ineos should know this and not add to confusion between resources and reserves. This is done deliberately by Oil and Gas industry to make it seem like the N Sea reserves (Which are proven) are comparable to the Shale Gas Resources (totally un proven).
        Secondly they talk about shale gas and then using shale gas in their operations in Grangemouth. They will use Ethane and possibly Butane in the petrochemical works. Ineos openly talks about shipping Ethane from US @ 400million investment in a shipping fleet. BUT.. Ethane is not natural gas, nor is it classified as a gas – it is classified as a Natural gas liquid and priced accordingly. Ineos are being disingenuous at best.

    • Wacky Refracky, I hope your batting average improves a bit with this complaint. The one versus Cuadrilla, where you were so “successful” was a disaster! You went something like 5 for 14, right? You couldn’t get a job anywhere with that kind of track record. Best of luck!

      • As is pointed out in the article above, 6 + 1 upheld in part – shall we say 7 Peeny? I’m quite happy with that, but I know how much it must sting that your side has yet to get the ASA to make a single ruling so I’ll forgive you your apparent inability to read Ruth’s articles before posting [edited by moderator] underneath them. Keep it up – if you are the best they’ve got then it’s all over for them!

  1. Why are Ineos importing fracked gas NOW from US if it is not cheaper, and more secure, than gas available from other sources??

    To do so, they had to build a fleet of ships, at vast cost. I suspect their costings will be real, not speculation. Can’t see the point of making that sort of complaint when the other party has factual information, have invested £hundred of millions based on those facts, and employs large numbers of people in UK because they are able to make the economics work.

    As I have stated before, ASA are independent and any complaint from either side will be looked into. However, if a complaint is made and NOT upheld it will simply add oxygen to the other sides argument. I suspect Ineos have already achieved what they wanted from this publication.

    • Are ASA worth the tax paid into their coffers to pay their salaries? Who cares what ASA spins any more they are increasingly an irrelevance.

    • “Why are Ineos importing fracked gas NOW from US if it is not cheaper, and more secure, than gas available from other sources???

      Good question (if we allow the equation of ethane with methane) which rather reinforces the point that if shale gas extraction costs are as high as expected in the UK then you can suspect and speculate all you want – it still won’t make UK fracking economically viable. Let’s have some extraction cost estimates per therm which contradict those already provided by Centrica shall we? I await them with interest….

      And if the “other party” has “factual information” it’s a great shame that they seem to have failed to deploy it isn’t it?

  2. Happily not many people buy Johnston press any more due to the asset stripping it engaged in many years ago, running once excellent news outlets into government friendly mouthpieces blagging on about whatever the government policy was.
    Most Yorkshire J P online were pro fracking as well as the news hard copy being pro fracking with little to no coverage of the protests and campaigns rolling out across the country. Hardly surprising that Cuakilla and its ilk can curry favour with shareholders of the group who tell editors what to publish….sad times….or not….fake news is big business, but the regional press will suffer even more if they don’t stop being paid to be mouthpieces for scurrilous industrial environmental vandals and profiteers.

    Thank goodness for social media…………………………..

  3. “I really cannot see”, “I am sure they will have done their sums”, “I suspect their costings will be real”, “the other party has factual information”, “I suspect INEOS have already achieved what they wanted from this publication”….. Have you heard yourselves? You aren’t doing INEOS any favours with your rants!

  4. Let’s see how Ineos answer the cost question, shall we?

    It is a simple question of a major international company having ALREADY made a huge investment to be able to utilise fracked gas. If they can not justify that on cost grounds to the ASA then it would be rather odd. If they do justify it to the ASA and the complaint is shown to be invalid then the complaint made will simply have achieved a validation of the reduction in energy costs, which will be of benefit to Ineos, and others.

    So, no, not a rant at all. Merely questioning the strategy employed. I suspect it could backfire.

    • So you are just making assumptions really Martin? The only publicly available evidence suggests extraction costs will be higher than revenue, but you and Peeny claim to know better but can’t provide any evidence. To be fair to you at least you are more lucid than our American friend.

  5. We will see refracktion. Ineos will have costed the reasons for their VERY extensive investment. I suspect they will be asked to justify that costing by ASA, you have basically requested that is done. If they can do that, you have shot your cause in the foot as they will have an independent review supporting their claim and will not need to bring confidential information into public debate.

    Your cause would then cast doubt upon the ASA, but the recent bad publicity from FOE case will work against you.

    Who knows, you could be right and Ineos have changed their spots and suddenly start investing £ hundreds of millions without calculating a return, but their history does not support that. I suspect they knew the reaction that would come, it was all over this site. I assume (yes) they built that into their text.

    The evidence will come from Ineos, not me.

  6. Well Martin if the ASA accepted a confidential suggestion from Ineos and ignored publicly available reports from EY, Centrica themselves, Bloomburg and others then they’d blow their credibility, so I sincerely hope for their sake that they don’t.

    But actually you are wrong – I have pointed out to ASA that publicly available reports suggest that fracking faces clear questions of economic viability, but my main point was that INEOS’s claim that UK heavy industry would cease to exist if we didn’t frack in the UK is nothing but unsustainable b/s. I’d like to see them try to argue themselves out of that one!

    And let’s not forget that they arrogantly subtitled each page “Fracking – The Facts” eh? That’s a funny one!

  7. Ineos ARE UK heavy industry. You can quote “alternative” reports as much as you like and you can adjust your position from your statement earlier in this report, but I suspect ASA will be required to examine what has been stated and what has been complained about. I would also suspect Ineos have very detailed costing to show the justification for huge investment, otherwise there will be a few financial directors out of a job.

    It is only my opinion, as I have not seen their data, but I suspect you have handed them the ability to state to the public that their development of shale gas has been validated independently as having potential to reduce costs, and not just to industry. With energy prices rising, all they need to do then is convince locals they will share some of the profitability and you have lost the economic argument.

    At the moment, I view this as a huge strategic mistake, but only time will tell.

    • Can’t wait – honestly. INEOS’s assessment of shale gas extraction costs in the UK should make very interesting reading when compared to all those other estimates. If all that complaint achieves is INEOS providing that data for objective assessment it will have been well worth it!

      BTW – To state that INEOS ARE UK heavy industry as though there were no others involved is quite ludicrous. That’s the sort of guff that the ASA have to weed out.

  8. I trust you can make your arguments to the ASA better than you do on here, refracktion! Your change of position, and then inability to understand simple English may please you, but I suspect will not stand up to scrutiny.

    So, here we have a company who has spent hundreds of millions of £ on ships and plant expansion, based around utilising US fracked gas. It then is spending hundreds of millions more on licences and development within the UK to acquire local sources of fracked gas. Why on earth should it have any interest in “all those other estimates”?? By definition, it has already decided they are not relevant, and I suspect will be able to show that very clearly.

    BTW-Did I say Ineos were the ONLY UK heavy industry, or did I say they were UK heavy industry??( If I say I am English, does that turn me into millions of people?) You know it was the latter, a statement of fact, not guff. Now, contradict that, rather than argue with yourself.

    I have to admire your confidence. It reminds me of a trout taking the fly and thinking he will have a nice meal, before he becomes the meal! “Can’t wait-honestly”.

  9. Sorry Martin – No change of position here. Nice try though – worthy of our America pal that one 🙂 .

    It was your capitalisation of the word ARE which made the sentence look as though you were suggesting that Ineos represented UK heavy industry in its entirety. Maybe you should have said “Ineos ARE representative of UK heavy industry” if you wanted to make the point you now claim? That would make sense.

    Your lack of logic in suggesting that “by definition, it has already decided they are not relevant” is odd, but then as you say, they may have happier figures of their own which they will share with us. On the other hand ….

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