The UK must take rapid action to deal with any leaks from onshore shale gas wells, as part of efforts to avoid breaching carbon budgets, the government’s adviser on climate change said today.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) called for new policy and stronger implementation of regulations on onshore petroleum wells.
In a report published this morning, the CCC set out policy requirements to meet planned cuts in industrial emissions of around 20% from 2016-2030. For onshore shale gas wells, it recommended:
“Tightly regulate and closely monitor any onshore petroleum wells (i.e. shale gas) during development, production and decommissioning to ensure rapid action to address leaks.”
The CCC’s key messages for the government were:
- Work with the Environment Agency to ensure that an appropriate range of technologies and techniques to limit methane emissions are required
- Put in place a monitoring regime that catches potentially significant methane leaks in order to limit the impact of ‘super-emitters’
- Prohibit production in areas where it would entail significant CO2 emissions resulting from the change in land use
- Ensure that the regulatory regime requires proper decommissioning of wells at the end of their lives
The industry organisation, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:
“These recommendations have already been made by the CCC in its earlier report and are being addressed by the industry. Many of which will be covered by existing regulation and through best available techniques and practices.”
A report by the CCC, published by government in July 2016, concluded that shale gas would breach the nation’s targets for emissions cuts unless:
- Well development, production and decommissioning emissions were strictly limited
- Gas consumption remained in line with carbon budgets
- Shale gas production was accommodated within carbon budgets
Today the CCC said there would be a “policy gap” until its recommendations on shale gas and other industrial priorities were addressed. It said:
“The requirements of the Climate Change Act would remain unmet”.
The CCC reported that refining of petroleum products and other energy supply made up 40% of industrial emissions. The extraction and production of oil, gas and solid fuels accounted for two-thirds of these emissions, over a quarter of which were not CO2.
Stronger policies needed
The fifth carbon budget, passed in July 2016, set a cap on UK greenhouse gas emissions for the period 2028-2032. It required a reduction of UK emissions of 57% by 2030, compared to levels in 1990.
When setting the fifth budget, the government acknowledged that new and stronger policies would be needed to meet it and the fourth carbon budget (covering the period 2023-27).
The CCC report said:
“The UK’s transition to a resilient low-carbon economy is in danger of being derailed by a lack of Government action on climate change.
“That inaction is making it difficult for businesses and the UK public to grasp the opportunities of the transition.”
The CCC said good progress has been made so far but continued progress depended on what it calls “significant new measures”.
Since 2012, emissions reductions had largely been confined to the power sector and emissions from transport and building have risen.
“Effective new strategies and new policies are urgently needed to ensure emissions continue to fall in line with the commitments agreed by Parliament and that key risks to homes, businesses, and the natural environment are addressed.”
The CCC said it was “no longer justified or wise to delay the publication of the emissions reduction plan required by law”.
There had been a commitment to publish this by December 2106, later revised to early 2017. On 27 June, Energy minister, Claire Perry, told parliament this week the plan would be published after the summer recess. Link to parliamentary transcript
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said:
“The Government is a world leader in tackling climate change and committed to meeting the UK’s targets set under the Climate Change Act 2008. We have cut emissions by more than a third while growing the economy by over two thirds, and through our Industrial Strategy continue to support our burgeoning low carbon sector which is helping deliver high-skilled jobs across the country.
“We’ve implemented the majority of recommendations from the first National Adaptation Programme report and are pleased the CCC recognises the progress that has been made, but we agree there is a need to do more. That’s why we intend to publish the Clean Growth Plan when Parliament sits again after summer recess.”
DrillOrDrop asked BEIS:
- How the department proposes to meet the requirement for stronger implementation of tighter regulation and monitoring?
- What new policy would be introduced to meet this requirement
- When would a new policy be announced/implemented?
This post will be updated with any response.