Fracking risks undermining UK climate commitments, leading environmental groups tell minister

171014 KM KMPC.jpg

Third Energy’s fracking site in North Yorkshire, 14 October 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

As Third Energy prepares to frack the first UK onshore well since 2011, nine environmental organisations have told the government they have “growing concerns” about the process.

The groups, including Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Campaign for National Parks, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and WWF, wrote to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, saying fracking threatened UK commitments to tackle climate change.

Mr Clark is expected to give the final go-ahead imminently for fracking at Third Energy’s well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.

Greg Clark letter signatories 171019

The groups said in their letter released today:

“Climate change is the most urgent and complex threat to the British countryside today.

“With the majority of known fossil fuels needing to be kept in the ground, hydraulic fracturing in England risks undermining further deployment of renewables and energy-efficiency measures, jeopardises progress towards carbon reduction, and undermines our international leadership on climate change.”

The letter said fracking was “not currently credible” in the context of the Paris climate change agreement or the UK’s own emissions reduction targets.

It added that the government’s advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, had said shale gas was incompatible with UK carbon reduction targets unless three tests were met.

The UK government has said these test were already being met. But the groups asked Mr Clark:

“How are plans for hydraulic fracturing consistent with ensuring that we do not extract more gas globally than we can safely burn?”

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“It would be deeply disappointing if UK government gave the green light to new fossil fuel projects, just before the UN Climate Change Conference invites international action to protect the climate. We already have more gas than we can afford to burn if we are to meet our climate targets.”

Steve Mason, from Frack Free United, founded in Ryedale, the area surrounding Third Energy’s fracking site, said:

“Giving the final sign-off for fracking to start is a crucial decision for the Secretary of State and we urge him to consider it very carefully before he puts pen to paper. It is a decision that will affect communities across the country and future generations to come.”

“Deeply unpopular”

The groups also said in their letter there were concerns about the local impacts of shale gas extraction.

A report commissioned by the Department of Environment concluded that the process could lead to increased air pollution, from vented gas and increased road traffic. The government, when forced to publish an unredacted version of the report, said it was an internal draft. But the groups said in the letter the risk of reduced air quality would only add to a problem of illegal pollution in the UK which resulted in 40,000 premature deaths a year.

They said shale gas was also deeply unpopular. The latest government survey of public attitudes to fracking found that only 16% of participants supported the process.


They asked Mr Clark:

“What strategies are in place to ensure that local environmental impacts are kept to an acceptable level, and that residents’ concerns are addressed?”

“Risks outweigh benefits”

Earlier this month, a government report concluded that shale gas was not necessary for UK energy security, while the Clean Growth Strategy did not mention the process. DrillOrDrop report

The letter said:

“Aside from the climate, pollution, biodiversity, and local community concerns, recent geological evidence suggests there is not enough likely yield to justify the risks, and that extracting shale gas could be much more expensive than previously thought.”

Following this week’s vote in Scotland to ban fracking, Steve Mason said:

“Frack Free United believes that the government should halt all fracking activities and rethink its outdated energy policy.

“The development of a new extreme fossil fuel industry across England would have negative and far-reaching consequences for local communities, the environment, public health, climate change and our future energy strategy.

“With fracking to be banned in Scotland, the Westminster government is now isolated in backing this unpopular industry. Their own recently published energy plans made no reference to fracking, and showed that fracked gas is not necessary for energy security. The government should stop forging ahead with fracking and focus their efforts on clean, cheap and popular offshore wind and tidal power instead.”

  • The letter was signed by senior figures in: 10:10 Climate Action, Angling Trust, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Frack Free United, Greenpeace, Salmon and Trout conservation, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and WWF.

Letter to Greg Clark


80 replies »

    • The opposition is growing. It says a lot that organisations like Angling Trust, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Salmon and Trout conservation, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and WWF are now putting their concerns on the table

      The world has enough gas to transition and clean energy generation is coming on line faster than many predicted leaving O & G companies with potential worthless assets.

      Sadly, as the UK governance refuse to accept the environmental problems generated by fracking elsewhere in the world and insist on waiting first for these events to happen in the UK, organisations have to continue opposing only with the valid concern regarding our participation in reducing emissions via the Paris Agreement.

  1. Factually correct but I fear the message will fall on deaf ears. Even the USA is finding the mounting costs of climate caused damages (related both directly and indirectly to global warming), and sea level rise issues outstripping their abilities to generate profits from continued O&G exploitation. This year alone has been horrendous. Their military are having to ignore the GOP insistence on GW being a hoax and take advanced action on mitigation for many coastal bases and low lying airstrips around the world – before the bills rise from billions to trillions.

    • Hi Philip P,

      It’s more than a little ironic that the US Army was pretty much the first organisation in the World to identify that Global Warming could become an issue.

      This was way back in the 1970’s, when they used agriculture modeling to try and predict the Russian grain harvests.

      While the GOP controlled US Senate and Congress (at the urging of His Orangeness) continue to try and gut the US EPA and muzzle those US scientists working on Climate change, at least the number of US States who recognise it is a serious problem and are taking their own action are growing.

      Of course, that doesn’t stop some states from continuing to bury their head in the sand – like North Carolina which passed legislation preventing coastal authorities from taking into account the forecast rise in sea levels when approving shore-line developments…

      • Yes, similarly bizarre is the case in Florida where the State governors in Tallahassee refuse to recognise sea level rise as a reality and won’t release funds for the worst affected Miami areas. Then there are the fishing communities in the Chesapeake Bay area (Tangier island etc) who all voted for Donald of Orange and firmly believe he is going turn back the rising seas, Canute-like, as it laps around their ankles.

  2. Excellent news to see the mainstream environmental charities like the CPRE and Wildfowl and Wetland Trust lining up to condemn fracking – and about time too. If anyone reading this is a member of these organisations, why not contact them to applaud their stance? And if you’re a member of an organisation that has not signed it, please ask why.
    The government has already admitted it is not going to make its next climate change targets, yet they are planning to release a huge new fossil fuel industry upon our countryside. There is a basic disconnect within the Conservative Party that talks tough about climate change but then completely ignores the Paris agreement when deciding UK policy, and aligns itself with the fossil fuel companies to such an extent that they support an industry that has such a legacy of environmental damage and will add to climate change. Good work, everyone. Let’s get the RSPB and National Trust to sign up next.

  3. Ignorance and stupidity will probably rule, along with a callous disregard for the untold suffering the onward march of global warming is causing. Big oil and gas have known about GW science since the eighties and have putting out fake science propaganda since. Sadly there are plenty of useful idiots around the world who lap it up, including governments. The risks and costs are shunted off to communities, charities and relief agencies while the profits are privatised and corporatised. When will it end? Start billing the profiteers and lobbyists now I’d say.

  4. [Edited by moderator] If 1 metre cubed of shale gas goes into the UK gas transmission system, this automatically means that 1 metre cubed of LNG imported from half way round the world is not required. How is this a bad thing? How does this increase UK carbon emissions in any way?

    • The maths are simple Fred Bloggs. You just need to consider the overall emissions and leakage from spinning up a new fossil fuel industry of this kind here. If you use end to end figures for emissions, from drilling onward, and also consider several other environmental impacts and legacy issues you’d end up with a major problem trying to prove that ramping up the industry locally would be a better deal in terms of carbon footprint than relying on existing supply lines and living with the 10% emissions overhead that shipping the LNG in entails (10% is the only figure I’ve seen quoted, and I imagine that figure could be improved on).

      Bear in mind also that with the rapidly transforming energy landscape (in favor of renewables) those in charge of existing reserves and wells will be wanting to offload as much as they can on the global market as soon as they can, leading to a supply glut and a downward pressure on prices. That in itself will make further shale gas exploration and exploitation into a non-starter for investors.

      • Philip P. Actually the emissions associated with importing LNG into the UK are considerable. Depending on the region from which the LNG is imported – the refridgeration of the gas to liquefy it is on average @20% (lower for cold countries like Norway, higher for hot countries sucha Quatar). Then you have the transportation emissions – these can be considerable if the LNG ship is moving around to more than one location and coming from far away. Then you have the regassing emissions to get the gas into the grid. In this country we do not use sea water to regas the LNG, so gas has to be burnt to change the LNG fro liquid back to gas, so it can be pressurised up to grid pressure. Also, some gas fields have CO2 content. The Norwegians at SNOVHIT capture that CO2 and reinject it into geological storage rather than vent it to air. I think the only other LNG producing field that dose that is Gorgon (NE Australia) . Bear in mind that some fields have more CO2 in them than methane, e.g. in SE Aisain ones it can be up to 70% CO2 – that is vented or goes into the grid (e.g. S China & Hong Kong from Hinan Island Hub). So I think I can be pretty sure that the bulk of LNG we import has a higher CO2 footprint than you think, by the time it gest into our grid. Also – it is revenue out of our country, and some of that money goes to countries with awful governance and human rights bevahiour as well as countries with very poor environmental and safety regulation on tehir hydrocarbon operations. With the Brexit debacle and weak sterling and a weakening economy, it is even more important that we produce as much energy domestically as we can.

        • Dr. Nick, don’t forget that the more steps and longer distance that gas travels, the greater the opportunity for fugitive emissions. This is especially true with piped gas.

        • Dr Nick, a pretty well informed piece. In fact Gorgon LNG is in NW Australia, Barrow Island to be precise. Gorgon is the only major LNG plant on the planet capturing CO2. At the moment the CO2 capture is not running. Now that Gorgon has 3 trains running the CO2 plant will start up pretty soon. I wish some of the other posters were as informed as you obviously are. Disclosure – I worked for the Gorgon LNG project and was repsonsible for overseeing the design of the CO2 compression trains.

    • Fred.
      The contracts for gas and oil are negotiated in front; trade with the countries involved dictates the volume. That 1 metre cubed of shale gas therefore will likely be additional.

      The whole picture of reducing our carbon emissions is complex. It is not about reducing one source over another. It’s how we use it and how quickly we move over to clean energy production; a difficult process, not for the lack of technology, but because of the lack of political will and oil and gas cartels pulling the strings of the current world governance.

      Fortunately, clean energy is here and increasing despite the constant barriers; again there is a spider’s web of constraints, asset loss (O&G), capital costs to be recovered from developing the new technologies. However, just think mobile phone – from expensive brick to affordable smart phone in 15 years; where there’s a will……..

      • Hi Sherwulfe,

        Not quite correct. While a large portion of Oil & Gas production is sold under long term contracts (more gas than oil), a substantial portion of it is still sold on the spot market – hence the daily (sometimes wild) fluctuation on the main benchmark crudes (Brent & WTI).

        Some of the smaller Companies will forward sell their production from a particular field to get the financing in place to develop it, but even they won’t forward sell 100% of the production.

        Some good articles here;


        Hedging has become more common, but even then these contracts are rarely more than 12 – 18 months long.

        So it’s not correct to say that the 1cum of gas will be additional.

        • Injuneer, I said likely be additional.
          In the grand scheme of things and Ineos’s drive for shale in the UK, I would say that my deduction is most likely as it will be part of the ‘if we can bring it from the US and you don’t notice, you can accept us digging up your green and pleasant land’ psychology.

          Sadly no oil or gas comes with a government health warning or what effects the extraction has on the environment including people. Perhaps it would be an idea, so people can make an informed choice as to where they are prepared to accept the source from?

          Maybe the’ll be an outcry like when a large sports manufacturer exploits child labour? Oh hang on a minute, there is….perhaps time to listen to the people?

          Happily increasing numbers of main stream consumers are moving over to clean energy. As the price reduces this will become a steady flow and the old fossils will have to adapt if they can. Companies like Dong Energy (soon to be renamed) have already seen the future and are ready, others not so.

          • Dong Energy are decommissioning there offshore wind farm after 25 years, suppose thats environmentally acceptable???? What fuels are they gonna Decon with????????? Wheres the scrap windmills gonna disapear to China or Spain????? For recycling into what?? And what is used for the carbon steel boil down plants to power them.?????
            People have no idea whatsoever!!!!

  5. Perhaps cutting electricity use in the middle of the night could help mitigate against GW? You know, when the solar panels are producing nothing.
    Do as we say, not as we do.

    • “Do as we say, not as we do.”

      Sounds like the entire m.o. of the government and the onshore ohandgee industry?

  6. Sorry Fred, this is a mathematics, economic, science free zone! And taxation of UK output is taboo-a real oddity as Scotland based it’s whole future success upon oil and gas taxation only recently. Such things are ignorant, callous and stupid.
    We can all dance around the magic money tree to keep warm, Giggling as we go-the Corbyn alternative to the May pole.
    For those of us who remember the 1970’s, not a lot of giggling then after OPEC had sent prices rocketing.

    • Perhaps the “May Pole” is more attributable to the ohandgee by the back backdoor lobby choreographers?
      May Pole dancing perhaps? Strictly “members only” of course?
      It looks like her own “party” are having their own internal “May Pole”?

  7. You know what really threatens climate change targets in the UK? The idea of not fracking, and instead importing someone else’s natural gas from far away. That gas will leave a much higher ghg footprint as it takes a lot of energy to transport it, and the greater distance creates more fugitive methane emissions.

    These eco-warriors conveniently ignore these facts because they can. The carbon accounting rules attribute the carbon to the producing country. So the UK can become very “green” indeed if it were to just buy all of its energy abroad. There, problem solved, right? LOL

    Let’s face it, these “Green” groups are hypocrites and they aren’t very educated. They’ll lead the UK down the same lovely lane that they have in Australia. Talk about a mess!

    • ‘You know what really threatens climate change targets in the UK?’

      So RFK;
      you again go down the need for ‘green’ gas. Sorry but the only things that threatens the UK’s climate change targets are the political will of the government and their lobbying O & G industries who are panicking as their assets become worthless.

      If Dong Energy can see the future and move out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, then others can follow. Sadly many are too scared of their investors to take the plunge; the value of big shareholder’s influence, many of whom are dinosaurs themselves, are cripling the decision making process.

      An interesting article about tidal energy generation on R4 today. A tidal generation facility in Europe built in the 1960s now producing electricity cheaper than gas! Power gaps only 3 hours max which should please the ‘lights will go out’ gang.

      • But that tidal plant in France slows down the Earth’s rotation!!!!

        We must shut it down immediately before it causes massive earthquakes and destroys our way of life!!!!


        • A touch of sarcasm their Injuneer? That’s the kind of pseudo science beloved of the pro-FF brigade. Or to blame it on the ‘antis’ at least.

          • Lil’ bit 🙂

            It actually does slow down the Earth rotation (conservation of momentum), but in seconds there are an awful lot of zeros between the decimal point and the number it does so by.

        • Tides also cause seismicity. The UK moves up and down several mm each day due to Earth tides, and even more in the western UK because of our broad continental shelf with a marine macrotidal regime. Also we are gradually slowing down Earth’s rotation due to tidal friction and The Moon is moving further away for the same reason. Total eclipses of the Moon will eventually happen no longer, they will be annular instead.

          • Yes, those points accepted, I was having a dig at Injuneers multiple exclamation marks and ‘as if’ the plant in France would make any difference whatsoever.

            • Phillip P I was following through on Injuneers satire. I did make a mistake with the science. I actually meant total solar eclipse, not a lunar one. Unfortunately (or perhaps not) once posted on this blog, one cannot edit the text.

              Actually Earth existed before The Moon, the Moon formed as a result of collision between a Mars sized planet and the early Earth. Without that collision life would not exist on Earth today.

              I’ve actually been to the tidal power plant in N. France. A nice niche opportunity but at large scale tidal power would have major environmental problems (I worked, as a zoologist, on the Sabrina Project – Severn Barrage back in the ’70’s).

          • Thanks for the science lesson Dr Nick, but what is your point?

            The tides and the moon have been intrinsically linked since the earth was formed.

            Seismicity caused by tides is a natural phenomenon, not induced unlike the 50 events caused by Cuadrilla’s well….

      • Sherwulfe, I’m sure that as soon as you can demonstrate how to turn off oil and gas, and keep the lights on, your green dream will come true. Until then, your ideas would kill hundreds of millions of innocent citizens. There is a reason you are not making energy policy decisions.

  8. Obviously will all be forgotten come questions in the House after next weekend. Apparently, there is a rumour that there will be a large number of fires seen at night, a strange smell in the air, and a huge number of load explosions. That could keep PMQs discussing fracking for months to come. Stranger things have happened.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s