Fracking was rejected by the vast majority of people at a debate on its role in Britain’s energy mix.
More than 150 people attended the event in a Derbyshire village near the county’s first proposed shale gas site.
Tom Pickering, operations director of INEOS Shale, the company behind the proposal, made the case for fracking. David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking put the opposing arguments.
Both made a 10-minute statement (see below) and answered questions submitted in advance and from the audience.
The debate last night at Eckington Civic Centre was chaired by the local Conservative MP, Lee Rowley. He has opposed INEOS’s plans to explore for shale gas at the site at Bramleymoor Lane in the village of Marsh Lane.
At the end of the debate, a large majority of the audience said “no” in a show-of-hands vote on the question Does fracking have a role to play in the British energy mix?
Video of questions section of the debate
Video by The People Against Fracking
- Before the debate, DrillOrDrop invited Mr Pickering and Mr Kesteven to send us a summary of their arguments or a copy of their statement. See below.
The case against fracking, David Kesteven, Chair, Eckington Against Fracking
Why we don’t need shale gas
The Gas Security of Supply strategic assessment, published in October 2017, assumed no shale contributions in the forecast period. It said:
“our security of supply does not depend on new indigenous supplies”
“We are secure now, and the GB gas system is well placed to continue to be secure and robust in a range of supply and demand outcomes over the next two decades.”
The Clean Growth Strategy, published in October 2017 with a forward from the Prime Minister, said the UK needs to “increase the pace of decarbonisation to meet the carbon budgets for the period 2023-2032. It refers to
“decarbonising the gas grid by substituting natural gas with low carbon gases like biogas and hydrogen”.
The National Grid future energy scenarios, published in July 2017, includes shale gas in just two of its four scenarios. In the scenario which assumes emissions reductions need to hold temperature rise to 2 degrees C, there’s a move away from gas as a heating source
The Northern Energy Strategy, published in October 2017, says shale gas “may be too environmentally risky to proceed with”. It says the pursuit of shale gas exploitation “can only happen in conjunction with a major step forward in carbon capture and storage”.
Why we must not have shale gas
Climate change: Charts of global annual temperature show continuing rises. Daffodils that would be expected to flower in March are now flowering in Derbyshire in December.
Industrialisation and infrastructure: INEOS is proposing 30 well sites in a 10km square. It has said there could be 12-14 wells per site – resulting in up to 360 wells. At Bramleymoor Lane, INEOS is estimating more than 14,000 vehicle movements for its proposed exploration well.
Health: In 2016, members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society voted unanimously for a resolution which called for a moratorium on new shale gas drilling and fracking and a study on its public health impacts. The UK’s Public Health England review on the public health impacts of shale gas extraction looked only at exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants. It did not review impacts from traffic or noise.
Social licence: A poll of attitudes to INEOS’s Bramleymoor Lane site found that 86% objected, 14% neither supported or objected and 0% supported it.
What we could do instead of shale gas and fracking
Examples of alternatives to shale gas include:
- Blackburn Meadows biomass project
- Solar panels on warehouses, for example in Telford
- Commercial gas generation from waste and grass
Lord Adair Turner said prices for green electricity and batteries have fallen so sharply that even projections for an 85-90% renewables energy system in 2035 now look “ludicrously conservative”.
We should use the decline in North Sea gas as a stimulus to do something better, not an excuse to do something worse. Shale gas does not have a role to play in the British energy mix.
The case for shale gas, Tom Pickering, Operations Director, INEOS Shale
UK gas production is in rapid decline
Total North Sea gas and oil production has been rapidly declining since 2000 while UK reliance on gas imports has grown to over 50% of demand.
We need a mix of energy sources to generate electricity. Coal is being phased out. Wind and solar are intermittent. Gas provides the flexibility to balance the mix. It’s not just about electricity generation.
Why do we need gas?
Heat energy and power generation: 84% of UK homes rely upon gas heating.
Gas is used to produce many items that we use every day: Clothing, packaging, auto, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, electronics.
To support the switch to renewables: Gas supports intermittent renewables energy production and growth of renewable capacity takes time.
What are the benefits of a local shale gas industry?
Energy Security: We rely upon imports for more than 50% of our gas demand and this is forecast to increase to 80% by 2035.
Climate Change: Local shale gas emits 10% less greenhouse gases than imported gas. For power generation, shale gas has less than half the emissions of coal.
Jobs, Investment and Community Benefits: Potential for £33b investment and 64,000 new jobs. 6% of revenues (£1m per well) to landowners, residents and local communities.
Balance of Payments: Today we send over £7b pa overseas to purchase gas (£20m every day). Why import from countries with questionable regulation and human rights records when we can produce our own gas?
Gas versus renewables
84% of UK homes use gas for heating (61% for cooking). To electrify these for renewable use will cost over £250b and take several decades. To do this by 2050 means converting nearly 2000 homes every single day plus upgrades to the national power infrastructure to supply these homes.
In the future, gas could produce hydrogen by steam reforming, with the CO2 captured and sequestered. The hydrogen would be distributed via the existing gas network.
This is not a gas vs renewables debate – we need both
What is the climate performance of gas?
Locally produced shale gas has over 10% less lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than imported gas. Locally produced shale gas has less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal for power production.
We need gas, today we import >50%, and this is forecast to increase to 80% by 2035. The question is not whether we need gas, but where will it come from?
A steady process of science and consultation
New and existing seismic data acquisition will inform planning applications for wells
Planning applications for vertical coring wells to understand the gas content in the shale rock
Results of core wells will inform planning applications for appraisal wells. Horizontal wells to be hydraulic fractured and flow tested
Results of flow tests will tell us if commercial production is viable
UK shale regime and regulations
Shale gas companies are regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, local planning authorities and independent well inspectors.
- We need gas for several decades, even with aggressive renewables growth and efficiency gains
- Energy Security – our country is importing over 50% of demand today and this import is forecast to increase
- Gas is by far the most climate friendly fuel, and is a key part of the UK’s plans to reach climate targets
- Local shale gas development can bring jobs, investment, community benefits, tax revenues, and improved balance of payments
- Key independent authorities say the safety, health and environmental risks are low given our stringent UK regulatory regime