Politics

Government questioned on fracking, fake news, Russia and UK energy security

Fracking Week in Parliament.

180320 KM Eddie Thornton

Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton fracking site, 20 March 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

What is the government doing to determine whether there’s any evidence that Russia has issued fake news to discredit the UK fracking industry? This question was put to ministers by the former Conservative Home Office Minister, David Maclean.

Now Lord Blencathra, he asked his question in the light of a report to the US Congress on Russian attempts to use social media to influence the US energy markets.

This report, issued on 1 March 2018, followed an investigation by the Republican-controlled Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It concluded that Russian agents had sought to disrupt US energy markets and influence public policy through American social media.

But the UK looks unlikely to set up a similar investigation. The Business Minister, Lord Henley, in his reply to Lord Blencathra, said:

“The Government currently has no plans to conduct an investigation into the use of fake news on social media to discredit the UK fracking industry.”

“Reliance on Russian gas”

Last week, the pro-shale Global Warming Policy Forum raised concerns about the use of Russian gas and urged the government to speed up the development of domestic shale gas.

In its submission to a House of Commons inquiry on planning for shale gas, the forum said:

“We are at risk of becoming increasingly reliant on Russia for our gas supplies during periods of high demand and this could have disturbing political consequences”

Referring to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the submission continued:

“Russia’s recent destructive and destabilising actions show that it is not an appropriate partner to rely upon in this way.”

On the same day, the Sun said:

“We are relying on a hostile power to heat our homes. It is madness.”

180315 BEIS on Russian gas

But that evening, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy tweeted:

“Claims we rely on gas from Russia are false. Almost half of our gas comes from Great Britain, with Norway and Qatar being our major international suppliers.”

UK shale gas and energy security

The debate on the development of domestic shale gas in UK energy continued in parliament this week. The Conservative, Lord Risby, a former Suffolk MP, asked six written questions on the subject.

He asked about the contribution of UK-sourced shale gas to energy security. The Business Minister, Lord Henley, referred him to two reports. Neither included shale gas in their estimates about UK gas security.

“Whilst the government is optimistic about the potential for shale gas in the UK, given the industry is currently in an exploratory stage, it is not yet known how much of the UK shale gas resource will ultimately be recoverable. In order to provide a conservative estimate of supply, supply forecasts used in CEPA (2017), assume no shale contributions in the forecast period. We will update these forecasts moving forward and any shale projects that do come forward will be in addition to supply already forecast”. Gas Security of Supply, October 2017

“In agreement with BEIS, we have assumed no GB unconventional gas production (e.g. shale gas) over the period studied. Such production is possible but data from exploration wells is needed to develop reliable estimates”. A Review of gas security of supply within Great Britain’s gas market – from the present to 2035, March 2017

Lord Risby also asked what proportion of UK gas demand could be met from domestic shale gas.

Lord Henley replied:

“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not made any estimates on the proportion of UK gas demand that could be met from UK-sourced shale gas.”

He added that exploration was needed to determine the potential of the industry and “the Government is supportive of this”.

In reply to another question, Lord Henley said there were no estimates of the volume of shale gas and oil that would be produced by 2020 or 2025.

He also said figures of predicted shale gas wells (17 by 2020 and 155 by 2025) were now “considered to be out of date”.

He was referring to a 2016 confidential cabinet office report by the shale gas implementation unit. It emerged yesterday that the Government had refused a Freedom of Information Act request to publish the report. It said publication “could call into question the industry’s viability”.

Planning applications for shale gas

Lord Risby also asked about shale gas and the planning system.

In response to a question on how long it takes for a shale gas planning application, the Local Government Minister, Lord Bourne said decisions by mineral planning authorities had taken from 17-83 weeks.

There was no information in the answer for the time period of these applications. Since 2014, there have been just five shale gas applications decided by mineral planning authorities at Tinker Lane and Mission in Nottinghamshire, Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in Lancashire and Woodsetts in Rotherham. (Applications at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire West and Chester were not technically for shale gas.)

Lord Risby also asked what steps the government was taking to reduce delays in the planning process.

Lord Bourne repeated the policy in the Conservative 2017 election manifesto, not yet implemented, which suggested making non-fracking drilling permitted development, without the need to go through the full planning process. It also proposed making major shale gas applications nationally-significant infrastructure, to be decided by a planning inspector or minister.

Estimates on fracking wells and jobs

The Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, asked for details on whether the Government planned to produce a new estimate on shale gas wells. She also asked what advice had been commissioned or received from the consultancy, AMEC, on the effect of shale gas on employment.

On expected wells, Energy Minister, Claire Perry, replied:

“The Government continues to monitor progress of the shale gas industry and will revise its estimates as appropriate as the industry develops.”

On employment, Ms Perry said:

“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not commissioned a report from any external consultancy on the potential effect on employment from the future development of the shale gas industry.”


Transcripts

Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

Question by Lord Blencathra, Conservative, Chair of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following publication of the report of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology Committee, Russian Attempts to Influence US Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media, published on 1 March, whether they intend to conduct an investigation to determine whether there is any evidence that Russia has issued fake news on social media to discredit the UK fracking industry.

Reply by Lord Henley, Conservative Business Minister

The Government currently has no plans to conduct an investigation into the use of fake news on social media to discredit the UK fracking industry.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby, Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the average time taken between the first planning application for a shale gas well being received and final consent being granted for drilling.

Reply by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Conservative, Business Minister

Mineral Planning Authority decisions to grant or refuse planning permission for exploratory wells have taken between 17 and 83 weeks from date of validation to the date the decision was issued.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce delays in the planning process for shale gas development.

Reply by Lord Bourne

Through the 2017 manifesto we have put forward proposals to treat non-fracking drilling as permitted development. These proposals aim to establish expert planning functions to support local councils, and, when necessary, for major shale planning decisions to be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime. We will continue to consider any further measures needed to help speed up the planning process.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of shale gas and oil wells that will have been hydraulically fractured by (1) 2020, and (2) 2025.

Reply by Lord Henley

Based on information provided by industry dating from 2016, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy previously estimated in 2017 that there could be around 17 wells in 2020 and 155 wells by around 2025. These figures are now considered to be out of date.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the volume of shale gas and oil that will have been produced by (1) 2020, and (2) 2025.

Reply by Lord Henley

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not made any estimates of the volume of gas and oil that will have been produced by 2020 and 2025.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the proportion of UK gas demand that could be met from UK-sourced shale gas.

Reply by Lord Henley

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not made any estimates on the proportion of UK gas demand that could be met from UK-sourced shale gas. We do not yet know how much shale gas it will be possible to technologically and commercially extract from UK shale reserves. To determine the potential of the industry and the benefits it could bring the UK, we need exploration to go ahead and Government is supportive of this.

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the contribution of UK-sourced shale gas to the energy security of the UK.

Reply by Lord Henley

In October 2017, the Government published a report summarising gas security, including consideration of the role of shale gas, over the next 20 years, available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gas-security-of-supply-strategic-assessment-and-review

REVIEW OF GAS SECURITY OF SUPPLY to 2035

Gas security of supply – strategic assessment

Written question and answer, 19 March 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Green Party, Brighton Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 8 March 2018 to Question 130433 and the Answer of 27 February 2018 to Question 128441, whether he plans to make a new estimate of the number of wells projected to be drilled by the shale gas industry in 2025 to replace the estimate which is considered to be out of date.

Reply by Claire Perry, Energy Minister, Conservative, Devizes

The Government continues to monitor progress of the shale gas industry and will revise its estimates as appropriate as the industry develops.

Written answer, 23 March 2018, Link to transcript

Question by Caroline Lucas

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 8 March 2018 to Question 130666, on Fracking: Employment what advice the Department for Energy and Climate Change (a) commissioned and (b) received from the engineering consultancy AMEC on the potential effect on employment from the future development of the shale gas industry; whether his Department has since commissioned any such estimate from an external consultancy; and if he will make a statement.

Reply by Claire Perry

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not commissioned a report from any external consultancy on the potential effect on employment from the future development of the shale gas industry.

Written answer, 23 March 2018, link to transcript


Updated 21/3/2018 to correct typographical errors and on 27/3/2018 to include two questions by Caroline Lucas

17 replies »

  1. I wonder which definition of ‘fracking’ he has in mind when referring to non-fracking. Probably the one that conveniently means all drilling in Lancashire will be classed as non-fracking.

    • Malcolm
      The Cuadrilla planned frack exceeds 10000M3 in total (765m3 x45)
      So, unless they reduce all future activity to below that level, it will be classed as fracking.
      Prees Hall 1 fracking also exceeded the definition.

      So, it looks as if ( conveniently or not ) all drilling in Lancashire for Shale gas will be classed as fracking.

      The data is in the frack plan.

      • Preese Hall 1 fracking also exceeded the definition

        I read 8399 cubic metres

        Page 1 of 26

        https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/15745/5075-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review.pdf

        The Preese Hall well which caused 50 seismic events and damage the well would not have been classed as a fracking development under the new rules.

        Section 4A: supplementary provision
        (1)“Associated hydraulic fracturing” means hydraulic fracturing of shale or strata encased in shale which—
        (a)is carried out in connection with the use of the relevant well to search or bore for or get petroleum, and
        (b)involves, or is expected to involve, the injection of—
        (i)more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage, or expected stage, of the hydraulic fracturing, or
        (ii)more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

        When someone has to alter fluid volumes it is glaringly obvious they are running scared of future repeat failures.

        • John
          Yes, Preese Hall was a bigger stage, but lower total. If you look at the data above the total on that page you see the amount per frack stage 1,2,4,5 exceed 1000m3.
          Hence under the new rules, that well would still be counted due to that amount per stage.

          The Frack plan for the new wells does note that the stages are smaller in order to guard against seismic events, but the overall total is expected to exceed the 10000m3 limit.

          There is a trade off no doubt re drill cost and frack activity, which means that it’s a bit of a waste of time drilling a well to under frack it ( and not get much gas ).

    • ah yes, the good buddies and climate skeptics Lord Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser, purveyors of ‘fake news’; thanks Jack, laughed my socks off, feeling very happy!

    • Jack
      They seem to worry about Russian coal. No worries, we can get it from a number of sources ( America, poland and so on ), but just need to pay a tad more. Now that the pound is back up, it will be cheaper.

      It’s not something you need a pipeline installed to import, and you can pile it up at a power station for a rainy ( cold, cloudy, windless ) day ( and maybe it’s greener than gas).

  2. The BEIS is not exactly what you would call in contact with commercial reality, is it? Perhaps they have missed the recent reports regarding EUROPEAN energy security and the possible impacts upon the UK market? Easy enough to find, but a Government department needs to justify what it has been doing.
    Who knows, one day we may actually see an energy department who can look ahead and make the right calls? (Don’t hold your breath.) Mind you, when they are dealing with politicians (another one this week) pushing the Swansea lagoon, recognising that value for money had not been demonstrated, but it has to go ahead, then they deserve some sympathy!

      • John
        They( the Chinese) are just dabbling in onshore development it seems.

        The Times thinks that China has taken control of the North Sea through Nexen and other investments ( China takes control,of oil drilling Aug 23 2916. Times ).

        Just Scottish oil maybe, and a bit of rebalance as Quad 204 and Clair Phase 2 get going.

        But .. do they control it? Maybe not as they are subject to the laws of the land and UK oversight. The issue for some re energy security is how much you produce in your country, and how much you import, although how much cash we need to import is of interest.

        Perhaps we should compare it with N.Sea fishing and see if there is my common ground.

    • The BEIS should be renamed BS. A lot of baloney comes out of this dept and is costing UK citizens more and more money with their poor decision making.
      Our energy policy is laughable. We know the renewables are not suited for our climate and will always need the support of fossil fuels yet we are sitting back and watching the continual decline of north sea oil.
      May isn’t a true Conservative and needs the boot for someone with bigger cahoolas to take on the communist left wing movement known as the antis.

  3. This may cause a hail of protest but:
    The only gas/oil line out of Russia is via the Ukraine and Russia has tried to shut their supply down a number of times but the Ukraine just syphons off the European supply. Germany are supporting the line across the Baltic which, if successful, will strangle Ukraine. This will allow Russia to deal with Ukraine as it wishes; for good or evil. Which do you think?
    We need an independent supply of gas and fracking may provide this.
    Without all the protests and appeals we would know whether a viable alternative exists.
    Life and the world is not risk free but it is manageable.

  4. Yes, GBK. Like how Glencore indicate that the bulk of the world’s cobalt, in DRC, is increasingly under the control of the Chinese so electric cars are unlikely to be end up being built in Europe. Good job we are looking to take back control of our waters so we can join in pillaging the sea bed for cobalt! I wonder how many of these eco warriors are really speculating in under water mining robots?
    Now, hydrogen from our own gas, perhaps a smarter move-but don’t wait for BEIS to suss that one, even with both Oxford and Cambridge Universities making the suggestion. Maybe Mr. Jim will be relied upon to do it? Except, he may find pastures further afield are greener (excuse the pun.)

    • More diversions martin?

      “The Government currently has no plans to conduct an investigation into the use of fake news on social media to discredit the UK fracking industry.”

      That is interesting isnt it? But apparently the same cannot be said for the Salisbury poisoning incident? Lots of fake news there about President Putin “personally” ordering the attempted assassinations of an ex russian spy and his daughter? Is there proof of that? Of course not.

      More avoidance of responsibility isn’t it? The skids really are under the fracking debacle if such obvious and gross political contradictions are disseminated for practically the same political purpose? One political purpose is supported the other isnt? Funny that? What does that tell us?

      All going a bit Russian Bear shaped isnt it?

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