Politics

No new exploration licences and no support for fracking – Welsh Government proposes

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Frack Free Wales protest at a potential drilling site in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan. Photo: Frack Free Wales

The Welsh Government is consulting on its new policy to oppose fracking and any further oil and gas exploration.

The consultation, which runs until 25 September 2018, sets out the future policy on oil and gas extraction:

“We will not undertake any new petroleum licensing in Wales, or support applications for hydraulic fracturing petroleum licence consents.

“In doing this the Welsh Government will be taking a small, yet important step towards a decarbonised future in Wales and will be contributing to the global movement away from fossil fuels.”

The consultation document issued this week said:

“We do not believe that the evidence, alongside the analysis, presents a compelling case that the benefits of petroleum extraction outweigh our commitment to sustainably manage our natural resources.”

In February 2015, the Labour-led administration in Wales issued a direction preventing planning authorities approving applications for shale gas and oil exploration and production. This was extended in March 2016 to underground coal gasification.

In a similar approach to the Scottish Government, Welsh ministers also commissioned research on the impacts of unconventional oil and gas developments. The summary of the findings are included in the consultation document.

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Current licences in South Wales. Map: Oil and Gas Authority

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Licences in North East Wales. Map: Oil and Gas Authority

There are current exploration licences in south and north east Wales. They have focussed on coal bed methane exploration but there may be opportunities on the border with Cheshire for shale gas. No licences from the 14th round were issued in Wales.

The consultation report identified the south Wales valleys, central Wrexham and the Denbighshire coast as the most suitable areas for oil and gas exploration. The least suitable were said to be Pembrokeshire, outer parts of Wrexham, Flintshire, and inland parts of Denbighshire.

Responsibility for licensing was devolved in the Wales Act 2017 and becomes a Welsh Government power from 1 October 2018.

Key conclusions from the consultation document

Low-carbon goals

“The extraction of petroleum does not directly contribute to the development of a low carbon society”

“there is a lack of evidence on the greenhouse gas footprint of Coal Bed Methane production to enable informed decisions about development of the sector”.

“Whilst extraction of petroleum does not result in significant additional emissions, the use of the extracted petroleum is likely to generate additional emissions and it will be very difficult to identify whether the extracted petroleum displaces imported petroleum.”

“To meet our climate change targets, our long-term aim is to remove fossil fuels from our energy mix whilst minimising economic impact and providing clarity for investors and encouraging them to invest in lower carbon alternatives.”

Scale of reserves

“The scale of petroleum reserves likely to be low compared with the rest of the UK.”

Impacts

“The evidence suggests that at a local level, the environmental and public health impacts of petroleum extraction can be managed through the appropriate running and regulation of sites – although there are gaps in the evidence base.”

Jobs and economy

“Many of the drilling jobs are highly mobile in nature and the economic benefits are considered to be transitory – nor are there immediate financial benefits to communities from petroleum extraction.”

“economic impacts are likely to be transitory with much of the regional economic activity occurring during early stage operations and with specialist personnel expected to be highly mobile and not from the local communities.”

Prosperity

“Prosperity is about far more than material wealth and cannot be delivered through economic growth alone. It is about every person in Wales enjoying a good quality of life, living in a strong, safe community and sharing in the prosperity of Wales.”

Traffic

“The transport impacts of petroleum extraction are not considered to be significant although there would likely be localised impacts. The transport impacts of CBM [coal bed methane] extraction are considered to be larger than other types of petroleum extraction due to the dewatering requirements and the need to manage that additional wastewater.”

Health

“there are gaps in the evidence base and more knowledge is required to better understand the technology to minimise risk and how current regulations can best be applied”.

Public Health Wales recommended:

“caution when extrapolating evidence from other countries to Wales since the data used are country-specific and the mode of operation, underlying geology, local site specific factors, local socio-political demographics and the regulatory regime are likely to be very different.”

“A more detailed Wales specific review is required to better understand the environmental and wider health implications of petroleum production.”

Decommissioning

“Decommissioned oil and gas wells are unlikely to leak gases or other fluids from the sub-surface to groundwater or to the atmosphere if constructed and abandoned to comply with international standards and industry best practice.”

Link to consultation

Updated 20 July 2018 with new link to consultation

 

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