No need to revise health review on fracking impacts, says minister

Fracking Week in Parliament

PNR 180719 Danny Vc Llew1

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 18 July 2018. Photo Danny Vc Llew

The government dismissed another call this week for an update of the review of research on the health impacts of shale gas extraction.

Sarah Wollaston MPIt was responding to a question by Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health select committee. She asked whether the government had commissioned a new review from Public Health England of the research on shale gas impacts.

Steve BrineThe health minister, Steve Brine, said PHE had no reason to change the conclusions it reached in 2014.

“Public Health England continues to review the evidence on the potential public health impacts of emissions associated with shale gas extraction and has not currently identified any significant evidence that would make it change its views stated in its 2014 Review.”

1406 PHE reportThe 2014 PHE review concluded that risks to public health from emissions associated with shale gas emissions would be low if the operations were properly run and regulated. But it was criticised for looking only at studies on the direct emissions of chemicals and radioactive material.

The first version was also criticised for reviewing only studies published up to December 2012. A critique of the review by Paul Mobbs said this excluded 52 studies published in 2013. An update considered peer-reviewed or published reports up to January 2014 but concluded there were “no significant changes” to the original findings.

A petition signed by more than 4,000 people in 2017 called for the PHE review to be updated. The Fylde MP, Mark Menzies, previously asked about an update of the review in December 2017 (link).

Debate on planning changes

180622 Marsh Lane5

MP Lee Rowley giving evidence on 22 June 2018 to the public inquiry on Ineos plans for shale gas exploration at Bramleymoor Lane in Derbyshire

Lee Rowley, the Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire, where Ineos wants to explore for shale gas, called this week for a parliamentary debate on government proposals to change the planning laws.

A consultation has opened (19 July 2018)  on the proposal to make non-fracking exploration schemes permitted development. This means that, like small house extensions and change of use for offices, the schemes would not need to apply for planning permission. The change appears like to apply to plans like the one put forward by Ineos at Bramleymoor Lane in Mr Rowley’s constituency.

The government is also proposing classifying major shale gas production schemes as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This means these schemes would be decided by a government minister, not local councillors.

Mr Rowley asked the leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom:

“Will the Minister consider giving Government time for a debate on shale gas and, in particular, proposed changes to permitted development rights?”


Ms Leadsom (right) said she supported the concept of shale gas as a further source of revenue and energy security. On the consultations, she said:

“We look forward to many stakeholders contributing to those consultations to ensure that planning decisions are fast but fair to all.”

Royal Society update

The energy minister, Claire Perry, avoided a direct answer to a question on whether government plans for shale gas extraction would take account of the Royal Society’s update on its 2012 report.

In her reply to Labour’s Rosie Cooper (West Lancasire), Ms Perry said:

“We are committed to ensuring a rigorous, evidence-based approach to shale gas extraction, and as such I welcome any new research that can further enhance our understanding and help inform our policy development.”

Policing fracking sites

Cuadrilla drilling rig leaves the Balcombe, West Sussex, UK site

Polcing Cuadrilla’s operations at Balcombe in 2013. Photo: David Burr d.burr69@btinternet.com

There was also no direct answer to the question by Labour’s Alex Norris (Nottingham North) on what additional funding the Home Office had allocated to local police forces for policing fracking sites.

The Home Office minister, Nick Hurd, said Sussex had received £900,000 in 2014-15 (for policing protests at Balcombe) and a grant of £1.4m had gone to Lancashire for policing anti-fracking protests (at Preston New Road).

Mr Hurd added:

“The Home Office carefully considers requests for additional funding through Special Grant.”


With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

Question by Sarah Wollaston, Conservative, Totnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the government has commissioned a review of research relating to the health implications of shale gas extraction by any organisation since the 2015 general election.

Reply by Steve Brine, Conservative, Winchester, Health Minister

Public Health England continues to review the evidence on the potential public health impacts of emissions associated with shale gas extraction and has not currently identified any significant evidence that would make it change its views stated in its 2014 Review.

Written question, 20 July 2018, Link to transcript

Lee Rowley Conservative, North East Derbyshire

A few weeks ago, the Government announced that they were likely over the summer to consult on changes to the planning process for shale gas and fracking. There is a shale gas application in my constituency, and this is of concern to a number of residents in my part of the world. Will the Minister consider giving Government time for a debate on shale gas and, in particular, proposed changes to permitted development rights?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Conservative, South Northamptonshire, Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue, and I am well aware that very often constituents have concerns. As an ex-Energy Minister, I can tell him that I am very supportive both of the concept of shale gas exploration and shale gas as a future source of revenue and energy security for this country and, importantly, of a very robust regulatory environment for shale gas. As he will know, the Government support shale gas exploration, and we are launching two consultations: one on the principle of including shale gas projects in the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime and the other on permitted development rights. We look forward to many stakeholders contributing to those consultations to ensure that planning decisions are fast but fair to all.

Question during Business of the House, 19 July 2018. Link to transcript

Rosie Cooper, Labour, West Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will take account of the Royal Society’s update of its report of June 2012 on shale gas extraction before continuing his plans to extract such gas.

Reply by Claire Perry, Conservative, Devizes, Energy Minister

The Government has always been clear that shale gas development must be safe and environmentally sound. We are committed to ensuring a rigorous, evidence-based approach to shale gas extraction, and as such I welcome any new research that can further enhance our understanding and help inform our policy development.

Written question, 18 July 2018. Link to transcript

Alex Norris, Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what additional funding his Department has allocated to local police forces for the policing of fracking sites.

Reply by Nick Hurd, Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, Home Office Minister

The Home Office awarded £900,000 in Special Grant funding to the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner in 2014/15, and £1.4 million in Special Grant funding to the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner in 2017/18, for the costs of policing anti-fracking protests.

The Home Office carefully considers requests for additional funding through Special Grant.

Written question, 16 July 2018. Link to transcript

22 replies »

  1. No need to revise the report, because the original has been ignored and therefore a waste of time and effort producing yet another report on the adverse consequences of this industry (An Inconvenient Truth!), for it will be ignored.

  2. What are they scared of? If there is no threat to health then any precaution will simply enhance the credibility of fracking.
    However, we know from countless reports from USA, Canada and Australia, that threats to health from fracking are very real and very well documented.
    Another corporate cover up it seems and will do no good to the reputation or what little confidence there is in fracking and it’s associated avoidances of the word.
    Clearly there are a few who want to see some movement on this, but the old oil and gas guard are having none of it.

    Lose lose for everyone except the flat cat fat cat frack hats.

    It’s the old tried and tested avoidance line isn’t it?
    We have no evidence because we haven’t looked for it.

  3. So the (Conservative) chair of the health committee is now asking pertinent questions. The heat is turning up on the government, the net is closing in, the island of fracking support is getting smaller and smaller, and the government line is getting more and more obviously ludicrous as day follows night. The front line against fracking has clearly moved into the Houses of Parliament and into the Conservative Party.

  4. Full underground horizontal fracking operations will take place mainly under a wide range of urban areas. Even if often for covenience, these will start out from vertical operations made in rural territory. This is because former coal mining territory over a long historical period (as the population massively expanded) came to live in areas built on the top of land where coal had been extracted over the centuries. Then many coal seams remain intack in places such as town centres, which had been built upon before mining operations took place in neighbouring territory. Also miners communities were built next to deep mined pits, and sometimes directly on top of their seams. In the following link, I cover aspects of this problem in the way it impacts upon my own community. But others can check out their own local community possibilities from the information I provide –

      • Interesting map. But please explain the impacts of the proposed INEOS’s well(s) on old coal seams / mines? I understand that there may be a seismic issue with close proximity faulting to zones which may be hydraulic fractured in future wells and that these faults should be avoided. What are the concerns re the current proposed INEOS drilling program (no fracking)? How deep are the mine shafts? Is the concern that INEOS will drill into an old shaft? Why is that a problem for anyone other than INEOS who it will cost time and money? Why is drilling through a coal seam an issue? Any carboniferous well drilled offshore / onshore drills through coal seams. Apart from causing some interesting drilling engineering challenges (coal blocks falling into the wellbore) I don’t recall any issues.

        Perhaps Hewes62 can comment – having worked in the coal mining industry in health and safety?

        This article in the Guardian today should perhaps be more of a concern?


        Paris agreement, China, renewables and all that……

        • The proposal for vertical operations by INEOS on their Bramleymoor Lane site would produce serious traffic problems given the nature of the roads which would be used and also would provide visual and noise problems for adjoining housing and communal facilities, including a school. When some of us raised the problem of their proposed operations smashing into two former mine shafts, they moved the proposed area a short distance away. There could, of course, still be unrecorded shafts in the new area. But the major problem would arise if their disputive verrtical operations confirmed what they are looking for. A fresh application either from the same site or close to it would seek horizontal fracking operations in an area which is pock-marked with fotmer pits. Such pits being shallow and close to surface areas which were later built upon. Even low level seismic operations to release shale gas, could reach to near the surface. Any former workings then disturbed would not have an opportunity to settle before surface areas collapsed – on which houses, gardens, pavements, roads and communal facilities are built. A concern is still a concern, even if more serious problems are happening in other parts of the world. The answers come from joined-up thinking.

  5. When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. ~Chinese Proverb

    • Here you go Sherwulfe (and John P):


      We will have 30GW of installed capacity by 2030. Great! Currently we have 7GW offshore and 19GW Total including onshore wind. Today (windy here) equivalent is 3GW producing electricity or an efficiency of 16% – probably higher than most of the last 6 weeks. But assuming an avearge of 35% efficiency (on and offshore), and assuming the Renewables UK target of 30GW (hardly doubling of 7GW?) includes onshore we will have an annual euivalent of 12GW from wind in 2030. That is less than 30% of a 45GW annual average demand. The “between a fifth and a third” quoted in the article.

      With solar added, still below 40% on a fine sunny summers day. So where does the rest come from – nuclear, gas, burning trees, and a bit of hydro, nuclear from France (up to 2GW). Or even from the new Banks opencast coal mine in the North East of England.

      But at least the auction system means that wind has to be financially competitive and transparent – a big change from the days of ROCs where we just dished out truckloads of money to the windfarm owners.

      • We are an island with extensive wave, river, wind and sun powers to make use of. Then we can control the total amount of energy we need to use by moving to rational transport systems and with housing structured in a rational way.

        • Unfortunately Harry no one has come up with a practical and cost effective plan that will work without gas and nuclear (or coal in other countries). That includes Phil C. At least not for the next 30 years or so. Then perhaps we will have technology that may fit our requirements. Not sure what you mean by rational transport systems – we will progress to electric cars eventually but we still need electricity. And gas heats most of our homes and will continue to do so for many years.

          New build houses should be better insulated, have PV panels, ground or air sourced heat pumps, batteries etc etc. But this is not happening yet. It will be a good start.

          • Our roads are blocked with traffic which often only has only one person to a car – using up our petrol resources and creating pollution. Then numerious roads are blocked with parked cars as many people don’t have (or use) garages or parking spaces. Public transport is bare bones and caught up in congestions due to these private alternatives. I appreciate that a significant move over to public transport (and even the greater use of taxis) would need to be gradual. For new transport structures would need to be developed and car production would drop considerably with new jobs needing to be found for many of their workforces. But we do need a rational, accessible and less polluting transport system.

          • Well we’ll, what was that little barb slipped in there about me never having a comprehensive renewable proposal Paul? You know perfectly “well” I have said on more than two occasions precisely how we can combine all the renewable resources of this country and with free and open trade with Europe, and others to provide all our renewable requirements for the foreseeable future.

            Look it up. Its the last day before term holidays tomorrow so i will be freer to reply after then, I am sure you will be pleased to know. If you want to discuss the matter of easily combining and enhancing renewable resorces further, but I suggest you do some research before then and refrain from these little unsubstantiated snipes.

            Oh yes, look up the island of “Egg” and similar island projects and remember England is just a big island.

            Have a nice Fossil fueled globally warmed record breaking day.

            • I think you mean “Eigg”? Population 100….. There is a clue in that. And they use diesel generators as back up. But only for 5-10% of the time. And it is costly without “suitable” capital subsidies. Please advise how to upscale this for the UK and keep it practical, and cost effective. Not a barb, just a comment that I have not seen you post a suitable alternative to what we have now or to any of the scenarios forecast for 2050. Actually it is a complement in that I view you as someone who makes an effort to propose an acceptable alternative solution unlike most anti oil and gas bloggers. Sherwulfe is 100% offgrid, renewables, population – I don’t know but not as many as Eigg no doubt.


              “Off-Grid energy systems are growing in popularity as an independent source of energy to satisfy electricity needs of individual households or smaller communities, mainly in developing countries where the main grid is either not developed or the grid is uneconomical to extend due to remoteness of the location. The Isle of Eigg in Scotland has been successfully using a hybrid off-grid system for several years to provide a reliable 24-h electricity supply to the islanders. This ex-post analysis of the Isle of Eigg system investigates its performance and explores possible alternative configurations which could work more effectively and efficiently. Simulations were carried out using HOMER software for the existing system and for alternative configurations of energy generation. It is found that the existing overcapacity has been instrumental in ensuring a reliable supply but continued reliance on diesel generators adds to the cost. More wind power capacity addition can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and modular sizing of generators instead of adding large capacities could have reduced the idle capacity. This experience suggests that providing reliable off-grid electricity supply is possible but is costly without suitable capital subsidies. Appropriate system design suited to the local condition is important for developing a viable system.”

            • What price clean air; a climate that enables food to be grown and water available? Money is just a concept, it is only relevant against a measure; if that measure is only profit then the argument is flawed. Life must come before ‘the love of money’.

  6. We are an island that will shortly be competing in world markets, without the insulation of tariffs to protect from cheaper imports from countries such as China and India. If some think that can be done with an over-priced energy sector they will get a shock. Perhaps the extensive was a typo, and should have read expensive?

  7. As the three abandoned wells on the Fylde have not been monitored for longer than a year despite evidence readily available from mature fracking locations elsewhere showing clearly that wells leak any time not within a time limit of one year and:
    As the Environment Agency has admitted to a Community Liaison Group recently it is having problems monitoring gas emissions at the Preston New Road Lancashire fracking site due to variable wind conditions,
    Surely the presumption of harm should dictate that the English fracking process should therefore be stopped until Gold Standard Monitoring can be relied on to keep residents safe?

    • The difficulty in monitoring abandoned wells for methane is that a few sheep or a single cow fart more methane than they are ever able to detect from an old well location. Look up biogenic gas, marsh gas, and see how much enters the atmosphere naturally. And look at agriculture. If there are methane emissions while drilling at PNR the mudloggers will detect them as will the rig’s gas detection system. One of the main jobs of the mudlogger is to analyse drilled gas using a chromatograph to determine the make up of the gas – methane, ethane. propane etc. The amount that goes into the atmosphere is fairly straightforward to calculate – the volume of rock drilled x the porosity of that rock that contains gas (in this case probably just the shale) adjusted for pressure and temperature to atmospheric conditions using Boyles Law primarily for pressure. There is only one case in the UK that I am aware of where a gas leak was detected post abandonment – actually in or near a school – this was quickly rectified by the new licence holder. No children or teachers were harmed – or you would no doubt have told us all about it on this BB…..

  8. Even Shirley disagrees with that, Peter.

    I believe the same sort of suggestions were made to the Wright brothers, but we now have both Heathrow and Gatwick about to be expanded, and space launch facilities to be progressed in Scotland and Cornwall.

    Time passes and progress continues.

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 )

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