Minister questioned over shale gas threat to climate

181015 parliament tv

Debate on Clean Green Britain Week, 15 October 2018. Photo: Parliament TV

The energy minister, Claire Perry, has described shale gas as “entirely consistent” with UK measures to a low-carbon future.


Claire Perry. Photo: Parliament TV

She was responding to a challenge from Labour that shale gas would displace “genuinely low-carbon energy”.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on Clean Green GB Week, Ms Perry said the UK would “rapidly decarbonise gas”. But she added:

“It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation.”

The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, pointed out what she said was a “terrible irony” that the start of Clean Green GB Week coincided with the start of fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road in Lancashire. She asked:

“How is this compatible with net zero emissions”

181015 Rebecca Long-Bailey

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Photo: Parliament TV

Ms Long-Bailey also pointed to the letter to government from the former NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, who urged ministers to withdraw support for fracking. He compared the UK’s shale gas programme to “aping Donald Trump” and “ignoring scientific evidence”.

Meeting climate targets

The Preston Labour MP, Mark Kendrick, in a written question, asked Ms Perry what assessment had been made on the effect of shale gas extraction on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change targets.

The minister said the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) had considered shale gas production at scale could be compatible with carbon budgets if three tests were met.

These are:

  • Shale gas methane emissions were minimised and monitored
  • Gas consumption remained in carbon budget limits
  • Additional shale gas emissions offset by reductions elsewhere

Ms Perry said these tests “can and will be met”.

She said the government had asked the CCC for advice on meeting the case made for a 1.5oC limit on warming set out last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The CCC should reply by March 2019 Link to letter

Safety and protection for fracking

Mark Menzies, the Fylde MP, whose constituency includes Preston New Road, urged Ms Perry to continue to “put in place the relevant safety measures and environmental protections”.

The minister replied:

“We have the strongest environmental standards in the world when it comes to oil and gas extraction.”

But she added:

“We believe that we may, indeed, need to continue to strengthen them.”

This appears to contradict suggestions that the traffic light system, which regulates induced seismic activity from fracking, could be relaxed.


Debate on Clean Green GB Week

Extract of speech by Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow business secretary, Labour
15 October 2018

Shale gas can only be described as low carbon if it replaces coal in the energy mix, but coal is already on its way out of the UK’s energy mix, before fracking has even started. If shale gas were to come online now, it would be displacing genuinely low-carbon energy, not coal. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist known as the father of climate science last week slammed this Government’s decision to pursue fracking as “aping” Donald Trump. What a terrible irony it is that the first day of Green Great Britain Week is the day that fracking is due to commence in Preston. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?

Extract of speech by Claire Perry
Energy minister, Conservative, Devizes
15 October 2018

I find it amazing that so many Labour Front Benchers will take the shilling of the GMB union but will not take its advice on shale gas extraction. They are claiming that this does not create jobs; the union fundamentally disagrees with them. They claim that it is not consistent with a low-carbon future. The Committee on Climate Change has said that it is entirely consistent with our measures. When they go home tonight to cook their tea, I ask them to think about what fuel they are going to use, because we know that 70% of the country relies on gas for cooking and heating. We have a choice. On current projections, we are going to move from importing about half our gas to importing almost 75% of it, even with usage falling, as it needs to going forward.

The challenge on shale is that we do use gas. We want to rapidly decarbonise gas as we will continue to do. This is entirely consistent with all our low-carbon pathways. It is even consistent with the hon. Lady’s proposals for the renewable economy, because she will need 40% of that to come from some sort of thermal generation. It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation.

Extract of speech by Mark Menzies
Conservative, Fylde
15 October 2018

I urge my right hon. Friend not to take any lectures from the Labour party when it comes to shale gas, because it was under the Labour party that the current licensing round for the shale gas that is being fracked today was issued. May I urge her to continue to put in place the relevant safety measures and environmental protections, as this Government have done, which were not there when the Labour party issued the licence round?

Extract of response by Claire Perry
15 October 2018

One of the reasons for believing that we can safely extract shale gas is that we have the strongest environmental standards in the world when it comes to oil and gas extraction. We believe that we may, indeed, need to continue to strengthen them.

However, is it not interesting? My hon. Friend has dealt with the brunt of a lot of the protests against the shale site to which we have granted a licence, and I was very disappointed to see Rebecca Long Bailey having a bit of a chit-chat with the protesters without bothering to go into the site to see its potential and the number of jobs that could be created by that vital industry.

Written question on climate change

Question by Mark Hendrick, Labour/Co-operative, Preston
15 October 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the effect of shale gas extraction on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change targets.

Reply by Claire Perry
15 October 2018

The Government believes that shale gas has the potential to be a home-grown energy source which can lead to jobs and economic growth, contribute to our security of supply, and help us achieve our climate change objectives.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has considered whether shale gas production at a significant scale can be compatible with the UK’s carbon budgets, and has conducted that it can if certain conditions are met, which they have set out as three “tests”. These are:

  • Methane emissions from shale gas production are minimised and monitored.
  • Gas consumption remains within carbon budget limits.
  • Any additional shale gas emissions are offset by reductions elsewhere in order to meet carbon budgets.

We believe that our robust regulatory regime and determination to meet our carbon budgets mean those tests can and will be met. As such, we welcome the conclusions, and also the CCC’s belief that shale gas could make a useful contribution to UK energy supplies.

We welcome the recent publication of the IPCC’s special report on 1.5ºC. It sets out the strong case for pursing efforts to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, and reiterates that current global efforts are not enough to meet this unprecedented challenge. The UK’s way forward is set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and we have committed to asking the Committee on Climate Change for advice on our long-term targets in light of this new evidence.

53 replies »

  1. Thanks for your instructions crembrule, but you will understand if I ignore them. Sorry you have difficulty negotiating a B.B with a couple of dozen posts on it, and get stressed by it. Those of us in the majority can just about manage that. But, tell you what. If my posts are such a problem to you, don’t read them and then you will have more opportunity to concentrate on those that mirror your own opinions. (I have given you that advice several times before, but obviously I am compulsive reading.)

    Who was spraying opinions about US Presidents? Different “rules”?

    • Oh dear failed again even after being given an idiots guide to posting.

      Although it makes me feel ill to do so I will use one of you hero’s favourite phrases so you can bigly understand “SAD!”

  2. Ahh, but who gave it crembrule? You fail to understand I am outside the asylum. Out here, we have freedom.

    “Bigly understand” ????

    OMG-a really hip dude, bro.

    I will make it even more simple for you, ignore the posters that routinely post twaddle, speed read those that occasionally don’t, and then what is left is hardly taxing. No wonder you have such difficulties with your “local” paper. This is hardly War and Peace.

  3. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s the point going right over Martin’s head, which is actually quite a feat given the gravitational pull of the gigantic spheroid.

  4. The stark lesson from the US experience is that, in practice, fugitive gas emissions cannot be controlled by the drilling companies.

    There are many different figures out there as it is clearly extremely hard to estimate how much gas escapes from the ground/ through watercourses etc. but looking at sources from within the US regulatory framework the figures are really very concerning.

    To quote the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “According to EPA analysis [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency], natural gas well completions involving hydraulic fracturing vent approximately 230 times more natural gas and volatile organic compounds than natural gas well completions that do not involve hydraulic fracturing”

    Due to the heavily faulted geology in the UK we can expect far higher levels of these emissions, so the idea that UK fracked gas is better for the environment than imported conventional gas isn’t anywhere near plausible.

    Some helpful pointers can be found here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYCMrcjtBWg

    • “Due to the heavily faulted geology in the UK we can expect far higher levels of these emissions, so the idea that UK fracked gas is better for the environment than imported conventional gas isn’t anywhere near plausible. ”

      Please explain this – it doesn’t make sense. What has subsurface geology got to do with fugitive emissions (which come from flow back fluid, surface infrastructure such as valves / separators / actuators (if gas used).

      • Paul if the fugitive emissions from hydraulicly fractured wells only leaked from the parts you mentioned do you really think the EPA would come up with that multiple compared to conventional wells?
        They have also been measuring gas escaping from the ground and through water and that’s the bit industry ignores and cannot control.
        Here in tbe UK any faults that connect in any way to surface, even faults to small to be detected seismically, can transfer gas released by fracking, to the surface.
        I understand why industry takes the view it does, these losses are not of great concern to their profitability, and you will reflect that view because of your background, but try watching the video all the way through and you will see another perspective.

        • Dorkian

          I am not sure about leaks from faults etc.

          If fracking takes place around Tinkers Lane takes place then gas to the surface has a few issues.

          The gas would have to move through the shale to the coal seams, where it would meet existing gas ( happily sitting there..ie trapped ). If it then moved on up it would meet the Sherwood Sandstone, which is an aquifer. If it is moving up through a fault then it would be joined by the aquifer water and pop up at the surface.

          But the aquifer is sealed. Plus, a few miles to the east of Tinkers lane the land under the aquifer has been well raddled by coal mines, but has not leaked to the surface ( and neither does the gas from the mines it seems ).

          Plus no gas in the aquifer ( other than normal ) and still supplying the East Midlands with water.

          Maybe this is different elsewhere, but I do not think that the large difference in emissons between frack gas and conventional is predicated on fugitive emissions up faults and into water.

          It seems to be based on flaring or venting during flowback, leaving frack water to glass off in lined pits, and the need for more wells for a given amount of gas than conventional production. Something the industry can address through green completions et al.

          No doubt we should go seek some links to the subject.

          • The video I linked to demonstrated that faults can be a pathway for contaminates, the author references 6 studies including German http://www.davidsmythe.org/fracking/Fracking%20risk%20assessment%20executive%20summary%20english.pdf and French studies that contributed to the banning of fracking in those countries. You can find the studies by referencing his own extensive site, http://www.davidsmythe.org/fracking/fracking.htm

            There is a good summary here in his submission to the House of Lords which includes the issue on faults as pathways for contaminants; http://www.davidsmythe.org/fracking/Smythe%20shale%20gas%20submission%20to%20HoL%20v1.5.pdf the references are in a separate file here http://www.davidsmythe.org/fracking/Smythe%20submission%20-%20references%20and%20end%20notes.pdf

            Gas takes about 24 hours to get to surface, fluids you can take your pick from the studies, an average would be 30 years. So not a problem for drinking water when we are taking about off shore, but on shore, a totally different picture.

            Back to fugitive gas emissions, given the IPCC report that we have just 12 years to address the human contribution to climate change, unconventional exploration must stop now and conventional fossil fuel use must be phased out as fast as human ingenuity will allow.

          • You have really distracted me today Hewes62 🙂 I hope this is of interest.
            This from the EA publication, Evidence: Monitoring and control of fugitive methane from unconventional gas operations

            Like Paul Tresto, the EA’s main focus is on equipment leaks and gas venting from flowback fluids, but;

            “7.2 Estimation of methane emissions
            The use of generic emissions factors to estimate methane emissions from other industries is of questionable value for unconventional gas. Recent research published by the US EPA indicates that methane emissions from unconventional gas well completion may be higher than previously thought.”
            “7.4 Consideration may also need to be given to minimising the risk of methane reaching the surface via pathways from the well infrastructure (for example, in the event of failures of the well liner system) or via the overlying rocks following fracturing of the shale matrix. In this case, concerns are likely to focus on groundwater contamination risks.”

            Click to access scho0812buwk-e-e.pdf

            • Dorkian

              I was just trying to square my experience of working through, along and under faults when mining coal, with an

              aquifer above us, and it seems, shale gas locked away below us ( and dropping the aquifer a few M over time for good measure.).

              I can agree that unsealed faults are a problem for the oil industry, but the leaking away of any oil and gas happens over geological timescales.

              Hence I am sceptical that large amounts of methane will turn up at the surface, in s hurry, should a frack intersect a fault.

              I have seen the Findhorn presentation earlier and was with the good professors till he

              1. Dissed the Government ( nothing to do with geology ), presumably a sop to the audience

              2. That recent granting of oil exploration permits is less rigorous than before ( which comes as a big surprise to us in the East Midlands who are used to a variety of small companies working the patch … allowed to by past labour governments ).

              3. Had a slide to say that fracking in the US was a ponzi scheme, talked to the price of oil and linked it to tje Permian , but his slide was for gas. He later reiterated thos point. Now there are lots of reports of fracking and it’s ability to make money. He would be right to point out that you get less per bod equivalent for gas than you do for oil.

              4. Says that, because no treatment plant was available for one tanker of frack return from the preese Hall well was secretly dumped in the Manchester ship canal ( which intimates without treatment ) , and that the HSE gave them retrospective permission. But we know it went through a treatment works, and the EA are the regulatory authority. Even frack off Lancashire day it went through the Davyhulme plant, but they say it was 2 million gallons …. which is one large tanker! I suspect that in this case as well the good prof is playing to the audience, but it is still not right to get basic facts wrong in order to make your point.

              Hence, interesting information when he is on home ground.

              I have already read his reports on the Fylde ( and the two wells noted in his slide, plus the pond on the fault fed by freshwater springs….as possibilities the aquifer is fresh water ), the Weald ( not much oil, in the fault fracture area, other stimulation likely required and Misson ( and in particular the postulated Misson fault.).

              There are certainly more faults around in the UK.

              Just my thoughts,

              Plus, the calculations which say fracking releases more methane to the environment than conventional extraction is primarily based on release as described ( flowback vented, open pits ) rather than gas leaking to aquifers and so on … which would be in addition I guess! All I need to do is find their calculations which gets them to that number.

              Not that conventional gas extraction is peachy clean. As I have noted here before, Southern North Sea gas platforms ( from which the bulk of English gas comes from ) vent their fugitive and operational emissions. Both for blowdown and the platform vent system which captures gas from re,if valves etc and pipes it to one point.

              In the N.N Sea ( oil with associated gas, or gas / condensate fields ) the gas is flared ( blowdown and all the rest ) hence less methane to the atmosphere.

              I see no mention anywhere in any comment on this. Good that the EA are on the case and that, as the older platforms die off, newer platforms flare, plus vent permits get tighter.

              But all of thos is my opinion, and others may have different opinions.

            • Off course faults which come to the surface / into a permeable formation near the surface are an issue if they are none sealing. However the information above notes faulting up to a seal. Not to surface. Also if the shale is fracked through to a fault which runs shallower and has permeability this would be observed while pumping and or through induced seismicity. What you need to remember is that if the shale is faulted and the fault runs to surface, and it is none sealing, and the shale is a source rock, fugitive emissions as they are called, will have been leaking to the atmosphere for millions of years and will continue to do so – naturally – and all over the planet.

              Dorkinian’s 7.4 is much more applicable to a conventional O & G reservoir with primary porosity and permeability. Shale does not have primary porosity and permeability, or very little, hence the need to frack and the fast depletion.

              Failure of the wells liner system means what? Well construction has secondary and tertiary barriers in place for this event. It only impact the well owner who may need to take remedial action to restore productivity.

              No one had heard of the concept of “fugitive emissions” until fairly recently – it is another anti red herring rolled out to attack shale.

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