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 »

    • John Powney
      Would that East Kilbride wind farm pictured be one of the many in that area happily turning away, fully supported by the Scottish Government?

      I see that the Independent is of the opinion that the UK does not include Scotland, Wales and N Ireland.
      No mention that windy Scotland is cracking on with onshore wind, ( google Scottish wind ).
      No mention that wales has plans in the pipeline ( google welsh wind farms ( onshore )
      No mention of wind farms in N Ireland ( which seems well,covered … see Scottish Power .. onshore wind in N.Ireland, or the Belfast telegraph re ‘Map Reveals how they have swarmed across N.Ireland’.

      But good to see such low standards of reporting. How would we know the rest of the report is true! Is that large % of voters all English, or are they part of the Uk? Is the reduction in onshore planning applications across the UK, or just England.

      Remember, do not believe everything you read in the indie ( or Mail, Mirror and so on ).
      Or maybe I am completely wrong and wind power is banned in Scotland by Ms Perry?

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

    And how is that exactly, Ruth? Was Claire Perry’s suggestion that regulations need to be strengthened around the traffic light system? That isn’t consistent with what you’ve written above, is it? From what you’ve shown, her statement on strengthening was general in nature and not specific to the traffic light system. If that is the case, then it is perfectly consistent to suggest that the overall regulatory scheme may need to tighten certain environmental standards while maintaining a stance in favor of relaxing standards on the traffic light system. Independent journalism, yeah right.

  2. Claire Perry opines:”shale gas (is) “entirely consistent” with UK measures to a low-carbon future.”

    James Hansen believes: “The science is crystal clear, we need to phase out fossil fuels starting with the most damaging, the ‘unconventional’ fossil fuels such as tar sands and ‘fracking’.” He also draws attention to recent finds of conventional gas offshore, enough, he said, to cook our food and heat our homes until it’s too dangerous to do so.

    Despite Ms.Perry’s own opinion of the value of her opinions – another similarity with Trump, I think we’re safer with Hansen.

    [typo corrected at poster’s request]

  3. Iaith1720
    I am sure that the majority of oil and gas producing nations and companies would heartily agree with Hansen.
    One offshore floating LNG vessel is quite expensive, and to have the economics undermined by cheaper frack gas must be somewhat troubling.

    Hansen no doubt supports the dash for LNG, and crucifixion of coal.

    But then all that NASA data re methane leaks links to the global switch from coal to gas, of which, fracking is not a big part outwith the US.

      • Jack TL
        Although it may sound like an offhand comment, I suspect that Dr Steingraber has yet to see oil and gas extraction in a few other places around the globe, nay coal mining.
        However, it is a watershed moment for the US, as parts of the population come face to face with what is required to extract the fossil fuel they have traditionally had, without the bother of it being next door.
        If America had continued to import oil ( and it also was planning to import gas ) I am sure no one would have worried too much.
        But now they produce their own, it is a bit more problematic.

        It must be good for renewables I guess, or fracking is banned before renewables are sufficient to cope and the US goes back to importing large amounts of oil from around the world…out of sight and out of mind ( as Time Magazine says this week in article ‘climate catastrophe seen just 12 years away’…)

        ‘politicians are also accountable to citizens, and thus far the vast majority of Americans have yet to prioritise the issue .. even though poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans understand that climate change is happening. They just, so far, choose not to do anything about it. ……. The question is often ‘do I feel vulnerable’, …..and for the most part we ( Americans ) don’t, and that shapes our behaviours.

        Fracking near you makes you feel,vulnerable, but going to the fuel station and filling up on Saudi oil does not ( or did not ), even though importing oil required a muscular intervention strategy in those countries who provided, it seems.

        Not to worry, Trump likes to keep it in the ground everywhere but America, so, as charity begins at home, maybe US consumption will drop?

  4. I’m still waiting to see real proof of these world class standards. You know, the ones where the exploration companies mark their own work. Does anyone have any real proof of these ‘world class standards’ or is this yet another Tory fib? Angus Energy at Balcombe couldn’t even manage their traffic movements to plan, so one wonders what’s went on at the site itself.Claire Perry simply shouts loudly, expecting people to believe the tripe she spews out.

    • Malcolm
      A number of people on here have seen other country standards, and UK standards in the oil and gas industries.

      The UK has high standards, and in my experience in multinational companies, expats coming to work in the UK struggle with the high expectations te compliance.

      Our friends from America struggle with goal setting regulations ( ie prefer prescriptive Regulations as compliance with them ( no matter how good or bad ) means innocent if something happens ). Of course, under UK HSWA, for safety issues, you are guilty until you prove your innocence.

      Our European friends are a bit different. There is the law, but surely the gov wants our tax ( and heavens .. you pay tax )? For those who are more Anglo Saxon, it does not work that way.

      Mind you, nothing is perfect as the first 6 or so pages of the monthly IOSH magazine would attest to.

      Re traffic movements … that is not specific to oil and gas. I do not think that the person who mentioned ‘world class standards’ thought of something generic as a traffic plan. Not being so au fair with non oil and gas regulation hard to say. Maybe in those countries where the police line the roads to supplement their wages ( many of these countries attract tourists) everything would be fine and dandy. Of course, they only stop,the poor!

    • Please MARTIN will you answer ???

      Surely you must be very concerned about this devastating news…. NO FRACKING IS SAFE, no matter what ” Gold Standards ” you have .

      1200 PEER REVIEWED articles

      “Fracking is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” says Dr. Sandra Steingraber

      The Harms of Fracking’: New Report Details Increased Risks of Asthma, Birth Defects and Cancer.


      • Jono
        Can you be a bit more specific?
        Have you been told they are not working, have you inferred this from viewing their portal, or something else?
        The data does not turn up until 10.00am for the previous day 06.00 to 06.00 so there would be nothing to see yesterday other than pre fracking data.

        • We’ve looked at the Cuadrilla portal this evening, and couldn’t see any readings for yesterday (Monday), nor any other signs of activity going back through the previous four weeks.

          Ruth has asked Cuadrilla if we are missing something (?or maybe it was a very gentle frack)

          • Paul
            Same here, plus bgs, and nothing felt locally ( rattling plates or whatever ).
            Indeed, it is always good to know if the things are working, and how they are assured they do.
            Plus we have the BGS data to look at as well.
            We could always ask Paul Tresco for an opinion.
            How long from starting to pump do we expect any fracturing to start?

            • Fracturing will start as soon as the formation fracture pressure is exceeded. With a leak off test, usually in shale, this happens after a few barrels have been pumped with water based fluid and a few more with oil based fluid. Cuadrilla are obviously using water based fluid. I don’t know the rate of fracture growth but this will be determined by pump rate and pressure. According to the Hydraulic Fracture Plan each stage is up to 765m3 and pump rate will be up to 3.6m3/min. So each stage will be around 4 hours pumping with 7,500psi surface pump pressure.

              More info. in:

              Click to access PNR1z-HFP-v9.pdf

  5. “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 gas we import is via pipeline from Europe & Norway are they “extremely unstable”?

  6. Some is-and yes pipelines are extremely unstable. As are inter connectors. But, gas is also imported by ship, and they come from extremely unstable countries-apart from the shale gas from USA that is imported.

    • Damn that Trinidad and Tobago is pretty unstable oh no hang on it’s not and it’s one of those Commonwealth countries we want to do an fta with.

      Interestingly enough first quarter lng imports into the U.K. and Europe as a whole down on the same time last year and nothing to do with U.K. shale.

      What is also interesting is all those shipments coming into the U.K. being reshipped elsewhere. Almost as if the U.K. was some kind of European hub for LNG shipping, of course that will all stop when shale gas takes off, won’t it?


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