Politics

What government told the shale gas industry about success, regulation, jobs and support

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Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool, the first UK hydraulic fracture of a horizontal shale gas well. Photo: Eddie Thornton, 18 October 2018

Several shale gas wells in production would be seen as success by the government, according to recently released notes of a round-table meeting between the energy minister and the industry.

Once the first well was in production, the notes said, the government believed “we will be in a better position”.

And according to the notes, ministers intended to streamline regulation for shale gas and create a “UK model” for shale extraction that can be exported around the world.

The meeting, called by Claire Perry, was at lunchtime on 21 May 2018. Later that day, the minister gave evidence to a committee of MPs on proposed changes to the planning rules for shale gas developments. Four days earlier, these changes had been announced in Written Ministerial Statements. They proposed treating non-fracking shale gas proposals as permitted development, avoiding the need for planning applications, and classifying major shale gas production schemes as nationally-significant infrastructure projects (NSIP), to be decided by a Secretary of State.

DrillOrDrop reported in August that most of the notes of the meeting released under a Freedom of Information request had been redacted by a government department “in the public interest” or because they contained confidential information. The list of attendees was also not released.

180820 FOI on Claire Perry meeting

Initial response to FOI request by Richard Bales about the round-table shale gas meeting

But following an internal review of that decision, we now know more about what was discussed and which companies and organisations attended the meeting. Some material remains redacted, partly because it referred to policy “that is intended for later publication”. This is likely to refer to the proposed planning changes, which at this point were not being formally consulted on. Less redacted notes of Claire Perry meeting with shale industry

180521 less redacted notes of shale industry round table

Second version of notes of round-table meeting on shale gas following an internal review of FOI response by Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The FOI request was made by Richard Bales, who lives in Ryedale, where Third Energy had been planning to frack at Kirby Misperton.

He said the latest version of the notes “reveal an appalling lack of preparedness on the part of Government” and based on the contents he predicted “a chaotic roll-out of an industry that will mimic the very worst of the US experience”. He said “the industry vultures around that table must have been quietly licking their lips.” (See more detail in section headed “Appalling lack of preparedness”)

Who was there?

The internal review said the guest list does not exist for the meeting but the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it has reconstructed one from the organisations and companies that attended.

The oil and gas companies present were: Aurora, BP, Cuadrilla, IGas, Ineos, Third Energy and the industry representative body UK Onshore Oil and Gas.

Service companies: Ground Gas Solutions, Marriott Drilling, Onshore Energy Service Group, and the Zetland Group.

Investors and fund managers: Riverstone (a major partner in Cuadrilla), Kerogen (investor in IGas), Global Natural Resource Investments (formerly part of Barclays which invested in Third Energy), KKR, JP Morgan.

Other industries and organisations: Chemical Industries Association and the chemical company SABIC, Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Engineering Employers’ Federation, GMB.

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Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 19 October 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Success

The previous release of the meeting notes redacted, in the public interest, this section of notes from Claire Perry’s presentation:

“Hoping that we can be successful and create a ‘UK model’ for Shale extraction which can be exported around the world”.

It also redacted the following question and answer:

Question: “What does the Minister see as ‘success’?

Answer: “Several wells in production; adequate support from government, industry and regulators resulting in confirmation that the system is working; working in partnership to make the case for Shale Gas and have line of sight to commerciality”.

Regulation

According to the notes, the attendees welcomed the WMS. But an unnamed attendee wanted to ensure that:

“the regulation is appropriate as the industry is a difficult one from a commercial perspective”.

The response from either the minister or senior officials was:

“Be clear that the intention is to streamline regulation and ensure that there is a lead person available to help navigate the regulation. We will consult on the case for a standalone regulator. Also, we need to make a virtue of our good regulators as this can help us export expertise abroad.”

In her presentation, the minister also noted “that the current arrangement with a ‘virtual regulator’ is working well.”

An attendee stressed that:

“planning is the problem and we need to work out how the system has been used by those blocking progress and understand why it takes so long. Also, need to educate people that we need more than just renewable energy at the moment”.

The response from the Minister or officials hinted that decisions could be taken out of local authority control:

“Believes the MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] are doing a good job and used the example of the speed with which Hinkley Point C was passed through planning under NSIP as an example of how things can be accelerated. Stressed that diversity of our own UK energy sources is a virtue as move towards a lower carbon economy.”

A fully-redacted question may have referred to the proposals for permitted development or the NSIP regime. The minister or officials were said to have responded:

“The challenge is recognised and there is no single solution. [sentence redacted because it refers to material in course of completion] Facilitation via the Shale Brokerage, supported by robust decision making and up-to-date guidance will help. View that once first well is in production and the case can be made based on live examples, we will be in a better position.”

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Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 18 October 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Jobs

The issue of UK jobs was raised several times during the meeting. But there were no detailed ideas from on the government or industry on how to ensure jobs stayed in the UK or that a skills gap was filled. Ms Perry or her officials said in response to one question on jobs to UK companies:

“lt is not only that a growth in the industry can create jobs, but also the location of those jobs which is important.”

On a call for more money to build skills ahead of the industry’s arrival in former coal producing areas, the minister or officials responded:

“Take offline to understand what more can be done. Also, demonstrates that there needs to be support across industry and other bodies for the growth of the industry to help re-generate areas where it can replace older, diminished industries.”

According to the notes, Campbell Keir, from the Department of International Trade, spoke about:

“the requirement to try and show that Shale Gas is a robust and sustainable industry – used the example of UK wind to demonstrate the power of foreign direct investment and the ability for the UK to become an export of skills”.

Message

According to the notes, the attendees welcomed the “renewed focus of the government and the Minister on this topic”. But the minister was told:

“communication and engagement has not been explicit enough to date, What will change?”

The minister and officials were said to have responded:

“Sequence is important and now that official Whitehall statements have been made we can start the process of working together to better communicate the benefits of carefully and safely growing the industry. lndeed, the case for Gas in general will be key to this.”

In another question, the minister was told that “facts about the debate have been missing”.

The minister or officials responded:

“It will not be appropriate if we allow UK energy policy to be made on the basis of those groups which shout the loudest and that evidence must be the basis.”

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Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 13 October 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

“Appalling lack of preparedness”

Richard Bales, who made the initial FOI request and asked for the internal review, told DrillOrDrop today:

“Whichever BEIS official that redacted the original version must have done so out of shame of association, as these documents now reveal an appalling lack of preparedness on the part of Government and an astonishing naivete at senior level. The industry vultures around that table must have been quietly licking their lips.

“The notes show that even the industry doesn’t know where UK jobs will come from, that we have a Minister who is prepared to discuss regulatory control and commerciality in the same breath, and that PD and NSIP proposals are being presented to the operators as a foregone conclusion. In combination, these factors would lead towards a chaotic roll-out of an industry that will mimic the very worst of the US experience.

“A few points of discussion remain redacted as they are claimed to reference policy that is intended for later publication’ and cannot be released piecemeal. The fact that the Minister was quite prepared to release this privileged information to a small group with clear vested interests raises some interesting questions that should perhaps be pursued further.”

54 replies »

  1. This exposes the exact mindset of the government by the list of attendees, industry and investors. Not only that, the major stakeholders in this ie the communities impacted and the general public do not have a seat at the table. Worse still their opinions appear to count for nothing as they are rudely and incorrectly pushed aside as the shouty few. Where were members of the CCC, environmental scientists, MPs from licensed constituencies? There was no balance whatsoever at this meeting. Such arrogance and high handed behaviour by Ms Perry and the government I hope will result in nothing short of abject failure. This is not democracy and before the fracking supporters start to rant about manifestos and votes, the government is in the process of going back on a number of manifesto pledges, including tax, so they are not set in stone. This is a minority government and the majority of Conservative MPs in licensed constituencies oppose the government’s “streamlined” planning proposals. And furthermore, the erosion of hard won democratic rights can never be justified.

    • I wonder how many private meetings Claire Perry has had with the onshore wind industry which is the cheapest form of energy and one of the cleanest? As an energy minister she surely has had many meetings with the UK solar industry and is offering support. How is she moving forward with energy saving support schemes?

  2. Looks like a good meeting. What is the story in this? The relevant Government Department met with representatives of the relevant industry. Happens all the time. Nothing to do with “communities” at this meeting. If “communities” were invited to every Government meeting nothing would ever get done in any industry anywhere and the meetings would be chaos.

    • Paul you are far too intelligent to suggest I was proposing a large community presence be invited to this meeting, of course that would be inappropriate.There is nothing wrong in an open democratic society having one or two community representatives at a meeting about a contentious issue. And you have ignored my point about representatives from the CCC and environmental scientists, without question they should be present. This meeting was clearly to discuss tactics and the roll out of fracking and however you care to deny it, it doesn’t change the fact this meeting was without balance. And a government is not a business, yes it must make decisions and meet with business but it is a government that has to be accountable to, respect and represent all the electorate and this means all the electorate not just the minority that voted for it. It is completely unacceptable that a government minister should use the kind of language Ms Perry has in describing those opposed to fracking. I for one am neither shouty nor part of a travelling circus. Fuelling division and anger is no way to achieve an objective, especially in government. One day Ms Perry will be in opposition because at some point in the future there will be a change of government and I just hope she is treated with more respect than she has afforded to other MPs and the electorate for the sake of democracy and decency.

  3. Most of us have made jokes, sarcastic comments or levelled accusations about the lack of government preparation and ignorance surrounding this industry. We all underestimated just how dangerously out of touch they are. Seemingly Perry’s only recently woken up to science – certainly there’s no mention of it here. Her background in banking means she sees everything through the eyes of a low-level bean counter. She should go back to doing something she’s good at, that can benefit the nation. Something like dipping a lump of wood into water. She’s won gold medals for her uncanny ability to every time. find a river she’s sitting in the middle of. Unfortunately for us, when she attempts anything more cerebral her brain cannot compute. She’s the living embodiment of a little knowledge being damn near fatal.

  4. Guessing the antis don’t attend many business meetings? Only meetings on how to disrupt business.
    Anyway if they did they’d realise these are the typical topics of discussion… Investment, jobs, potential revenue, growth, safety, regulation etc etc.

  5. Doesn’t look a whole lot like thousands of wells marching across the countryside, does it?

    Most relevant sentence:

    “It will not be appropriate if we allow UK energy policy to be made on the basis of those groups which shout the loudest and that evidence must be the basis.”

    Now, wouldn’t that be nice.

  6. id say theirs alot of side things the government help set up to train staff for the fracking industry and cause it hasnt had the success what the government hoped or the support the places set up to train staff and employ them are failing badly ..just empty centres due to public support forfracking going less and les daily how much in total has been wasted ona failing fracking sytem that no one in the uk wants ?
    and amazing photos of peston new road site ..its failed why they stil puching it through how many gov back handers have happened to allow it to keep being pushed ?

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