Politics

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

181018 pnr Eddie Thornton 3

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. CP is a very smart and strong modern female politician. She shows courage, rationale conviction and strong political backbone unlike some of her male MPs colleague in other counties who cowered for votes.
    Not sure why the nimby are claiming this is abnormal practice in any way. Of she has all the rights to consult interest stake holders and has the right to make the decision in the best interest of the rest of the nation. She is the elected official and a minister that won the election on an openly debated political agenda. Unlike the dubious SNPs who hide behind the legal wording to conceal their real interest.

    • An alternative appraisal of CP might be a typical tin eared Tory politician. She is an inflexible, uncaring ideologue and is out of touch with communities and voters in general.

      No need to mention her gender as it does not define her inability to do her job, ( it’s a non gender specific ability of all Tory ministers to cock things up!)

      She is part of a fast disintegrating minority Tory government voted in on a Brexit ticket whilst the remainder of their election manifesto is in tatters as they flip flop from one u turn to the next. and who require propping up by the DUP to stay in power, to a tune of £1b of tax payers money.

      • Lol. Crembrule. Your description sounds much more like that of the dear beloved comrade leader of the anti fracker, comrade Jeremy Corbyn.

        • Each to their own TW. Rather Comrade Corbyns red army than the rapidly dwindling and increasingly out of touch with the rest of the population blue rinse brigade

          • Oh dear Crem, doubt you have any first hand experience with communism ☭. It isn’t the pastures of greener grass that you’re led to believe.
            The sooner Corbyn is put back in his rightful place ie the backbench the better as it’s giving you lot false hope. You’ll always be part of a minority no matter how many hard left wing media outlets say otherwise.
            Looking fwd to upsetting you at next election 😘

            • You won’t have to wait until then to upset me, every time you darken the pages doorstep with your presence a little bit of happiness dies.

            • If you would like to enjoy more of Peeny’s nuggets of wisdom you are in luck!

              He’s now taken to posting on Twitter using @Caradunlop1 with the name BDWsh. Those who know him well will recall that Bard Welsh and Bard Walsh are amongst his army of pseudonyms. He’s a bit ruder on there as he is not moderated. 😂

  2. Why did such a smart and strong politician spend the first eight minutes of her fifteen in the Westminster Planning debate reduced to ad hominem arguments, deriding concerned and informed locals as ‘a travelling circus’ and trying to weave in the tired old Russian gas fable with the highly dubious alleged occurrences in Salisbury? Out of desperation, that’s why. You may have noticed that she was the one refusing to give way to others in the debate, (knowing that Caroline Lucas would rip her in half;) she was the one insisting on ‘shouting the loudest,’ often against members of her own party. It would appear that no local authority, including Conservative councils, has reponded favourably to the governments draconian amendments to the time proven planning system. She ignores them at her peril. Oh and part of her letter to Kevin Holinrake was actually a ‘cut and paste’ of Langley’s House of Lords written answer to Baroness Jones on setback distance, in which, some 8 days prior to the WMS being read out. he stated that Local Authorities would have the power to decide on cumulative impacts. It would seem that one week’s assurances of regulatory integrity is the following week’s ‘barrier to development.’

  3. “Key points from the ministers presentation: Minister said that we will consult on the need for a new, single regulator for Shale, but noted
    that the current arrangement with a ‘virtual regulator’ is working well”
    Is this an admission, there is no actual regulator, that the industry is not being properly and adequately regulated?

    • Patrick
      The term ‘Virtual Regulator’ is interesting, but in the meantime the EA and HSEx are regulatory bodies. As are councils. Maybe there will be one regulatory body looking after fracking, but I guess that would just be a front for an authority which leans on existing expertise. After all, what about wheel washing, traffic plans, COSHH and building a pad ( for example ) are specific to fracking?

  4. Perhaps some should look at CPs record in her own constituency?

    Seen off UKIP, Lib Dems and Labour.

    Telling that when someone is doing a good job instead of putting forward counter evidence the antis just attack the individual. Not very confident when it comes to “evidence must be the basis”. Very telling-“shout the loudest”, seems about it. No better way to highlight that it is a minority doing so.

    • Good joke Walt, Devizes has been in Tory hand since 1924. Clair Perry hasnt seen anyone off anyone being parachuted into such a safe Tory seat.

      Wiki says she took over from a Michael Ancram but that cannot be right as she must have taken over from Sir Piers Fletcher-Dervish. 😉

  5. So whilst we are disgusted by the content we must put this in perspective:

    ‘The meeting, called by Claire Perry, was at lunchtime on 21 May 2018’ – it is now 22nd October 2018.

    The latest IPCC report has since been put out for discussion to be consulted on in December this year.

    12 years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or we face food shortages, mass migration and extinction of important species.

    Whist this motley crew of profiteers have met around the blue table, the world is pointing the finger at the danger of shale gas emissions.

    Since May, more and more Conservative MPs are saying no to shale. Labour says out-right no.

    TMay’s government is about to implode; Claire may well be unemployed sooner than she thinks……..

  6. Bit more detailed research needed there pavlova.

    Perhaps if you looked a bit deeper you might see how she did in the various elections in terms of her majority, related to the national picture.

    Think it might be referred to as evidence based.

    But then, as you were unable to follow the link I provided within your “local” paper, seems the telescope is firmly fixed to the wrong eye.

    • OK so she returned a majority in a long term safe Tory seat, yep lots to be read into that. Also occurred in numerous other constituencies of different colours across the country.

      I won’t seek to embarrass you further with your foolish local paper anecdote because it’s clearly not how you remember it. (Ps I handed you your arse in that one too x)

      Keep up the good work Horatio! but it doesn’t mater which eye you put your telescope to as there’s nowt so blind as them that won’t see.

  7. I am sad to see a government putting decisions out to consultation that they have already made up their minds on. This is not the behaviour of a democratically elected government – oh yes they paid money for their majority I forgot. they are adamant that Brexit cannot be put out to further consultation but when it suits them they go privately and secretly against thei voters on fracking. We all have 12 years to work towards zero emissions. Starting to drill thousands of wells is a funny way of going about having green policies. Buy proper forms of green gas by all means but this fracking industry has produced a major methane hotspot over the USA that results from fracking industry workings, leaks etc and methane is a more powerful climate disrupter than CO2. Frackers have also created huge amounts of earthquakes by reinjecting wastewater in the US. Not to mention sinkholes. This cannot be refuted, and we have seen in the press that the industry -presumably Schlumberger or Halliburton? – are pressing to have the traffic light system watered down so that our regulations can be as toothless as rhey are in the US. environment-aware people saw this coming years ago, we feared our government would just sell us down the river, so this situation is not entirely coming as a surprise…. Just a sickening confirmation of how governments do not have the health of their populations at heart.

  8. “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.” That will be a very long wait then. Seven years so far and nowt to show for it. Speculators will soon follow the money and leave this sad little fledgling industry on it’s backside. Our gain will be The Cayman Islands loss. Even Scottish Power has seen the light by going 100% green electricity ………….to quote Pete Kay “it’s the future”.

  9. You miss the point again, crembrule. Not very good at this research business are you? I think it is pretty obvious “she returned a majority”. DOH! She wouldn’t be a Minister if she didn’t.

    Once again, fog generation replaces basic research. I can see why the tracking survey identified so many antis who had little knowledge of the subject. Having “fun” trying to shout the loudest instead.

    But you are not alone. Waffle and CJR are singing from totally different hymn sheets. Good job the children have half term. They can drop in, and see how the anti “movement” is made up of those who can’t even agree on the basics between each other!

    By the way CJR, the majority of voters are NOT against fracking in the UK. There are other political parties who represent the minority groups.

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