Greater Manchester announced a policy this morning which would have the effect of blocking fracking across one of the UK’s major shale gas regions.
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said there would be a presumption against fracking across 10 local authorities.
The onshore oil and gas industry said he had “fundamentally misunderstood the role of gas”.
“proposes a deadline of 2028 for all new development here to be zero-carbon and the new Greater Manchester-wide policy of opposition to fracking.”
“We [have] a full commitment to renewable energy and not clinging on to processes that hark back to a past.”
“Time to stop clinging to the past. Let’s leave it in the ground, embrace a zero-carbon future & make GM [Greater Manchester] the UK’s leading green city region.”
On Friday, Mr Burnham told the Guardian about his concerns over earth tremors caused during recent fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool:
“For the legal limits to be breached so regularly is a worry, isn’t it? It’s hard to know what damage is being done and the effect that is having on groundwater and all of those other issues that emerge,” he said.
“It’s even more worrying in Greater Manchester, which is a much more urban place, where there is more contaminated land, more mine shafts. This is an industry which hasn’t proven its case. In fact, the opposite.”
The Greater Manchester region does not have the power to ban fracking. But Mr Burnham said:
“We are doing what we can within the legal structures that we have got at our disposal.”
The presumption against fracking was announced at a meeting of Mr Burnham and the region’s 10 local authority leaders from Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.
Virtually all of Greater Manchester is described by the British Geological Survey as a shale gas prospective area.
More than half the region is currently licensed for oil and gas exploration. Only Oldham, Stockport and Thameside have no licences within their boundaries.
There are a total of 10 exploration licences, five of which were granted in 2016, in the the most recent 14th round.
The licences are held by some of the biggest names in UK exploration, including Ineos and Cuadrilla.
In the introduction, the spatial framework said:
“The plan sets out proposals to support the Greater Manchester ambition to be a carbon neutral city-region by 2038. A key element of this is to require all new development to be net zero carbon by 2028 and to keep fossil fuels in the ground. At this time therefore Greater Manchester authorities will not support fracking.”
In a section on sustainable development (policy GM-S 1), it said:
“Greater Manchester seeks to promote investment in new zero-carbon technologies, to reduce the reliance on carbon-based fuels to accelerate the speed at which such new technologies become financially viable and/or technically feasible. It is therefore considered prudent to not exploit new sources of hydrocarbons and keep fossil fuels in the ground so at this point in time Greater Manchester will not support hydraulic fracturing (fracking).”
“Fundamental misunderstanding of the role of gas”
The presumption against fracking was criticised by the onshore industry. Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, the industry representative organisation, said:
“It is disappointing to see the Mayor of Greater Manchester once again reiterate his stance against new skilled jobs and investment in the North West, especially as his remarks show a fundamental misunderstanding of the role gas has in both his region and the wider UK.
“93.5% of Greater Manchester households are connected to the gas grid, relying on it to heat their homes and to cook with. Nationally, 84% of homes are heated with gas and this vital fuel provides around 40% of our annual electricity demand. Since the early 1970s, UK oil and gas production has generated over £328 billion in UK tax revenues. In neighbouring Lancashire, shale gas development has already generated over 70 jobs, £11 million of local investment and over half a million in community funds.
“Every major forecast says that we’ll still need gas into the 2050s. If we don’t develop our own homegrown resource, nearly three quarters of our supply will be imported by 2035, which will be environmentally more impactful than producing it here in the UK. This means offshoring our environmental responsibilities and economic benefits to countries like Qatar and Russia.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:
“Shale gas has the potential to be an important new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits including the creation of well paid, quality jobs.”