Conservative group pledges to ban fracking as shale company explores hydrogen for heating

pnr 181102 Cuadrilla Resources

Gas flares at Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 2 November 2018. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

A Conservative group has defied party policy by proposing a ban on fracking.

The Conservative Environment Network Parliamentary Caucus launched a manifesto today saying a ban was “overwhelming sensible”.

The group said fracking was “woefully unpopular” and shale gas would not bring economic or environmental benefits. It said:

“It is time to move away from oil and gas”

The group describes itself as a forum for Conservatives who support conservation and decarbonisation.

The parliamentary caucus lists 41 members including: Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland); Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton), Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), James Heappey (Wells), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park); Vicky Ford (Chelmsford); Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury); Richard Benyon (Newbury); David Warburton (Somerset and Frome); Robert Courts (Witney); Richard Graham (Gloucester) and Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth).

Mr Hollinrake has said on his website that. while he signed the manifesto, he does not support a fracking ban.

Polling for the group found that 37% of conservative voters supported fracking, compared 74% who supported onshore wind.

A ban, the manifesto said, would “prevent stranded assets in an unpopular, out of date industry”

It said:

“gas from fracking offers little in the way of economic opportunity, and much more in the way of stranded assets.”

It argued that the UK was unlikely to be able exploit shale reserves in the way the US had.

It also said even if there were successful shale gas exploitation it would not lead to significantly lower gas prices.

“Consuming UK gas at the cost of production would require significant subsidies”, it added.

The manifesto added that fracked would help to reduce emissions only if it replaced coal, which was almost eliminated from power generation.

“[Fracked gas] could lead to unpredictable ‘fugitive emissions’ that leak out of pressurised equipment.”

For energy transition, the group said, we should be turning away from gas in about 10 years’ time.

Last month, the local government secretary, James Brokenshire, restated the government’s commitment to “safe and sustainable exploration and development of our onshore shale gas resources”.

Steve Mason of Frack Free United said:

“This is fantastic news and echoes the growing movement against fracking within the conservative party.

“Fracking is not compatible with the UK’s ambition to go carbon free. Opening a new fossil fuel frontier with no social licence will be uneconomic, damaging to the environment and will leave the conservatives fighting for electoral survival.

“Look at the polling that came out on Sunday, there are seats that are just too close to call. The fracking vote will affect marginal constituencies across the country.

“It’s time to choose between a dirty fossil fuel future or a clean vision for Britain, Votefrackfree in the next election.”

The industry organisation, UKOOG, said this evening:

“It should be noted this manifesto is heavily caveated, stressing that the beliefs expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of each MP, who have merely signed a declaration. Whoever wrote the chapter on hydraulic fracturing, arguing that hydrogen would be a useful alternative to natural gas, quite simply needs to explain how this hydrogen can be created, as natural gas is used as the feedstock in steam methane reformation – the cheapest and most efficient method of producing hydrogen. Indeed, as recommended only recently by the independent Committee on Climate Change. Quite simply, our question to the Conservative Environment Network is such: where do we get the gas from?”

“Shale at heart of hydrogen economy”

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, described gas as an important part of the solution to net zero emissions by 2050.

In an article today for the company’s website, he said:

“if we are to maximise our chances of meeting the net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, we will, in 2050, still be using approximately 70 per cent of the natural gas that we are using in the UK today.”

Mr Egan said gas would be used in conjunction with carbon capture and storage for electricity and as a feedstock for the manufacture of hydrogen, which would replace gas in heating.

“We recognise that carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production are critical if the UK is to meet its net-zero emissions target. To that end we are engaging with a number of existing initiatives so that that UK shale gas rather than imported gas can and will be a vital source of emission free UK energy by 2050.”

Mr Egan said:

“We’re in touch with key groups to develop the hydrogen economy including the North West Hydrogen Alliance, infrastructure engineering specialists and academic institutions.

“We’re engaging with energy policy groups, Local Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships to support development of policy and industrial and energy strategy that is consistent with net-zero whilst maximising economic benefit, particularly for Lancashire.”

68 replies »

    • WD,

      Reality of Climate Destruction strikes the more intelligent people earlier!

      Obviously the nincompoop across the pond will be the last to realise alonow with the greedy fracking!

      • Peter – the reality of climate change strikes most of us who have a good knowledge of science. As a result we actually try and do something about it instead of just making false claims that banning fracking in the UK is going to have any significant impact other than for the finances of the countries from which we buy gas.

    • WD – Kevin does not want a ban on fracking. I think he will be making this clear in the near future!

      • Presumably then he should resign from the CEN then as no doubt most must be in agreement as they have released their manifesto? Given his support for fracking I am sure he won’t be missed.

        • KatT – let’s see what statements are released from him and others. From what I gather, some thought they were just signing up to a document about climate change. Like most people who know about both climate science and energy supply, his views on fracking and wanting to reduce GHG emissions are not inconsistent.

          • Judith we disagree. I consider I am as well informed on climate science and energy supply as any other person that is not an expert in these fields and do consider Mr Hollinrake’s views on fracking are inconsistent with wanting to address GHG emissions. I have more faith in the opinion of James Hansen and climate scientists that do state that fracking in the UK has no climate change merit. Fracking (shale gas) is a new resource of fossil fuels and that simply means more fossil fuels will ultimately be burned. We can play about with carbon trading and other nonsense but the reality is that gas can only help GHG emissions when displacing coal. After all gas amounts to burning a fossil fuel. It is far better to replace coal with renewables and that is what we should strive for. And if you look at the US as an example, once coal use is reduced, just as in the UK, the role of gas helping to reduce GHG emissions is done. But as a result of more gas being available there has been expansion of the petrochemical industry, gas consumption has increased and the coal mined but not used in the US has been shipped abroad to be burned elsewhere. Which all in all will have added to the planets carbon burden. I appreciate we do not live in a perfect world and things cannot happen overnight but I do fundamentally believe that we should be using fossil fuels for as short a time as possible and making investment and policy decisions to favour renewables. Extracting more fossil fuels when we already have plentiful supplies is not the answer. I believe we are better importing gas until we can transition than starting another fossil fuel industry and you will find so do the vast majority of climate scientists. I think it was the Oxford Energy Institute that said the UK has an energy import paranoia as opposed to a security of supply problem. The economic costs of climate change impacts and global instability will dwarf the cost of moving to a zero carbon economy.
            As for signatories of the CEN denying all knowledge I suspect this, if true, may arise because of complaints and lobbying by the industry. What sort of excuse is it for any MP to claim that they didn’t know what they were signing? And how did a manifesto just appear from nowhere and without their knowledge? Given the canvassing of conservative voters CEN undertook I wonder how many of these MPs will distance themselves from this manifesto at general election time with such low support for fracking and strong support for renewables shown amongst their voters and especially as most of those canvassed were in swing seats!

              • KatT – does the surge in USA carbon emissions take into account the amount that was produced overseas to produce goods that are then exported to the USA. The cheap gas prices in the USA has meant they are producing far more of their own goods which increase emissions in the USA but decrease them abroad – unless both area taken into account it’s difficult to assess the full picture.

                • “Creative carbon accounting” as Greta would say!

                  I do find it interesting that the antis are so keen to point score they end up scoring against each other.

                  Meanwhile, a new airport opens in UK! Hardly on par with the numbers and size opening in China but a simple maths. demonstration of 18% of worlds population have boarded a ‘plane but over 50% now classified as middle class. The result is inevitable. More disposable income, more desire to spend it on what they want. Lake District B&Bs investing in Woks??
                  But, of course, NT to diversify their investments away from fossil fuel-all 4%! Ticket prices will no doubt increase. Another example of those not necessarily in favour of a decision paying the cost of it.

          • Judith. Kevin Hollinrake has indeed now issued a statement claiming he supports fracking. This begs the question, why did Kevin Hollinrake put his name to this document in the first place? He is an MP for a constituency that has been very much affected by the fracking industry It beggars belief that he could believe his views in fracking would not be scrutinised in such a document. Are you now saying that around 40 MPs, including Hollinrake, have simply put their names to this in the hope of gaining Brownie Points for appearing “green” but didn’t even bother to read what they were signing up to? This seems to be an extremely casual and cavalier way to treat the biggest threat mankind and the rest of the living world has ever faced – but sadly not unexpected.

            • Well, Pauline, you have over 600 of them putting their names to £1 trillion tax spending without even a full and proper debate-now that is casual!

            • Pauline, Kevin is probably just sensible enough to know that fracking for shale gas is extremely safe and will not increase the amount of GHG emissions that the UK will produce. The increased tax revenue can be invested in developing a green infrastructure. From what I understand, the MPs signed up to the principle of the document but didn’t see the final draft.

              • Judith. Kevin may believe fracking for shale gas is a good thing. After all, he took that whistlestop tour of the Pennsylvania fracking industry, sponsored by Ineos and returned as a shale gas champion. Strangely, a couple from the Kirby Misperton visited the same area of Pennsylvania shortly afterwards and formed a completely different opinion of fracking. They had however spent around a week talking to local people whereas Kevin spent only a couple of hours, according to the locals.
                Nevertheless, being MP for Kirby Misperton one would imagine fracking and his constituents would be at the forefront of Mr Hollinrake’s mind. The subject of this manifesto being energy and climate change one would also imagine Mr Hollinrake would have, at least, read the document before signing something he didn’t agree with.
                His subsequent issuing of a statement saying he didn’t really mean it when he signed the document throws into doubt his sincerity over any of the other issues of this manifesto and possibly his independence from the industry he is so keen to promote it this country – although as he said following his Pennsylvania visit “Not near my house.”

                • Pauline -I’ve also spent lots of time in Pennslvania and I really don’t see what the problem is with fracking there. There is also the added benefit that the wealth generated by the industry has helped fund a lot of infrastructure projects that the neighboring states seem to lack. I’ve no idea who the couple from KM spoke to but my guess it wasn’t just people they bumped into in the street – one sees how the antis like to get together and reinforce their misunderstandings.

                • Judith. Here’s the report by Drill or Drop, 14th January 2016 on local couple, Joanna and Steve White’s visit to Pennsylvania. I think you’ll agree they are not a pair of crusty antii-fracking fanatics. drillordrop.com/Pennsylvania/fracking/experience/is/a/warning/to/ryedale

              • Judith. ” From what I understand, the MPs signed up to the principle of the document but didn’t see the final draft.”
                Really? That explains a lot about this government.

                • Pauline – maybe it was just overly jealous environmentalists adding things to documents without having them approved.

              • Judith. “Maybe it was just overly jealous (I imagine you mean zealous) environmentalists adding things to documents without having them approved.”
                You really are getting into the realms of fantasy now in your desperation to excuse Kevin Hollinrakes’s statement.
                This document has been signed by 41 Tory MPs. Are you seriously claiming they all signed it blind and the content was added later by the environmentalist fairies?

              • Judith,

                You’re spreading FAKE PRO-FRACKING PROPAGANDA again!

                Please prove your claim that fracking for shale gas is extremely safe or withdraw if forthwith.

                A simple reference to the List of the Harmed created from years worth of reports of HARM DONE in mature fracking zones in North America will prove you incorrect.

  1. On paper, renewable to electricity to hydrogen gas seem ideal or hydrogen economy in general. But in practical it is hard to achieve on industrial scale. Hydrogen gas in general transport will face same problem as LPG or LNG. Costs and additional energy to compress the gas into liquid form to fill the tank. Liquid H2 will need to be transported from site of production to pump stations. Mass transport of and storage of liquid H2 is a high risk industrial activity, especially at common gas pump stations.
    Renewable to electricity to H2 gas and back to electricity is inefficient and wasteful so it is not a good option on commercial scale.

    But the additional energy and cost to compress H2 gas into liquid will be prohibitively expensive. Just like LNG. Current Henry gas price is $2.30/mBtu in US but if you order it in liquid LNG form they add an extra roughly $2.50 on top of whatever market price you pay for your gas plus the additional carbon footprint for the liquid compression and cooling. I guess the cost for liquidify H2 gas will cost the same if not high due to smaller and lighter molecular size of H2 compare to CH4.

    Best way to achieve net zero is to plant more trees and increase sea grasses habitats (seaweeds adsorb 15x more CO2 than plants), carbon capture tech using renewable energy, recycle more plastics for other purposes or disposed them more appropriately (carbon are captured in plastic too if they are appropriately recycled and stored), using fossil fuel to produce more carbon fiber material (also another form carbon capture).

    But the best way out of these carbon capture scheme run on renewable electricity. This approach is much more like nature of plant photosynthesis which use sunlight energy to capture and fix atmospheric carbon into plant materials. carbon capture scheme run on renewables can use both wind, tidal and solar to capture CO2 and turn it into usable products like synthetic fuels, calcium carbonate.

    • Maybe they are now panicking they may not be able to compete with the other party’s manifestos?

      Still this means a majority against the fractured gas industry’s demands when the voting starts….

  2. Cuadrilla’s throw away line has certainly stirred this discussion up.

    Meaning only that Egan and company can continue to draw their (hopefully taxed here in England) wage packet from their Investors for an extra few months while this is talked about at local, county and probably national level all over again!

    Proceeding beyond the talk will require a whole new set of planning applications, would anyone know because I don’t like assuming?

  3. And when will we have large scale CCS by? Will it be viable on a large scale and at what cost? No CCS and gas consumption has to fall by 80%. And keep in mind that according to National Grid not only will renewables have generated more power than fossil fuels in 2019 for the first time since the industrial revolution we also have the benefit of back up from green energy inter connectors, not gas. I can remember not so very long ago that people were saying this could never happen. I’m sure with the advancement of green technologies, investment and clear policy direction that green hydrogen will not only be much cheaper but will prove the better option in terms of climate change.

    • KatT – I think you mean that renewables have created more electricity than fossil fuels and not power. Electricity is only a fraction of the power that is used in the UK. I hope that renewables have generated my electricity then fossil fuels and I hope that keeps rising. However, the figures that I’d seen from national grid certainly don’t suggest that renewables will generate more electricity than FF in 2019. The figures also need to take into account that the current nuclear power stations are not really renewable and we import electricity from the netherlands where it is produced by fossil fuels.

      • Judith I did mean electricity you are correct and it is carbon zero energy. One would presume they know what they are talking about. Plus they mentioned importing hydroelectricity from Norway as well as other sources of green electricity. Not energy produced in the Netherlands from fossil fuels. All great news for the planet.

  4. I am considered “far right” by todays standards… but I support banning fracking. I’ve seen what it has done to communities and property values/quality of life in the USA. No company should ever be able to force itself or its practices on to people. At least coal mining is region limited whereas fracking can simply spread out like a virus.

    But… remember everyone…Fracking was REDEFINED under the conservative government so a ban on fracking… is NOT REALLY A BAN ON FRACKING.

    Food for thought…

    Deception is the Conservative Party’s middle name. And we were members. SHAME.

  5. Posted on behalf of Nelly Trevelyan

    During the mass climate lobby last wednesday, a number of Ryedale constituents talked with Kevin Hollinrake, our M.P. about hydrogen. Paul Allen has written in the Centre for Alternative Technology magazine about this… He is project co-ordinator for zero carbon Britain. I notice that UKOOg say where is the hydrogen to come from if not from Gas, and I worry that this will become the new justification for shale gas. For all that Kevin has signed this declaration ( which I am pleased about) he was going on about gas a much cheaper way to produce hydrogen than electrolisis. He seems to have got the wrong end of the stick about WHY we should be doing this. As far as I can see hydrogen technology might deliver cleaner air in our cities if transport adopted it, but would certainly not be carbon neutral in it’s production, if it uses gas as the base from which it is produced. Electrolisis would use spare power from wind and sun to split water, and according to Paul Allen would be carbon neutral. (and he has degrees in electrical engineering). The E.U. is very excited about this and is shoveling money into research here. In order for the hydrogen to fit into our current gas grid they will need to add some CO2. where it could be used for cooking and heating. We will then be able to store power for using at periods of high demand, etc. It would very much address the problem of intermittency.
    Kevin was busy saying that the cost of making hydrogen from excess power, rather than gas is much higher and that the research has not been done. To my mind this does not wash… Since when was nuclear power economic? If we need to solve this problem, and if in fact by doing it with electrolisis we solve two problems at once what is wrong with that? So I am a bit worried about our Kevins position on this….

  6. Ruth – for Nelly – perhaps she should read the link John Powney posted a couple of days ago:


    “Technological advancements such as the mass production of electrolysers will lead to economies of scale and enable lower capital expenditure, analysts at Berlin-based Energy Brainpool claimed.

    Meanwhile, the higher penetration of wind and solar power in the grid will allow for excess renewable energy to generate storable hydrogen, the analysts wrote in their report for Greenpeace Energy.

    How far the price of hydrogen produced by renewable energy sources will fall will also depend on “how high the share of renewables in the electricity system is and how much excess current is thus available”, the report’s authors added.

    Further drops in the costs of wind and solar power will also underpin cost reductions in hydrogen production from renewable energy, the analysts stated.

    In their report, the analysts highlighted International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts for the costs of natural gas production and for hydrogen production derived from renewable sources.

    Natural gas prices are set to rise steadily until the 2040s, from €0.017/kWh in 2020 to €0.032/kWh by 2030 and €0.041/kWh by 2040, the IEA claimed.

    By contrast, IEA analysts forecast that production costs for hydrogen generated by wind power are set to fall from “about €0.18/kWh” to €0.13/kWh by 2020, to €0.12/kWh by 2030, and to between €0.021/kWh and €0.032/kWh by 2040, analysts at Energy Brainpool highlighted.

    Sönke Tangermann, board member at Greenpeace Energy, said: “(Hydrogen generated from excess renewable energy) will be cheaper than the fossil alternative at the time when it becomes indispensable to ensure full supply security in a renewable electricity system.

    “For this to succeed, the federal (German) government must create the necessary framework conditions for the expansion of wind gas technology in this legislative period.”

    Renewable energy can create hydrogen through electrolysis, whereby water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be stored to help balance supply and demand of energy.”

    Excess wind energy will become cheaper to produce H2 than from methane by around 2040. However the article doesn’t discuss the enormous volumes of H2 which will be required and how wind will produce these.

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