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A ban, the manifesto said, would “prevent stranded assets in an unpopular, out of date industry”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

  1. Not sure how using fracked natural gas as feedstock for hydrogen will produce a ‘clean’ fuel? Thought hydrogen to be ‘clean’ must be produced via renewable energy…….

    • Hydrogen production from Methane requires the capture and long term storage of the Carbon produced in the process for it to be classed as “clean”

    • Linda – your reply highlights the problem – too many people objecting to things they know nothing about.

  2. I thought Ruth & Paul would have reported the Scottish fiasco with Shale, DOD being a “NEWS” website and not a “Anti Fracking website” as stated by The Guardian on Friday. I bet DOD couldn’t email Helen Pidd of The Guardian fast enough to get that changed…

    SNP ministers extend fracking licence – again…

    The licence had been due to expire on 30 June 2018, but the SNP government extended it using powers devolved to Holyrood months earlier.

    The second year-long extension was revealed in a letter to the Scottish Tories at 4.30pm last Friday, the day after MSPs left Holyrood for summer recess.

    “The SNP’s ‘ban’ on fracking in Scotland has already been exposed in court as a sham.

    “This simply confirms that Nicola Sturgeon’s government is still saying one thing in public, and quite another in private.

    Nicola Sturgeon told delegates “Fracking is now banned in Scotland” and Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there was “a ban on fracking here in Scotland”.

    However the following May, after Ineos challenged the ban in court, the government admitted it wasn’t banned after all and its lawyer explained the term was only a “PR gloss”.

    The government spent £175,000 of taxpayers money on external legal advice for the case.

    So there we have it Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the true sword of Damocles with that horse hair getting very thin at the populist virtue signalling of Scotlands First minister.

    A SNP who if it had succeeded on the 18th of September 2014 with a barrel of oil at close to $100 must have breathed with a huge sigh of relief, their vision was not carried out by the voting Scots, a huge turnout of 84.6% probably buoyed by 16 and 17 year olds being given the vote. Why? What would Holyroods response to the people of Scotland be as Oil hits $26 in 2016… The reason for the price crash? American shale causing OPEC to try and control the market, which failed…

    The First Minister of Scotland has played a waiting game presuming wrongly that by now Westminster would decalre Shale Gas of National Importance and with it Holyrood could state that Westminster has yet again run roughshod over Scotlands Rule. Time is across the Ford…

    Like a red red Lancastrian Rose Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the very man to turn from sword to Crown and give the SNP the very modern day Claymore it needs to confidently lay down an independent Scotland on its own financial terms not influenced from other Nations be it Belgium or England…

    In this modern era a Scottish man or woman for all that, not striving to become equal anymore… Much more than that…


    • But if planning powers are devolved to Scotland what bearing would Westminster have, even if they declared fracking as nationally significant? And what use is a licence if the planning policies are not supportive? Are the SNP just granting short extensions to avoid confrontation with INEOS but preventing shale development through planning policy? Genuine questions.

      • If, as you question, the SNP are trying to string along INEOS, KatT, they need to be even more stupid than I believed them to be!

        Global businesses, and INEOS are now in that category, react with investment decisions pretty quickly to those sort of games. Especially if they can make more profit in other parts of the world.

        Quote from Sir Jim:

        “America or Germany or Belgium where I’ve made a lot of money-but I’ve never made any money in the UK.”

        Yet, he and his businesses have paid a lot of tax in the UK and supported a lot of UK charitable and sports projects.

        The SNP would need all of that cheap surplus Scotch that could be sloshing around if Donald applies his proposed tariffs! (Could be interesting-the costs of staying in the EU focused north of the border. Surely not what Donald intends?!) But, I notice INEOS announced further investment in USA yesterday. Perhaps INEOS have a few more choices than the SNP.

        • ‘America or Germany or Belgium where I’ve made a lot of money-but I’ve never made any money in the UK’…no he certainly hasn’t ‘made’ any money….just grants and offshore sidelining; no tax?

          • Your “certainly” is a bit of a giveaway! Especially with your history of concern around INEOS debt just before Sir Jim was assessed as UKs richest person.

            Nice to see you back adding a sprinkling of fantasy.

            • Sadly for you, being assessed as the UK’s richest man does not mean he contributes to the UK tax system; in fact the opposite, hence why he is rich….that’s a ‘certainty’…

              Your ‘fan’ love is making you blind; fantasy is indeed a friend of yours 🙂

              • Sadly, Passepartout, you have wandered off into your own little fantasy world again.

                He is rich because he runs a profitable business. Now, business and profit are taboo for the anti capitalists and anarchists that the antis have attracted, so that hymn sheet has to be brought out repeatedly. Shame it is obviously incorrect-but keep singing the song. It helps to demonstrate that reality has to be sacrificed to join the tribe.

                So, the reality. “After the substantial investment in Grangemouth, by 2018 1400 long-term good quality jobs were secured. The staff received two significant pay rises and a 17% followed by a 27.5% bonus”. Looks like tax to the UK to me. No wonder the Queen Nic. is a little wary.

    • Hinksey – You seem to be repeating yourself. It’s very bad form to spam the same diatribe over multiple posts. However I will make the same comment here as I did on your fist iteration of this post:

      Simon, a less excitable interpretation is simply that the Scottish Government is simply sidestepping any attempts by Ineos to throw their weight about pending a ratification of the presumption against fracking.

      Jim Ratcliffe , the “red red Lancastrian rose”?? Golly! It sounds as though you have a bit of a man crush going on here!

  3. Clearly the Conservatives are toast. Hence, for some in the Con (AKA Bexit) Party their desperation to get the “popular” vote.

  4. Indeed Kisheny. Why have DOD not reported the Scottish decision? I am “shocked”, or even perhaps “devastated” at this apparent lack of impartiality. Mrs Trellis from Tunbridge Wells should be “disgusted”.

  5. This is excellent news and long overdue. It was clear during the recent debates in the HoC a significant number of Conservative MPs do not support fracking. And then we have had the dreadful economic reports about the US fracking industry, with Wall Street withdrawing funding. It seems if fracking is to survive in the US, according to industry experts, gas prices will have to increase sharply. So where does that leave the fracking industry in the U.K.? Presumably it will be expensive to produce shale gas here too? And there is still uncertainty about large scale CCS and its economic viability. So if one accepts shale will be expensive, or certainly not cheap, CCS will be expensive then the obvious question is at what point will hydrogen from renewables become more competitive? Indeed there are already reports that the gap is closing and closed in some scenarios (see link below). And what if fracking on a large scale cannot meet the CCC’s three tests, given such factors as the plan to extend Heathrow and legislation for net zero by 2050? What if CCS ends up being reserved for industry rather than heating? And also with energy efficiencies, growing renewables and inter connectors will LNG imports be reduced significantly anyway? There are so many unknowns for the fracking industry to sound so upbeat, including whether the UK’s shale will even produce commercially viable amounts of gas.
    No matter how much the industry talks up the situation or latches on to the next argument to try and justify fracking, the officially declared climate emergency, the net zero by 2050, the poor economic state of the US industry, the positive progress of green technologies and the lack of public support make their arguments seem increasingly hollow.
    Now they may also look to be losing the support of their only political cheer leaders too.



    • KatK – the low gas prices in the USA are a direct result of fracking being so successful. Unlike the UK, the land owners have the mineral rights which they sell or lease to companies. Those companies then have to drill within 3 to 6 years. This has meant that the market was flooded with gas. This brought the gas price down from 12 $ per Mscf to 2.5. This is a very different situation the rest of the world. The CCC report actually states that gas will remain a vital part of our energy mix even until 2050. I know several people who contributed to the CCC report who are very well respected climate scientists and they see know way that we will be able to stop gas use for a considerable period of time. CCS is indeed expensive but the cost is the only reason stoping it being deployed. Clearly there is a need to improve the efficiency of CO2 capture but that in itself is made easier by having gas rather than coal power stations or using the gas to produce hydrogen.

      • “Tensions put price of oil into reverse. Weak economic data has spooked traders, while supplies of US SHALE OIL CONTINUE TO GROW”.

        Wonder how long it will be before UK public become aware of how their costs of living are being assisted by US frackers??

      • The CCC also states that without large scale CCS gas consumption must be reduced by 80%. So if CCS proves unviable? Gas then cannot be play such a vital roll. In this situation gas may be used and necessary more for industry and manufacturing perhaps. Incidentally the price of gas did not fall in the US just because it was “so successful” it fell because there was over supply with little export market, due in part to previous policy and lack of export opportunities, hence the huge pipe lines being built and LNG shipments. Many would not class a dysfunctional market situation as successful. I agree we cannot possibly replicate the US fracking scenario in the UK but if shale gas will be more expensive to produce and the supply and availability of hydrocarbons is plentiful in the world, CCS proves expensive, renewables continue to advance, (which they will) and within a decade or so green hydrogen becomes competitively produced, I stand by my earlier comment that the case for UK shale gas continues to weaken.

        • KatT – the export of gas from the USA to europe is just about competitive with that gas generated in Europe once one takes into account compression and shipping costs. UK shale gas could well prove to be more expensive than imported gas but there are advantages such has it being part of a decentralized energy system, it is safer to produce than conventional gas, and the UK system will be better regulated than it is elsewhere.

    • I suspect there would be many Conservatives doing a U turn if/when fracked UK gas was being shown to be economical viable for their area and the country. Until then, they can virtue signal to their hearts content. Just goes to show the calibre of MPs currently. Suspect the Brexit Party will want to frack away regardless!

      “Prices (oil) have since fallen, dipping below $60 a barrel at one point last month amid RESURGENT shale oil production in the US”.

      Good job those US frackers are helping to keep global energy prices at a reasonable level so that some elsewhere can heat AND eat.

      Not bad from a Ponzi scheme that is bankrupt-according to the antis.

  6. KatK – it is the volumes of hydrogen required – not just cost. On current projections UK electricity generation will need to double by 2050. We will loose most if not all nuclear in that time (due to the cumulative popularist weakness of UK governments for decades re-nuclear). So renewables will need to backfill nuclear. If we take gas out of the the equation, renewables will have to replace gas. If you think renewables will also provide all the hydrogen we will need as well – you are asking a big ask. Plus nearly all our existing renewable power generating infrastructure will need replacing by 2050. Also, where do you think all this hydrogen will be stored? The current best technology for bulk hydrogen storage is geological storage. But I suspect you don’t trust anything about engineering the subsurface on such a scale, or do you?

    • Wind to hydrogen cheaper than gas


      That would be from cheap gas sources not from expensive UK shale gas.

      We already do it in the UK


      Time to roll out onshore wind power and maximise on cheap popular renewable energy which in times of surplus (which historically we have) is ideal for charging electric vehicles and producing hydrogen.

    • Dr Riley I am not sure why being opposed to fracking means that I am in some way opposed to trusting any subsurface engineering or why you should suspect that I am. I am perfectly well aware of the proposals for Hydrogen in the UK, having previously commented on them on this very forum. Indeed I am also familiar with the gas Rough storage facility, its closure and the implications of that. I may not be a geologist but I do appreciate subsurface engineering can be necessary and successful. I do not however share your views on fracking. I do believe that there are a whole range of measures and solutions that will transition our economy to net zero by 2050. Indeed that is largely what the recent CCC report was all about. I believe in progress and having attended a number of seminars given by experts in the subject of hydrogen production, use of hydrogen, the replacement of heating, transport fuels and so forth with hydrogen, I consider myself reasonably well informed and I do believe that green hydrogen will succeed.

      • Must have been a different KatT that was unaware some new build housing in UK required piling, then!

        But, interesting that no one has connected fusion with hydrogen. Would that be “green”? Could be renewables of tomorrow will be quite different to renewables today-and not intermittent.

          • But fusion, if it works, would not be intermittent or finite.

            Stop using plastic and polluting the planet, Passepartout. If you don’t believe in fossil fuels stop using them. Those of us who don’t share your dogma will make our own choices rather than have them imposed by someone who talks the talk but refuses to walk the walk.

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