48% oppose change to fracking earth tremor rules – new poll

190728 Ros Wills

The ‘goose neck’ being reinstalled for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire, 28 July 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

Calls by the shale gas industry to relax the rules on earth tremors induced by fracking are not widely supported by the public, according to a new poll.

A survey of public attitudes to shale gas, conducted by academics at five universities, found that just 8% of people think the regulations are too stringent and more than a third thought they were too loose.

The regulations, known as the traffic light system, currently require companies to pause fracking if their operations cause tremors measuring 0.5 magnitude (ML) or above.

Shale gas companies, including Cuadrilla and Ineos, have said the UK industry could be commercially-viable only if the threshold was raised.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, pointed to limits of 2.5-4ML used in other fracking regions.  His company had to pause pumping operations five times at its site in Lancashire last year.

But according to the new survey, jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and Economic & Social Research Council, almost half participants (48%) opposed changing the threshold from 0.5 to 1.5ML. 22% supported the change and 31% did not know.

The survey found that 37% thought the traffic light system was “far too loosely” or “somewhat loosely” regulated. 24% thought it was “about right” and 31% did not know.

56% oppose fracking

The survey found that overall opposition to shale gas extraction currently stood at 56%, with 32% in support and 12% who said they didn’t know.

These figures are very different from the government’s quarterly Wave tracker survey. Its latest results showed 35% opposed fracking, 15% supported and 47% neither supported nor opposed.

The universities’ survey found that Conservative voters were more likely to support fracking than Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Green voters.

As with the government survey, today’s results show that men were more likely to support fracking than women. They also showed that Brexit leave supporters were more likely to support shale gas extraction than remain supporters.

As a UK energy option, shale gas was supported only slightly more than Russian pipeline imports (24%), the survey found. This compared with 70% support for UK offshore gas fields, 59% for UK onshore drilling without hydraulic fracturing and 50% for European imports.

The researchers found no difference in public support across different regions or across the four UK countries. This contrasted with results in the government Wave Tracker survey which found opposition was highest in shale gas regions.

The academics found that people were no more likely to oppose shale gas if the term fracking was used.

65% of respondents did not change their opinion of shale gas extraction following presentation of information about the Treasury’s sovereign wealth fund, whilst 15% became more supportive. 20% of participants became less supportive of shale gas extraction following the presentation of information, suggesting that the sovereign wealth fund may be perceived to be a bribe by these people, the survey concluded.

Other findings

According to the results, people:

  • Have low trust in shale gas companies – 12% said they trusted shale gas industry groups or firms to provide information about fracking
  • Want decisions taken locally – 41% said they want decisions on fracking to be taken at a local level by councils, compared with 11% who want the UK government to make decisions
  • Got information from environmental organisations – 48% said they used this source sometimes or often
  • Most trusted the British Geological Survey (61%) and university scientists (59%) for information about fracking

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright from the University of Exeter and the principal investigator on the dynamics of public attitudes to shale gas project says:

“It is clear from the public attitudes survey that people lack trust in the shale gas industry. While some people have already made up their minds, many others are unsure about specific details or policies. This indicates a need to provide better quality information and scientific evidence that people can trust.”

“The UK energy industry and government must address these public concerns and lack of trust about shale gas extraction. Community engagement and support is vital to tackle the environment and climate emergency and we will not make progress unless people feel they can trust the information provided or have a voice in decision-making.”

Dr Darrick Evensen, of the University of Edinburgh, the lead researcher on the survey, said:

“This is the most comprehensive and rigorous study of public attitudes on shale gas extraction in the UK to date. Due to this being a longitudinal survey, we will be able to track how public support changes over time at national, regional and local levels, and the relationship between support and key issues, such as trust and perceptions of regulations that govern the fracking industry.

“We will conduct a further survey in 2020 to investigate opinion change over time amongst the same participants. We also intend to investigate how social media affects public attitudes to shale gas and conduct local case study research in communities directly impacted by proposals for exploratory drilling.”


The survey was conducted in April 2019 by YouGov using an online panel with 2,777 people broadly representing the population of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

95 replies »

    • So Paul the anti’s now don’t even have this argument now, consume UK onshore Gas to reduce and achieve net zero 2050!
      Brilliant! 😂 Frack on!

    • Paul, given that this suggestion really means fracking taking up much of the strain here, how many lateral wells do you think they would have to drill to replace all those imports? It does depend on a few variables like average EUR, % demand decline and % imports of demand, but even using Cuadrilla’s fantasy EUR numbers and an approximation of their modelling we’d need 10,000 laterals just to be able to fulfil that demand for about 5 years after which production would drop like a stone again. (Unless of course they carried on drilling hundreds of wells a year, but don’t forget this is an industry which is struggling to drill one well successfully here in the UK)

      • John – if you are correct in that 10,000 laterals will be required then it will be too expensive and it won’t happen. In addition planning permission will never be forthcoming for that many wells due to traffic volume etc. It is unlikely to compete with Norwegian pipeline imports on price. But Norway and Greta may turn the tap off in line with their Soverign Wealth Fund. Just joking…. More likely the Norwegian fields will deplete and our imports of LNG will increase.

        Cuadrilla should frack and test the second well, finish the first well and see what the results are – probably that will be the end of it – in the Fylde at least. After all we are told it is just a Ponzi scheme to rip off investors. If you don’t invest you don’t get ripped off so what is the problem?

        A lot of people are wasting their lives trying to stop these exploration wells when the risk of development is almost zero.

        • It’s a relatively straight forward calculation Paul if a bit complicated by the layered phasing. It is beyond any doubt that to substantiate their claim they’d need numbers of laterals which would transform the region (and not in a good way)

            • Well Paul I have two answers to that.

              Firstly, no – they should not be allowed to get a foot in the door as I don’t believe UK fracking is compatible with out climate crisis mitigation objecives

              Secondly, yes – just let them get on with it because when they cause another set of earthquakes it’s game over for fracking in the UK.

              • john: There are many climate damaging industries, target net zero 2050 shale gas is a primary feed stock to the transition to energy alternatives 2050 and beyond. Climate Mitigation Objectives, this is the primary source, please explain like you did for Paul why this is not obtainable as the lowest GHG offering and in that we are no way near the targets in which to switch to renewables tomorrow. Government’s are slowing the renewable incentives and you cannot create in derivatives from renewables, like diesel for 3 litre BMW’s, Jet fuels, feedstocks to fertilisers for the vegans among us, medical instruments and in the medical practice, and plastics for pretty much everything we see, taste, touch and use!

                • I’m sorry I can’t address you by your real name in return, but unlike me you hide yours :

                  I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by “target net zero 2050 shale gas is a primary feed stock to the transition to energy alternatives 2050 and beyond.” Could you rephrase it to be less opaque please?

                  Are you suggesting that diesel is a derivative of shale gas now?

                  The issue here is that the CCC report is not, as Egan claimed, agnostic on fracking for shale gas. The CCC is clear that UK fracking should not take place unless three tests are met. Here is what they said:

                  “1. Emissions must be strictly limited during shale gas development, production and well decommissioning. This requires tight regulation, close monitoring of emissions, and rapid action to address methane leaks.

                  2. Overall gas consumption must remain in line with UK carbon budgets. The production of UK shale gas must displace imports, rather than increase gas consumption.

                  3. Emissions from shale gas production must be accommodated within UK carbon budgets. Emissions from shale exploitation will need to be offset by emissions reductions in other areas of the economy to ensure UK carbon budgets are met.

                  At this early stage, it is not possible to know whether the tests will be met easily or not. ”

                  .. and then there’s that elusive Carbon Capture and Storage issue isn’t there.

  1. Ahh, the tea leaf “calculations” again.

    Now, as a guy who relies on common sense, is that why having not yet drilled one successful well in the UK then tests need to be done to produce the data? But, if the tea leaves state that data will be non commercial why would the antis be against it being produced? Hmmm, I don’t think any tea leaves are required for that.

    Isn’t there a Chinese proverb that starts with one small step? (Or, maybe ends with it. I will have to ask JC for a copy.)

    But then, with new areas being licenced in the N.Sea, the strain may be shared and eased.

  2. All I’m seeing is 48%! But of course these are the numpties that think that’s a majority 😅. The pendulum is swinging in our favor now with the pathetic anti biz May away, Corbyn is on his last legs. Happy days.

      • So, what you are saying is that the respondents within this survey were NOT representative compared to previous surveys repeated over a long period of time, the latest of which clearly showed a decline in those opposed to shale extraction!!

        That has put that in the bin, then.

        Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Wait until the paint dries and you can walk out of the corner, reaction.

          • But, having qualified in the subject, and conducted numerous studies, delayed reaction, it might just be that I do have a clue and you just continue with your absurd approach of trying to deny reality.

            I feel quite honoured that you take the time and appreciate your attempts at misinformation, but suggest you stick to what you know.

            Paint should be dry by now.

            • So you will understand that different structures, question types and gates can elicit different results then. Why are you pretending not to?

              The constant between these surveys is, of course, the huge preponderance of anti-fracking sentiment.

              What is that Collywibble about paint about? Please explain.

              • The purpose of such questionnaires is to get to the real situation, reaction. If the questions are framed in a way that allows such different results, as you call them, then there is something wrong with the structure. It really is not rocket science, although MR companies would like to signify it is and that the solution is to keep on spending on new studies.

                Perhaps my experience of working with a limited budget required the right first time approach that commercial companies need but other organisations can skate over. Our solution to others trying to misinterpret results was to contract an independent marketing consultant to pull some back to reality.

                Just look upon reality as the Kryptonite for the super heroes of the antis, who adopt the cloaks and titles. It comes with the job.

  3. I think people should wait until the full results from this study are published. I’ve sat through several presentations by the authors and there’s quite a lot of subtlety in there that hasn’t really come out yet. One thing that’s quite interesting is that it suggests that those against fracking made up their mind about the TLS without actually knowing anything about it. In other words, their attitudes to the TLS are governed by their attitudes to fracking and not about the science around the TLS. The study is pretty damming about people’s knowledge of the subject. Essentially, it’s confirming what I’ve written on here before that most of people’s views on fracking are based on their values and they take no consideration of the science.

    • Well I suppose at least your arrogance and dismissiveness of other people is consistent.
      I know many people who have read and digested the content of the Preese Hall Styles/Baptie report and understood quite enough to comprehend why the limit was set where it was.
      [Edited by moderator]

      • Refracktion – most people who know about this subject realize that things have moved on since the Styles report. In particular:-
        1) The authors only meant that this was to be used for Preese Hall and not other sites.
        2) The report set the limit in the belief that 0.5 ML was a threshold that separated tensile from shear events – this is now known to be nonsense but what based on what was known at the time.
        3) 0.5 Ml was also used because the there was a belief that shale gas plays in the USA has been produced with out causing greater events. However, a review of the geophones used to detect events in the USA has shown that they cannot pick up events that are higher magnitude so that argument is also invalid.
        4) The authors of the report argue that things should be reviewed.
        [Edited by moderator]

        • “Judith” – how silly the industry must feel now if you and all its other experts knew all along that the science behind the TLS was so badly flawed yet said nothing! How they must wish you had mentioned all this when it would have mattered and they could have said something to the government! Now look where you all find yourselves.
          Remind me, who was it who said “I am sorry, but that ship has sailed. The industry had six years to make the case for that, and no case was made”.
          [Comment edited by moderator]

          • Refracktion – if you read what I wrote then I really don’t know where you think that industry has known the problems with the styles report for 6 years. Much of this has only become clear in the last couple of years. I don’t care who talked about the ship being sailed – we now have a government that listens to science and not a bunch of crusties with banners.

            • I didn’t say you had known that for six years – just that the main champion of the TLS got a little cross with the whining chorus of claims that it was suddenly not fit for purpose after the industry and its experts had said nothing for 6 years. But even if your evidence only became clear in the last couple of years, you still kept mighty quiet and if that’s true you cost the industry its credibility on this issue in the process. Well done you!

              Funnily enough even Cuadrilla are not advancing the arguments you are claiming anywhere that I have seen. But if what you say is right they must be doing somewhere, surely! Can you point me to where I can see this Judith?

              I wouldn’t be too sure that the government isn’t going to listen to the majority who are now shown to oppose fracking – after all we still do live in a sort of democracy. It would be a mistake to believe that just because we now have a cabinet of chancers and shysters, that means they will look after the fracking industry.

              • Refraction – Cuadrilla are well aware of the arguments as are the OGA. They new about the arguments a few years ago as they heard about them at the same meetings that I attended.. The main issue was that Greg Clarke refused to allow a review even though it was recommended by the OGA and more junior ministers. The new head of BEIS seems less lily livered than Clarke so we’ll see what happens

                • But it’s not happening before the next earth tremors at PNR is it?

                  I’d offer you a bet on that but you hide your identity so I couldn’t claim my winnings 😉

                • Refracktion – the thing is that the OGA might have been doing background work that isn’t technically a review but would certainly help fast track a review should they be asked to undertake one 😉

    • “One thing that’s quite interesting is that it suggests that those against fracking made up their mind about the TLS without actually knowing anything about it”

      Where does it suggest that Judith?

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