Politics

“Fracking is over” – UK energy minister

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The UK energy minister said this evening that fracking was over and the government had “moved on”.

Kwasi Kwarteng was speaking during an interview about a cryogenic battery facility that will store renewable energy.

Asked by Roger Johnson, of BBC North West Tonight, whether a shift to renewables marked the end of fracking, the minister said:

“We had a moratorium on fracking last year and frankly the debate’s moved on. It is not something that we’re looking to do.

“We’ve always said we’d be evidence-backed so if there was a time when the science evidence changed our minds we would be open to that. But for now, fracking is over.”

The moratorium, introduced in England in November 2019 and still in force, was a response to seismic activity induced by fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool.

On August bank holiday in 2019, the company’s operations caused the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earth tremor, measuring 2.9ML. It was felt across the region and there were nearly 200 reports of damage to buildings made to the British Geological Survey.

In this evening’s interview, the minister was pressed: “So, you’re saying that’s it?”

Mr Kwarteng replied:

“I said that there was a moratorium that we did at the end of last year.”

The interviewer asked:

“And you’ve moved on?”

Mr Kwarteng said:

“We’ve moved on, yes, exactly.”

In March 2020, Cuadrilla withdrew equipment from the Preston New Road site. Last month, it predicted there would be no fracking at the site in 2020 and it was looking at “conventional” opportunities.

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation welcomed Mr Kwarteng’s comments this evening.

Susan Holliday, chair of Preston New Road Action Group, said:

“This is positive news for communities that have been living under the cloud of fracking for years. We have always believed that the science did not support it, and it seems that the government are coming to that view too.

“Cuadrilla should now restore the site at Preston New Road so that our community can put the nightmare of fracking behind us. Renewable energy has got to be the answer to our future energy needs.”

Claire Stephenson, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:

“It’s good to hear that the government have finally caught up with public opinion and science to say that fracking is over.

“Although it isn’t a permanent ban, common sense and a climate emergency will dictate fracking won’t resurface.

“The most expensive fracking experiment in the UK, happened on our doorstep here in Lancashire and resulted in millions of pounds of cash and drillers’ dreams being invested into, essentially, two deep and dirty holes in what was once pristine agricultural land.

“What remains of the company Cuadrilla, must now restore that land and officially leave our community forever.”

Dr Frank Rugman, who lives near the Preston New Road site, said:

“Following the induced earthquakes, it became obvious to all rational observers that fracking should never have been forced upon our communities.

“This evening’s news of a belated government U-turn on fracking, only confirms that the future lies in the generation of clean renewable electricity supported by efficient battery storage.”

Joe Corre, of the campaign group Talk Fracking, said:

“A fracking moratorium on the basis of seismicity as a pre-election stunt is not the same as a full fracking ban due to fracking finally being considered by the Government as dirty fossil fuel causing climate change. That’s what needs to happen.

“The energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng may say ‘fracking is over’ for now, but INEOS, the biggest holder of fracking licences in the UK, which they paid good money for, is still waiting cap in hand for the verdict of their delayed planning application for shale gas exploration in Woodsetts.

“A lot can change depending on how that goes. If they win, then suddenly fracking is back on the agenda. If they lose, then Sir Jim will most definitely launch an appeal.

“Meanwhile, INEOS has just purchased interests to frack Texas, U.S.A. with the view of importing fracked gas, or LPG, into the UK to power their plastics plants. The circular argument from Sir Jim to the Government will ultimately be, “Isn’t it cheaper for the UK to produce it’s own fracked gas or LPG rather than rely on imports from the U.S.A?

“The devil in the detail of the upcoming Brexit negotiations will be very interesting in terms what could change Government policy overnight back in favour of “fracking” – or some other terminology which allows for extreme energy extraction – and let the dirty frackers like INEOS creep back in”.

DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla, IGas and Ineos, the three leading shale gas companies, to comment on Mr Kwarteng’s interview.

The minister said the CryoBattery facility, at Carrington, in Manchester, marked a move from fossil fuels to renewables. He said:

“This year I think we went for two months without any coal generated power whatsoever so the shift from fossil fuels is happening. I think the cryogenic battery is actually a step in that direction. And I think this is really welcome.”

The facility will be one of the world’s first commercial liquid air batteries. It could store enough energy to power 200,000 homes for up to 5 hours. Its capacity is double that of Tesla’s largest chemical battery in south Australia.

The Manchester plant has attracted a £10 million government grant and is due to start operating in 2022.

It will use surplus energy from renewable sources to chill the air, turning it into a liquid. When extra power is needed, the liquid air is released and turns back into a gas, driving a turbine to provide electricity.

Updated 19/6/2020 to include comment from Dr Frank Rugman and Joe Corre

 

 

 

 

76 replies »

  1. Excellent statement from Mr Kwarteng, fracking is over, the government have moved on and of course green energy and technology has also moved on. Brilliant news about the cryogenic battery development in Manchester, a sustainable investment for the North West, instead of dead duck fracking.

  2. Following the induced earthquakes, it became obvious to all rational observers that fracking should never have been forced upon our communities.

    This evening’s news of a belated government U-turn on fracking, only confirms that the future lies in the generation of clean renewable electricity supported by efficient battery storage.

  3. But never forget the government’s definition of hydraulic fracturing, fracking, is a lot looser than the widely accepted definition. And there’s also the threat of acid fracking, which some claim is similar to usage in the water industry where it’s used for cleaning pipework. It isn’t the same, but they’ll claim it.
    The article reminds me of a conversation I had probably 3 years ago, with someone who worked with the main gas network, as opposed to the local to the premises network. He mentioned that they used excess electricity in the grid to compress natural gas. The pressure would be released to drive turbines, without burning, when the grid needed extra electricity.
    Good news, but we still have Angus energy submitting a planning application for a 3 year (I kid you not) flow test in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just down the road from Balcombe village.

  4. Getting Brexit done, food standards in US trade negotiations, Covid19, Cummings. Unfortunately, I no longer believe a word anyone in this govt says.
    “But for now, fracking is over.” Weasel words. It’s uneconomic; it’s a new source of fossil fuel in this country; it’s not compatible with climate change; the contamination and seismic risks are very real; every month and year that passes makes it less likely to succeed; every step forward in renewables and battery technology likewise. It’s probably over, but according to this govt and their Infrastructure Act, fracking has a very narrow description!

    • It is true that as long as the shale gas is in the ground somebody will want to get it out. But for the next generation or two, it is over in the UK.

  5. This is good news but watch out, read the last sentence in his reply statement: The three little weasel words
    “But for now….

    We’ve always said we’d be evidence-backed so if there was a time when the science evidence changed our minds we would be open to that. But for now, fracking is over.”

  6. I hate to be the damp squib but Virgil reminds us that we must be wary of Greeks even bearing gifts. Initial euphoria at the apparent purport of this news vanished rapidly when it became clear that this was a Tory Minister speaking, the voice of a Party where mendacity is part of the DNA, a party whose Infrastructure Act’s re-definition of fracking made it possible to frack without calling it fracking, a Party which still enables fracking applications from companies whose forbears initiated this rape of our planet, a Party in a Government which permits, the Bank of England ,despite strong commitments to climate action, to allow the debt of BP, Shell and Total’s subsidiary companies to be eligible for support under the banks’ boosted corporate bond purchase scheme. (Climate Home News 20 April). The Tory Government provided EasyJet in April with a £600m loan from the Treasury and Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus fund.
    What has Kwarteng actually said? That there is a moratorium in place for the time being: “…for now fracking (Government’s definition) is over”. Yet the science still has not changed their minds. Worldwide massive funds are being poured into high carbon industries and the UK has not distanced itself from this support.
    Kwarteng announces that the Party, (Government?), has moved on. Perhaps, but in a direction which has manifested over the last few months an incompetence and lack of moral direction creating situations in which there is little consistent evidence of the green recovery required. Virgil’s note of caution is persuasive, and I fear, Ruth, that your headline might be premature. Time will of course tell and at heart we are optimists.

  7. “The facility will be one of the world’s first commercial liquid air batteries. It could store enough energy to power 200,000 homes for up to 5 hours.”

    28 million UK homes. Gas providing for over 50% electricity on average for a year. So to cover for zero wind in a high pressure weather system for a week we need 3,000 of these “air batteries”. Many more if it gets dark at night which it certainly does in the North West. And then there is heating and cooking.

    That sounds feasible and cost effective……

    There may be a good reason why it is a “first”.

    • It appears to be more of a grid balancing mechanism rather than a serious back up supply system.
      Interesting how the project will be built adjacent to a gas powered generating unit that can supply the electricity demands of one million homes.

  8. The UK will be using gas for many years to come, fracking will be needed.

    In 2018 wind and solar provided the UK with 70 terawatt-hours of energy. 7.9% of the total 880 TWh of the UK energy supplied by gas.

    Note that gas is under 3p per kWh at the moment electricity is approx 14p per kWh.
    Are people willing to pay the price difference and cost of converting to an all-electric economy?
    The new cryogenic plants will only be used for grid stabilisation; many hundreds will be needed to have any major effect on the UK grid network.

    The UK needs to develop a natural gas industry. It makes no economic or security sense to import gas from Russia or the US when we have abundant supplies underground?

    • ‘It makes no economic or security sense to import gas from Russia or the US when we have abundant supplies underground?’

      How about imports from Norway and using home grown oil and gas from under our own North sea. In case you didn’t know that’s where we get most of our oil and gas from. We even have plenty over for a healthy export market.
      As for the need to develop a natural gas industry I suggest you look at where your gas has been coming fro for the last 40 years and note how much more reserves the North sea holds.
      When Mr Egan said on TV that we get half our gas from Russia he was talking complete and utter nonsense.

  9. We are paying > 15p per kWh for most of our existing offshore wind generated electricity (to the generator).

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