Politics

“Fracking is over” – UK energy minister

200618 kwasi kwarteng slider

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. Well it’s 10am as I post & the longest day is tomorrow. Britain is just coming out of lockdown, so electricity demand is much lower than usual. Demand is 29.3GW with only 17.2% provided by renewable energy, & 43.4% coming from gas. Clearly a political decision by Mr Kwarteng, & not evidence based. There is a looming problem of providing reliable electricity supply for transport (which before the lockdown was around 1% of annual demand), space heating & cooking in addition to existing electricity demand. If renewables fall so far short in mid-summer when we have maximum solar, it will take more than political aspirations & wishful thinking to get through winter future winters without fossil fuels “The lights will go down on Red Hill Town”

    • The continued comments of the pro-frackers demonstrate how deeply deluded they are to believe that this toxic industry which induces earthquakes, reportedly damaging 200 homes, could ever be acceptable. This failed experiment has already cost Lancashire and the UK tax-payer many millions of pounds. Cuadrilla must immediately dismantle their site at Little Plumpton and return it to safe agricultural land. The fantasy of fracking is over.

      • markdfrancis.Indeed- I have use that song in my talks about climate change for many years. Also Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 “up from the skies”. I had it looping as the background on a NASA video of melting icecaps at an international Exxon led event about a decade ago (with their permission). I am not a climate change denier, & I put ocean acidification on the political agenda nearly 20 years ago.

  2. The usual outpouring of opinionated false and unreferenced ‘facts’.
    It would be appropriate to prefix all these comments with ‘in my opinion’.
    We are all entitled to an opinion and all opinions should be equally valued.
    For the record, in my opinion, Fracking could be a component of the managed energy supply in the UK subject to appropriate objective cost-benefit analysis – I dream on !

    • Many thanks Chris,
      Yes, I agree with you there: ‘subject to appropriate objective cost-benefit analysis’:
      However, in my opinion, this is also another major problem for pro-frackers. There is no doubt that millions of pounds of UK tax-payers money have already been wasted in this failed experiment. How much more money could be wasted, or induced earthquake damage would be acceptable ?

  3. It might be more expensive for Radcliffe to import gas to manufacture plastic here in the UK but it’s certainly safer for UK residents and our Environment and water supplies than fracking it here!
    Anyway the world is supposed to be turning against plastic products!

  4. Given the undoubted ongoing demand for fossil fuels, if not for energy then for all the chemicals that are needed for our daily lives, then I’ve always thought it would be better to try to use local sources if possible rather than import it half way round the world and at the same time messing up someone else’s environment.

  5. In order to develop an informed opinion, one needs reliable information.
    So far I have elicited the following:
    Published material on the BGS website suggests that tremors of magnitude less than 2.5 are not normally detected by instrumentation, the only reason the 2.3 magnitude tremor was detected is that there is greatly enhanced monitoring around Preece Hall.
    There are considerable claims of damage reported after the 2.9 magnitude tremor but I have been unable to find any specific reports as to the real damage caused – was there any? and if so how serious was it.?
    According to the BGS there are 20-30 tremors greater than magnitude 2.0 every year in the UK and that the ground movement for a 3.0 tremor is around 4 mm – no indications of the accelerations achieved.
    So my conclusions are that there has been one tremor at the very lower end of the detectable range along with some other even slighter, no reliable information as to consequence except to provide ammunition for the naysayers and so no meaningful basis for seismic issues to be considered as significant. A conclusion generally stated in the relevant BGS report along with conservative monitoring and traffic light values to ensure visibility and control of the fracking process.
    So in being objective why dont we stop winding up the earthquake scare stories and focus on the real issues.

      • A classic piece of misdirection/misinformation, this reference which I have already seen, explicitly does not identify or quantify any damage incurred. It shows the distribution of ‘damage reports’ with no information as to damage incurred.
        This is absolutely typical of a sadly prevalent attitude to debate where fact and reality are pushed aside by rumour, opinion and subjectivity.

      • You state: ‘no meaningful basis for seismic issues to be considered as significant’.
        However, the widely felt (see my link to the map) earthquakes (your ‘seismic issues’) were considered significant enough ( ie > 0.5) at the time, because they were the very reason for Cuadrilla ceasing activity and the O&GA & HM Govt agreeing to the moratorium.

    • Make sure you are comparing like with like, damage from anthropogenic earthquakes will be greater for any given magnitude because they are nearer to the surface. See data from Groningen, where low magnitude but shallow earthquakes caused billions of Euros worth of damage.
      Make sure you understand how the Preese Hall data shaped the traffic light system.
      Understand the difference between faulting in the USA and Europe and that earthquakes are only one of the consequences of drilling through heavily faulted geology.

  6. No matter what all the fracking supporters say on this forum they are communicating in their own echo chamber. The facts is the government has stated that fracking is over they have moved on. We have to reduce emissions and transition away from fossil fuels, we do not have a choice. Soon gas boilers will no longer be installed in new buildings. Experts estimate we can reduce energy consumption significantly with measures such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings creating less demand. The reality is we don’t need fracking and what gas we do need can be obtained from the U.K. CS , whilst it lasts, and then import the rest of the ever diminishing amount of gas we will require. Gas consumption is generally falling. There is a glut of gas so no energy security issues either. Rather than extract more fossil fuels, the government is right to invest in greener energy and progress to net zero.

    • Yet more dissembling, the limit of 0.5 as a reporting and review level of activity was fairly arbitrarily defined as well below the initially proposed 1.7 which in turn was well below the levels of 2.6 and 3.0 which had been considered as unlikely to cause significant damage. (DECC report – INDUCED SEISMIC MITIGATION). I have not been able to find a statement by Cuadrilla as to why they are demobilisng the site – it appears that you have, a reference would be appreciated.
      The Government have said that ‘Fracking is over for the time being’ well knowing governments thats worth the paper its printed on.
      Cuadrilla and others will probably continue the search for energy to support the national economy – I find the arguments for developing our national gas/oil resources compeliing.
      I’m afraid I still find the underlying attitude and level of argument to be shallow and opinionated.

      • BGS Enquiries, May 2020:
        local residents: they did record that there were cracks in their property in answers to other
        questions. By this measure there are 197 reports of damage. The summary
        of location information to the detail of the first half of the postcode is
        as follows:
        FY1 13
        FY2 1
        FY3 18
        FY4 38
        FY5 3
        FY6 10
        FY8 71
        Not 2
        known
        PR4 41

        The above and other reports of local seismic impacts, including the well documented case of Mr Mark Mills, as reported in Drill or Drop.
        I now leave it to others to judge your own ”underlying attitude, objectivity and level of argument.”
        But you do appear to be devoted to your blind faith in fracking at all costs ?
        Good luck with that !

  7. Chris Brown, very true about the sensitivity thresholds of seismic data, & the reported damage. The reports of damage are from a self selected sample. I put a comment on this on the appropriate thread on DOD, (https://drillordrop.com/2020/05/29/data-reveals-where-people-reported-damage-from-fracking-earthquake/) but no-one has replied. No-one seems, so far, to acknowledge the nocebo effect on an anxious population, bearing in mind the level of anxiety amongst residents, emanating from the exaggerated claims such as given at the Lytham meeting that “PNR would be the amongst the biggest fracking rigs in the world” – clearly untrue (there are many claims from the antifrack campaigners that are untrue, & exaggerated) – one only had to look at the planning permission to see that. So I am labelled as a deluded antifracker in this thread. Funny that granite is being fracked in Cornwall – with much higher risk of seismic activity – as granite is brittle & hard & stores a huge amount of energy before critical stress is exceeded, leading to an earthquake. But we see no protests from anyone on the Fylde about that. Perhaps its because its not in their back yard?. Or is it because it trying to access a renewable resource of geothermal heat? Which leads on to energy storage & all the blocking of having underground energy storage in Preeshall salt caverns, by the residents of the Fylde. Salt caverns are ideal for methane & or hydrogen storage. Energy storage is really important as reliance on renewables becomes more dominant. My data at 10 am this morning about the National Grid can be referenced at http://grid.iamkate.com/. I would recommend anyone making pronouncements on UK energy supplies, regularly monitoring that site, especially if they wish to make public pronouncements about energy policy. As regard turning the PNR drilling site back to pasture. They are obliged to. AS to whether pasture is safe, well depends on your tolerance of risk & how you define safe. Pasture certainly has natural toxins, deadly to humans, e.g from the the fungi. It also has natural pathogens deadly to humans in the soil. It certainly provides opportunities transmission of zoonotic infections to humans, for instance through ticks, biting insects & rat urine. Farm animals are also a physical danger to humans. So, even though I frequently walk & work on agricultural land – I do not regard it risk free. Lastly, agriculture is one of the main polluters of aquifers in the UK, both from pesticides & nitrates. Agriculture also has a high incidence of health & safety shortcomings.

    • Dr Riley.
      My home in Warton, 4.4 road miles away from the Cuadrilla fracking site was damaged by the August Bank Holiday Monday 2.9 Hydrofrac Earthquake. Before and after photographs availble. Legal proceedings are in process of preparation.
      A property in Kirkham has been repaired following damage from the same earthquake,
      ‘Nocebo my backside’.
      I’m sure Frack Free Lancashire will provide more examples if you ask them.

      • Peter K Roberts. My house has cracks, it has suffered one of the highest magnitude earthquakes onshore UK in the last 50 years. I have never seen a house in this country with no cracks, eveb brabd new one- indeed they have many superficial cracks. But as many of the houses on the Fylde are on unconsolidated sediments, & compacting peat, I would expect many of them to have cracks. My house gets cracks from shrink/swell clays (volcanic origin). Exacerbated by increasing climatic extremes of dryness & wet. The last 8 months are typical examples. I can actually see cracks open & close in response to rainfall, or lack of. The nocebo effect is real. My default is that you honestly believe the cracks in your case are real. But I am not convinced all claims of damage, even perhaps yours, are due to PNR, especially in the context of local ground conditions on the Fylde. There are forensic ways of proving this. If your insurers/legal representatives are up to speed they should know this.

    • The BGS originally stated that they believed there was a direct connection between the amount of fluid injected and levels of seismicity. That statement came in their review of the events at the Preese Hall well. After the PNR earthquakes the BGS stated that might not be the case. The reality is that it is impossible to accurately locate all naturally occurring faults and impossible to predict exactly what would happen if fracking fluid found it’s way into those faults or how faults may cause movement from fracturing close by.
      The commercial fracking model is to continually drill new sites as output decreases rapidly.
      The cumulative effect of hundreds of wells in close proximity in faulted areas would obviously give rise to serious concerns over the potential to cause earthquakes of great magnitude and duration.
      The Government is right to move on. The science could never prove that hydraulic fracturing of UK shale could have a predictable maximum seismic threshold that would not be exceeded.

    • Dr Riley,
      Your own statement above : ”So I am labelled as a deluded antifracker (sic) in this thread”
      But who do you imagine has labelled you as any type of antifracker in this thread.?
      You also state: ”’pathogens…for instance through ticks, biting insects & rat urine.”
      Also, I do wonder if you are qualified to lecture to us all on agricultural pathogens?
      Those of us who have published original peer-reviewed research on zoonoses and public health (including Leptospirosis) are already well aware of these relative risks:

      https://jcp.bmj.com/content/44/6/517.short

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1141921/

      I do hope this is helpful.

      Stay safe !

      • Dear Dr Rugman. I posted my correction (I am profrack) well before the above post written by you. I have only just seen your belated this evening. I went to bed before midnight (I note you have advised others to go to bed). I do have a zoology degree (in addition to geology) so I have some knowledge about zooonotic infections. In addition as I work in rivers, streams & watercourses, as well as on agricultural land, and wildernesses (Holarctic , mid latidues, deserts to subtropics) I have to be aware of pathogenic & many natural risks (in addition to humans – who are in my opinion & experience are the most dangerous). I have also worked closely with microbiologists, not only in terms of microbes in soils & groundwater, but also in using microbes for environmental monitoring in terrestrial, marine & freshwater environments. Have you any any qualifications in geology? Have you published any peer reviewed articles on geology? I have enjoyed our discourse about micronutirients & your links to papers (including zoonotic infections). Thank you for those. But if you discount my comments about pathogens, just because I have not published in peer review on them, then should I discount your comments about geology & subsurface processes?

        • Dear Dr Riley,
          Very many thanks for your reply and for your kind comments regarding my medical references.
          Actually, I thought I had taken care not to make any detailed comments about geology ?
          Yes, I will also certainly avoid doing so in the future.
          However, I doubt that any comment from me will ever be necessary again, because the expert geologists of the O&GA have already advised HMG that fracking at Little Plumpton should not proceed.
          Good luck with your fracking.
          Stay safe !

        • Dr Riley,
          In fairness, you have been scrupulous in indicating your qualifications, so I should also disclose:
          MB ChB (Liverpool) MSc (Pharmacology, Distinction) MA (London, Medical History) FRC Path (Haematology) FRCP (London)
          Best wishes.

    • Fear not Dr Riley, you are in good company, Mr Brown has labelled me as ‘shallow and opinionated’.
      However, it has been a good debate, with interesting and thoughtful contributions from all sides.
      Best wishes to you and good luck with the fracking !

      • Dear Dr Rugman. Thank you! My dad died of acute myeloid leukemia many years ago. In WW2 he was involved with radar. My mum always blamed that as the cause. I always told her where is the evidence? He was just unlucky. Are you aware of this Environmental Health Atlas for England & Wales? Good pre- frack baseline data down to Parish level. http://www.envhealthatlas.co.uk/homepage/

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