Minister tells anti-fracking MPs to “accept victory”

Energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, with Alexander Stafford (centre) and Lee Rowley (right), 28 September 2020. Photo: Parliament TV

Two Conservative MPs who opposed fracking in their constituencies have won their campaigns, the energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, told parliament tonight.

He said the government has sent a “clear message” to the industry that fracking was “extremely unlikely” to happen in England.

Mr Kwarteng praised MPs Alexander Stafford and Lee Rowley, who have fought against plans by Ineos to explore for shale gas at Harthill and Woodsetts in Rother Valley and Marsh Lane in North East Derbyshire.

Mr Kwarteng said:

“They clearly made their voice and more importantly the voices of their constituents heard in this place and they have been listened to and the object for which they have campaigned very passionately over a number of years … that object has been obtained. They have been successful.

“I enjoin them graciously to accept victory, as it were, in this particular debate.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, 28 September 2020. Photo: Parliament TV

Mr Kwarteng said the government “had no plans whatsoever” to review the moratorium on fracking in England.

This was imposed nearly a year ago after fracking by Cuadrilla in Lancashire caused a series of earth tremors. The largest was 2.9ML, the most powerful fracking-induced tremor in the UK.

Mr Kwarteng said he had been in his post for just three weeks when the 2.9 tremor happened:

“It was immediately apparent at that point there would be no further fracking, as far as I was concerned.

“The government has made it very clear that we will take a presumption against issuing any further hydraulic fracturing consents in this country.

“I think that this sends a clear message, not only to the sector but the local communities concerned, that fracking on current evidence will not be taken forward in England.”

The minister said:

“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely and without inconvenience.

“This is extremely unlikely to happen as far as I am concerned.

“There will be no fracking for the foreseeable future”.

The minister said “the world has rather moved on from fracking”. It had been described as “a technology of the past”, he said, and it was not something the government envisaged in its progress towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Alexander Stafford, 28 September 2020. Photo: Parliament TV

The moratorium applies to high volume hydraulic fracturing which meets the definition in the Infrastructure Act. It does not cover small-scale fracking, acidisation or exploratory drilling.

Mr Stafford, a former oil company employee, warned that fracking companies might seek to exploit this loophole.

He also said his constituents faced what he described as “continuous uncertainty”, the “great sword of Ineos hanging over their head”.

[The moratorium] has not stopped Ineos circling around its sites at Harthill and Woodsetts like vultures, biding their time and waiting for the moratorium to be lifted.

“I speak directly to Ineos when I say you will never be allowed to frack in Rother Valley. Your best endeavours will come to nothing. Leave my constituents in peace to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Do not come back.”

He also urged Rotherham Council to stop wasting time, money and resources on preparing for a shale gas site at Harthill.

Lee Rowley, 28 September 2020. Photo: Parliament TV

Lee Rowley said:

“The strength of feeling in Marsh Lane, the strength of feeling in Eckington parish and the strength of feeling in North East Derbyshire about fracking, about how we need to retain this moratorium remains as strong as it was.”

DrillOrDrop has invited Ineos to respond to the remarks made in the debate.

15 replies »

  1. Victory was achieved when the moratorium was put in place before the general election last year. When Mr Stafford was still a Councillor in Ealing.

  2. Stafford’s attack on Rotherham Council are illogical and unjustified. RMBC refused Ineos’ planning applications, but they have obligations as the Mineral Planning Authority to comply with the Planning Inspectors decision from the ensuing inquiry. If this pair wanted to get anything for their constituents out of this ‘debate,’ they should have asked the Secretary of State to logically extend the moratorium to cover exploratory drilling for shale gas, instead of trying to score party political points over a local authority who have repeatedly rejected planning applications for such developments.

  3. Rhetoric, vomiting over old ground.
    The attack on Rotherham council was unnecessary, unfair, and completely misinformed when it is government guidance that led to the planning inspector giving permission for fracking exploration at Harthill (the Woodsetts decision is still pending), even though the RMBC councillors threw out the application … three times.
    When Kwarteng includes the end of exploration, and acid fracking, and smaller fracking projects in his statements then it will be over. Until then it is mere posturing with a get-out clause.

  4. Neither the Government Minister nor the Conservative MP Lee Rowley who Chairs the All Party Group on Fracking went beyond the Government’s established stance of a moratorium on fracking. So we still have an open game for the future.

    • Harry

      I do not think so.

      Lets keep an eye on Misson, which is drilled and if anything shovel ready for a frack test (as long as someone comes up with reasoning as to how it can cope with the traffic light system).

      I am happy to wager £20, that nothing will be done there (bet to close in 12 months time / extend it then). Happy to put that against anyone who is sure that it will (which would have to be an anti fracker I guess).

      Likewise, that nothing much will happen in the Weald (more of the same), that they may get 400bbl out of the Wressle well, that Biscathorpoe will be drilled and we get middling news from Rathlin.

      I expect Angus will eventually produce a bit of gas, but not that it will be any earth shattering event, or that anyone out there notices.

      That, with or without protest activity or any change of government.

  5. Yes, Deborah, it is not over until they include exploratory drilling, flow testing, lower-volume hydraulic fracturing and acidising in formations of low permeability – all those prelims that will logically culminate in what any honest government and law would call full-on fracking. The government must also change back the guidance of 2014 that calls all exploration in limestone and sandstone ‘conventional’. This is not true. Limestone and sandstone are sometimes commercially permeable and sometimes not, they are sometimes conventional, sometimes unconventional, and sometimes somewhere in between. If only our MPs would support us here in the south east.

    • Wow Kathryn – you sound like quite the expert on this. The next time I’m looking for a post-doc in geomechanics, rock-fluid interactions and reservoir characterisation I will know where too turn. BTW – will you also ban acidizing water wells? It has been standard practise for many years but it seems you know better.

    • [Edited by moderator] In 1986 Conoco drilled The Lower Stumble pad in Balcombe without a single protestor in sight thankfully ! [Edited by moderator] FFBRA have 300 members out of a population of 1800 showing they are in the minority . Hundreds of Balcombe residents are happy with Cuadrilla/angus Energy but Ms McWhirter/Metcalfe is really unhappy with these FACTS !!! In may 2013 Cuadrilla told all residents they would never carry out fracking in Balcombe !

  6. The only reason fracking is currently ‘on Moratorium’ is Cuadrilla’s inability to prevent swarms of earthquakes spreading across the Fylde due it’s totally geological unsuitability for the process to be undertaken thereabouts.
    Coupled of course with all the attention grabbing protests by local and ‘National’ activists in person whether at and around the PNR fracking site, via ‘letters to the Editor’, email campaigns to Politicians or others pushing the fracking agenda or Legal Actions in Courts throughout the land.
    Residential property was damaged by the August Bank Holiday weekend Hydrofrac earthquakes and insurance claims have been settled. The guilty parties though have as yet escaped unscathed.

  7. The silence from the very few pro fracking contributors is deafening. Perhaps they too may have realised they have lost the argument now.
    I’d say this spells the death knell for the fracking industry. The government could not make it clearer without declaring an outright ban and we know how that went in Scotland. A ban can be achieved in other ways. Agreed, exploratory drilling should be included in the moratorium as well, but to pursue exploratory drilling for unconventional gas/oil/fracking, based on what the minister said in Parliament, would be a foolish, risky and costly venture. Time the industry accepted the reality and gave up for good.

    • Kat. I think that a lot was written about why HPHV fracking for gas was as good as dead in the UK (DoD passim Hewes Tresco) and we would be watching Wressle to see if they wanted to do small fracks, or Misson should anyone come up with the substantif bit of info to say its ok ( and … no such info).

      I will go root out some of that stuff.

    • Kat – Some stuff in this link in discussions on why HPHV fracking is not likely to continue (then)


      So – yes, looks like HPHV fracking is not going to happen. But will the type of fracking that occurred before (without note) now be the issue at hand here on DoD, along with those who oppose all oil and gas production onshore in the UK, and those who oppose all activity where they live and so on?

      Re exploratory drilling, if you cannot expect to get a financial return, then you would not want to drill an exploratory hole. So I am not sure why INEOS would want to do so now. I expect they will want their money back in some form, so one to watch I guess.

      But for predictions (to add to the deafening silence)

      1. If anyone wants to try HPHV fracking they would have a go at Mission. No sight of any supporting information to say its OK, so a dead duck I guess for now.

      2. Wressle is now on for a good fracking discussion and I expect a full re run of full HPHV fracking concerns to be aired and the fracking of many wells prior to the HPHV Shale fracking debate will continue.

      3. The number of wells being drilled / planned to be drilled under discussion on here will remain in single figures for years to come (in terms of English onshore drilling for oil and Gas )

    • Kat – arguing with the antifrackers is a little like Biden arguing with Trump last night – it is a total waste of energy. They know nothing about the science and the only arguments they just seem to repeat the same lies about its dangers. I still know of only two geoscientists who are against it and both of those have zero respect from their peers. As soon as people’s energy bills quadruple I think we might see a change of heart from the chattering classes.

  8. Sadly the existing government definition still allows hydraulic fracking, for their definition means that around 80% of USA fracking wouldn’t be classed as such. Acidisation and propant squeeze are other processes that are still allowed, yet they retain many of the risks associated with the whole unconventional fossil fuel arena. The industry thinks that avoiding the term ‘fracking’ and even denying it, somehow justifies their actions. In Angus Energy’s latest planning application they predict they’ll be over 3,000 additional HGV movements through Balcombe village, each one of them chugging out their toxic fumes into the Primary School, just a few metres away from the road. It’s not just the on-site activities that are a danger.

    • Malcolm

      Fracking or not, the amount of traffic caused by any activity is considered as part of the planning process. Banning fracking will not result in a ban on lorry movements through villages and past the front of primary schools (or wherever). So is there a link between the governments definition of fracking and Balcombe activities?

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