The government has restated its support for the moratorium on fracking in England.
The energy minister, Greg Hands, answering parliamentary questions yesterday, said:
“the Government’s position is unchanged: fracking will not be allowed to proceed in England unless compelling new evidence is provided that addresses concerns about the prediction and management of induced seismicity.”
The moratorium was imposed in November 2019 after earthquakes caused by fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool.
An earlier moratorium, later lifted, followed induced earthquakes at another Cuadrilla shale gas site at Preese Hall in 2011.
The minister was responding to Mark Menzies, Conservative MP for Fylde, which includes Preston New Road.
Mr Menzies said:
“Fracking has proven itself wholly unsuitable for the Fylde coast, with seismic events in Fylde twice forcing national moratoriums.”
Earlier this month, Cuadrilla announced that it intended to plug and abandon the two fracked wells at Preston New Road.
This prompted calls from a small number of Conservative politicians and shale gas supporters to lift the moratorium. They have since been challenged over the facts used in their arguments.
Today, residents near Preston New Road reported that one of the flare stacks was no longer visible over the noise barrier.
Mr Hands responded yesterday to another Conservative question about the circumstances in which the government would exploit UK oil and gas resources, including shale gas.
In his reply to MP Julian Lewis, the minister did not mention fracking or shale gas:
“The North Sea Transition Deal sets out how the UK’s offshore oil and gas sector will help deliver on net zero while continuing to contribute to UK energy security, in the last year two new fields were consented.”
The junior Welsh minister, David Davies, referred to fracking in a debate about the cost of living in Wales:
“We made a decision, as a nation, that we were not going to frack for cheap gas, but we are not dependent on Russian gas. Only about 2% of the gas we use comes from Russia, and we could easily do without it. We import mainly from Norway and take liquefied natural gas, as well as using our own. We are not dependent on Russian gas, but other countries in the EU are, and that will have an impact on supplies overall.”
- Also speaking yesterday, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said the government did not believe in “an extinction of the oil and gas sector”. It was critical to energy resilience, he said, and developing new technologies like carbon capture and storage and blue hydrogen.
The 9th plague may be the one. “Darkness covers the land”.
Let’s get fracking – before the nukes come over the horizon
Leaving aside all the other well aired arguments, several years ago, the nascent fracking industry claimed it would take circa 10-15 years to develop to scale. Presumably that was without any more major setbacks over safety and practicality in our rather well populated country, or even major public opposition (which would translate to continued govt opposition if seen as a major vote loser).
As we haven’t reached year zero yet, will the situation have not changed considerably a decade hence? Who knows what O&G prices will be by then? How will climate change have changed in that time? What strides will we have taken to advance renewable and battery technologies and, heaven forbid, the energy efficiency of existing and new buildings? Can we really afford to spend multi millions locking ourselves into a whole new O&G industry for decades to come, rather than investing those same multi millions in energy efficiency & renewables – and not just wind and solar? How many will be tempted to invest in assets that could be construed as stranded before they’re even developed?
At full speed ahead, fracking should take about 10 years to build to a viable industry (assuming it was allowed to be and didn’t have any more serious safety issues). We haven’t even reached year zero yet. I suspect Putin will be hovering over the red button in a somewhat shorter time-frame. Meanwhile, back in the real world….