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Government stands firm on fracking moratorium

The government has restated its support for the moratorium on fracking in England.

Energy minister Greg Hands in parliament, 22 February 2022.
Photo: Extract from Parliament TV

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.

20 replies »

  1. Oil and gas critical to energy resilience? What, in the UK? Surely that must be a typo? Oh no it isn’t.

  2. Except U.K. gas isn’t cheap gas, it is company owned gas sold at market prices. The junior Welsh minister is incorrect.

  3. Nope, but it is resilient. As is UK oil. And UK taxation can be raised from UK production and then used for UK stuff. I think I prefer that option to giving that opportunity over the horizon to some less than ideal individuals to then spend on who knows what.-expect a bit of research would give a pretty good, but somewhat negative indication. Even the $60k per year provided to the dishwashers in Texas may be better spent in the UK.

  4. The thing is fracking is unproven in the U.K. yet some on here write as though its a given. Even if it proved viable, which many experts are sceptical about, there are questions about the true size of the reserve, issues about seismicity, complexity of geology and so on. And of course it would take many years, at least 10, to establish an industry. So the idea that we are sitting on a huge amount of gas, that will be cheap, easy and quick to extract is simply not the case.

    We have security of supply but are subject to global gas prices. And whilst some may complain about piping and shipping gas in from other countries it actually reduces risk as it provides diversity of supply. We only get about 4% of our gas from Russia, whereas some countries like Italy and Germany import a large amount from Russia.

    Perhaps if we had invested far more in alternative energy sources and energy efficiencies over the past decade we may also have been less dependent on gas.

    And of course there is climate change and the urgent need to reduce emissions and our use of fossil fuels.

    We need to transition away from gas and fossil fuels as quickly as we possibly can, better for the planet and away from the geopolitics and volatile prices associated with gas and oil.

  5. Absolutely Kat.
    Even this Tory government has now determined that after more than a decade of exploration & failed attempts in Lancashire, there is no way that fracking can safely generate gas without inducing uncontrollable earthquakes.

      • Martin,

        [Edited by moderator]

        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.

        So Martin where is your compelling new evidence that fracking may be carried out in Lancashire without inducing significant earthquakes ?

        • The Minister was indeed responding to a back bencher. It was the Minister who made a somewhat different comment to your opinion of “no way”. Ministers are those to be listened to in terms of policy, not back benchers. If not, UK forces would still be fighting in Afghanistan.

          Compelling new evidence? Surely you are not suggesting that compelling new evidence would be required? Surely that would be different to “no way”? Perhaps compelling new evidence may be produced via geothermal? Perhaps it may be produced via tests in other geographic areas and then expanded? There are several potential ways, which by my arithmetic, is more than no way.

          • The government has decided that fracking is wholly unsuitable for the relatively densely populated Fylde with its underlying faulted geology / vulnerability to induced earthquakes.
            In the words of the minister, there is ‘no compelling new evidence’ that this structural problem can be circumvented. Some (who nearly always live well away from this area) may have difficulty in accepting the fact that it is extremely unlikely that fracking will be carried out in the Fylde.

            • So, now it is extremely unlikely, rather than no way.

              Another few days and you will have reached, “starting shortly!”

              I do agree with the no compelling new evidence-yet. Hence a moratorium, not a ban.

  6. Just my point of view.

    There is no optimum temperature for the Earth, the climate has always cycled between warm and very cold.I understand there have been four major ice ages, lasting more than 100,000 years and several smaller ice ages . The last ice age ended about 14,000 years ago and the ice is said to have been more than one mile deep just North of where London stands today.

    Most countries have been under water more than once. One only has to look at the white cliffs of Dover, which are made by the compressed bodies and skeletons of minute sea creatures. Just how many million years did it take to build them up in a layer that thick , one wonders ?

    Thus, we cannot (at the moment) prevent an ice age, it is a natural event.
    We cannot prevent global warming (at the moment) it is a natural event.. We are probably speeding up global warming at present but if one recalls the world before c.1960 cities and villages throughout the Northern hemisphere were writhed in acrid smoke that hung like a haze and fogs were yellow and very thick and choking in the towns and cities yet we still had the severe winters of 47 and 63.

    Opinions regarding global warming are generally from the temperate and troppical zones. But what is the opinion from people living in Alaska, Greenland, Northern Siberia etc. Would not be pleased to experience less severe winters ? Moreover, a retreating permafrost will result in more land able to support vegetation and crops which, in turn, locks carbon into the soil .

    Turning our attention to shale gas. Inexplicably the UK has placed a moratorium on UK exploration, but we are still using gas but we have exported its production to countries abroad which will not, by one iota, reduce UK demand. Indeed it has been said that a super tanker than burn up to 300 tons of oil per day getting gas here, probably not quite so much when it returns empty. Thus, the United Kingdom which possesses some of the most prolific shale beds in Europe has placed its faith in ‘ Russia ‘ ? ! What crass stupidity, I imagine a school child could have worked out that would position us subject to manipulation ! By the way, some 1,700,000 wells have been fracked in the USA and, no, they are not riven by earthquakes. In any event the tremor created by fracking has been likened to a heavy lorry passing by. In some cases people can experience up to a thousand, or more, like events in the UK.

    The real reason for global warming is a subject that politicians will not delare it is down to population explosion. More people require more of everything , inter alia buses, schools, cars, holiday, aircraft, roads, food, air, pets, livestock, tractors, clothing, and housing. The probable reason why the world politicians will not tackle the real cause is because population growth makes increasing demand, in every aspect of human need. Thus, population growth equals prosperity !

    Oh, and PS. are we sure that the well head procedures int he countries we import gas from are stridently controlled. My feeling is that a gas leek would probably been seen as a by product of fracking in some countries . In that event we are contributing two global warming by pretending it is safer to import it !

  7. If the UK government is going to be based on pragmatic based science policy on the energy transition & energy security, and protecting those who are exposed to energy poverty, plus not importing fossil energy from despot governments, such as Russia, or from elsewhere, which would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions I wish to be heard. I have given warnings over the last few decades- before your website was even conceived . All my warnings have been proved right. I feel like Joseph warning Pharaoh. Unlike in ancient times, the present & recent “Pharaohs” do not listen to my warnings. Gas is an essential component to achieving the energy transition. Renewables (which we must develop) require a huge amount of gas back up when NW Europe is in a period of low solar insolation in winter & lacking wind due to instability in the jet stream (which will only get worse, due to climate change). Ruth, I want you to invite me to post on your website a case for indigenous UK fossil fuel production, and steel production from metallurgical coal for building renewable & associated energy storage infrastructure to build renewable & nuclear power & tow carbon transport infrastructure.

  8. What you need Nick, to make the Pharaohs listen, are a few disasters to befall them!

    Modern day version seems to be underway. And, more will follow.

    Complacency soon evaporates when the birds come home to roost, or in this case, the bills come through the letter box.

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