review

UK fracking: a decade of broken promises, earthquakes and no gas

As the new prime minister takes office, one of the biggest immediate challenges will be the UK’s energy crisis, with soaring bills and the threat of rationing this winter.

Some see onshore shale gas as part of the solution. But given shale’s record over the past decade, can it come to the country’s rescue?

Gooseneck at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 5 August 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

The shale gas industry has a history of secrecy, broken promises, delays and a failure to deliver, despite years of government backing.

In more than a decade, it has produced no gas for homes or businesses. It has failed to get public support. It has disrupted communities, breached conditions and caused earthquakes every time it tried to frack. There are still no credible published figures of how much gas would be extracted.

In 2014, the then prime minister, David Cameron, was going “all out of shale”.

Six years later, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, sent a “clear message” to shale gas companies that fracking was “extremely unlikely” to happen in England.

It was only the Russian invasion of Ukraine and rising gas prices that prompted intense lobbying for a lifting of the moratorium, imposed in 2019 because of unpredictable earthquakes.

A scientific assessment of fracking, commissioned by ministers, remains unpublished. So, we don’t know whether any technical advances justify lifting the moratorium.

There’s also no evidence that the industry can frack without earthquakes or local disruption, as promised last time. We don’t know how long it would take to get gas out of the ground, how much could be produced, how many sites would be needed and what impact it would have on bills.

All we know for certain is what happened last time companies tried to extract shale gas in England.

In this review of the shale gas record, DrillOrDrop examines:


Industry response

We invited contributions to this review from the three leading shale gas companies and the industry’s lobbying organisation, UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG). We wanted to understand what the industry regarded as its achievements and what were its future ambitions. One of the companies, Ineos, declined to take part. Cuadrilla, IGas and UKOOG did not respond to our request.


Shale gas record

All the UK’s onshore high volume fracks caused earthquakes that were felt by local people

  • High volume hydraulic fracturing has been used on only three onshore wells in the UK
  • The fracked wells were all operated by Cuadrilla, near Blackpool in Lancashire: Preese Hall-1 (PH-1) in 2011 and Preston New Road 1z and 2 (PNR-1z and PNR2) in 2018 and 2019
  • At all three, fracking caused earthquakes that were felt by residents
  • The largest seismic events at each well measured 2.9ML (PNR-2), 2.3ML (PH-1), 1.5ML (PNR-1z)
  • All these seismic events happened when fracking was not taking place – at PNR-2, the 2.9ML event happened more than two days after the most recent frack
  • The Preston New Road fracks were incomplete (less than 16% of the planned number of stages at PNR-2) and the operations used less than the planned volume of fracking fluid (7% at PNR-2 and 12.5% at PNR-1z)

More details on earthquakes in Living with shale gas

In the past 22 years, wells have been drilled at 10 potential shale gas sites but no gas has gone to homes or businesses

  • None of Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations in Lancashire supplied gas to customers. As well as Preese Hall and Preston New Road, the company drilled for shale gas at three other sites: Becconsall (2011), Grange Hill (2011) and Anna’s Road (2012)
  • Cuadrilla said tests at Preston New Road revealed “high-quality” gas but it has never given estimates of what could be recovered
  • No shale gas was supplied either from wells drilled at five IGas sites: Ince Marshes (2011) and Ellesmere Port (2014) in Cheshire, Barton Moss in Salford (known as Irlam 1 and 1z, 2014), Tinker Lane (2018) and Springs Road (2019) in Nottinghamshire
  • IGas has estimated Springs Road could produce gas within nine months but said government help would be needed

There are no current active shale gas sites in England

IGas’s mothballed Springs Road shale gas site at Misson, Nottinghamshire. Photo: IGas
  • Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site has been mothballed since 2019 and permission for fracking has expired
  • Ineos carried out no work at its exploration sites at Harthill in South Yorkshire and Marsh Lane in Derbyshire before planning permissions expired
  • There is no permission in place at IGas’s Springs Road
  • Third Energy’s site at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire failed to get government consent and was never fracked
  • Permission was refused at Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood in Lancashire. There were also refusals at the Ineos exploration site at Woodsetts in south Yorkshire and IGas’s Ellesmere Port
  • IGas has suspended wells at Ince Marshes and Barton Moss
  • Sites have been restored at Preese Hall, Anna’s Road, Grange Hill, Becconsall and Tinker Lane
  • Aurora Resources withdrew its application to drill and frack at Altcar Moss near Formby

Breached conditions

Between April 2016 and October 2019, the Environment Agency sanctioned Cuadrilla for 16 breaches of the environmental permit conditions at Preston New Road. Cuadrilla was issued with 5 formal warnings. 11 of the breaches were at the least serious level 4. Five breaches were at the level 3 (potential harm). Cuadrilla also breached conditions of its planning permission, with deliveries at prohibited times and routing infringements.

At the Springs Road site, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust complained that IGas had breached the noise limits set to prevent harm to wildlife on a nearby nature reserve. The Trust also complained that the company failed to provide “complete and comprehensive data on noise, air quality and water flows and quality”, required by planning conditions.

Third Energy received a formal warning after breaching two conditions of its environmental permit for the Kirby Misperton site in 2017. Another warning was issued in 2018 over a further two breaches.  

Delays to decisions

The government set a target of 16 weeks for decisions on shale gas planning applications. The average duration between submission and decision on nine planning applications submitted for shale gas developments between May 2014 and November 2017 was more than 29 months each (see Notes for details).

The durations ranged from 10 months for Tinker Lane and 59 months (4.9 years) for Ellesmere Port. See Notes for the reasons for delay

Benefits

  • Under a government scheme, Cuadrilla paid £200,000 as a form of local compensation for drilling its two Preston New Road shale gas wells. Half the money went into a community benefit fund and half was divided between people living within 1.5km of the site.
  • From January 2016 to 31 March 2019, Cuadrilla said the operation at Preston New Road created 30 full-time and 54 contract or temporary jobs and 11 apprenticeships. Over the same period, the company said its direct spending in Lancashire was £14.6m and indirect was £1.37m
  • But the government’s shale gas wealth fund, designed to support shale gas areas, paid out nothing because the industry produced no gas

What was it like living with shale gas?

Some people living near shale gas sites have supported the industry. But there have been complaints from local people about noise, traffic, air quality, protests and, at Preston New Road, small earthquakes.

Preston New Road

Earthquakes

Campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 26 August 2019. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

197 people complained to the British Geological Survey about damage to property from the 2.9ML earthquake on 26 August 2019, induced by fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.

The BGS said several thousand people reported they had felt the earthquake. Some were as far away as Preston and Chorley. People described it as “very frightening”, “very loud rumbling”, “whole house shook” “my bed moved”, “frankly terrifying”. Some local people said they were “living in fear”.

A near neighbour of the site said:

“Being so close to the site, we probably noticed these more than most. I heard the one in Dec 2018 from the first well. Then I think that we heard about seven during Aug 2019.

“Our experience in general was that we heard a loud bang as though a car had crashed on the road outside. This resulted in us feeling very jumpy at the sound of loud noises for a while afterwards.”

There were nine seismic events above 0.5ML from 21-27 August 2019. 0.5ML is the limit set by the traffic light system at which operations must pause if fracking is taking place

In 2018, fracking on PNR-1z also led to seismic events that were felt by local people. A 1.5ML earthquake caused by fracking the first well in December was described as “like a car hitting a building at speed”. Fracking on PNR-1z caused at least six earthquakes measuring more than 0.5ML.

Disturbance and traffic

Analysis by DrillOrDrop indicates there were more than 80 formal complaints about the Preston New Road fracking site when it was most active.

The main reasons for complaints were noise, dust, spills, deliveries and lorry routing, lack of wheel-washing and site flooding.

The complaints were recorded in minutes of the community liaison committee, from May 2017-October 2019. The minutes do not always list the exact number of complaints, sometimes using words such as “several”. Some complaints were about protest policing at the site. See Notes for more details.

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

“There was definitely noise from the site but although it was loud it never seemed to be long enough in duration to cause the planning condition to be breached. It made me realise that a planning condition may sound robust on paper but it in practice from a neighbour’s point of view it may not be that practical.  

“We felt that Cuadrilla were not that open and honest with the community sometimes only letting us know about things once they had happened. Even for members of the CLG it was often hard to get straight answers.”

Methane emissions

A six-day release of methane from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in January 2019 had the same carbon footprint as average annual electricity demand for 166 households or 142 flights from London to New York, Manchester University researchers concluded. Analysis of data from their monitoring station estimated unburnt methane emissions totalled 4.2 tonnes during the release.

Kirby Misperton: Air quality

Research by York University from 2015-2017 concluded that air quality in Kirby Misperton changed from typically rural to urban levels as preparation began for fracking. Nitrogen oxide pollutants did not exceed national air quality thresholds but in the second half of 2017, when equipment was moved to the site, the annual concentration increased significantly, the research concluded.

Springs Road: Noise and disturbance

Misson Parish Council complained in 2022 that the lives of local people had been “blighted” since shale gas plans for Springs Road were first raised in 2014. It said residents had faced the challenges of company secrecy during seismic testing, protests outside the site, a massive police presence, IGas’s High Court injunction and a high level of site security.

Long-eared owls, breeding on a nearby nature reserve, moved away from their usual nesting grounds in 2018 when drilling started.

Protests

Preston New Road, Barton Moss, Springs Road and Kirby Misperton saw near-daily protests.

Activists included local people, many of whom had never previously taken part in protests. There were also protesters from outside the area, who sometimes travelled long distances to take part.

Protest policing outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Policing at protests was often described as “excessive”, “heavy-handed”, “inconsistent” and sometimes “confrontational”. A study by researchers at John Moores and York universities and University College London concluded that the needs of the industry were “seemingly more important” than those of the protesters.

In Lancashire, a key issue for opponents was that a government minister approved permission for the Preston New Road site, overturning the views of local councillors. One campaigner said:

“The fact government imposed this upon a community that had already said ‘no’ was instrumental in bringing me to the roadside and others too. The astronomical costs in relation to policing was a frequent talking point in local councils.”

The total bill for policing anti-fracking protests in Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and North Yorkshire was more than £14.5m. (See Notes for details). Less than half the arrests at protests outside Preston New Road and at Kirby Misperton led to convictions. 

Ineos staff installing injunction notice at the proposed Woodsetts shale gas site in south Yorkshire. Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

Cuadrilla, IGas and Ineos were granted High Court injunctions against some types of protests at their sites.

IGas was criticised for treating the local community with “disrespect and contempt” after including two residents’ groups in an injunction order.

Ineos sought an injunction at its Woodsetts shale gas site before it had announced it would be applying for planning permission. The first many local people knew about the shale gas proposals was when injunction signs were installed alongside a footpath. See more on injunctions in Challenges

Permission creep

After planning permission was granted, significant changes were made to the conditions at Preston New Road and, to a lesser degree, at Springs Road.

In 2017, Cuadrilla successfully applied to bring in night-time deliveries, which had been prevented under the original consent. The company’s traffic management plan, which controlled deliveries, was on its eleventh version by August 2019, just before earthquakes stopped fracking. At the same time, the company announced it would seek an extension to the time allowed for drilling and fracking. There were also six applications to vary the substance of the site’s environmental permit.

At Springs Road, IGas failed to complete construction work before the start of bird nesting in spring 2018. Nottinghamshire County Council later approved its application to work during the nesting season.

Government help for fracking

In the past decade, Conservative ministers have tried to make it easier for oil and gas companies to extract shale gas by:

  • issuing new shale gas exploration licences
  • changing laws to deal with protests and the ancient rules on trespass
  • creating a new definition for fracking
  • revising the planning system to fast-track shale gas applications
  • requiring councils to “recognise the benefits” of shale gas and plan “positively”
  • promoting shale gas in government and with the public

See Notes for more details

Public attitudes

Findings of BEIS tracker survey of public attitudes to shale gas

Despite a decade of government help, the idea of fracking in the UK has never seen majority public support.

Large numbers of people have objected to shale gas plans. The nine applications for shale gas schemes submitted since May 2014 received more than 50,000 written objections. Petitions against the proposals had more than 210,000 signatures. See Notes for more detail.

More than 300,000 people signed petitions against fast-tracking fracking through the planning system and more than 600,000 signed the petition against curbs on protesting.

A regular survey of public attitudes for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) saw support fall from 28% to 8% between December 2013 and March 2020. Opposition rose from 21% to 45%.

The latest results, published in December2021, found that 45% opposed fracking, compared with 17% who supported it.

In July 2022, published findings of a study by five UK universities and the British Geological Survey found that people opposed:

  • lifting the moratorium on fracking in England
  • relaxing the traffic light system limit of 0.5ML

The researchers said: “we do not foresee a role for shale gas in the UK’s energy future”.

Polling since the Ukraine invasion by YouGov, published in May 2022, found that 46% of people thought Britain should not restart fracking. 27% thought it should. 26% said they didn’t know.

The industry organisation, UKOOG, said this poll also showed that 29% of people were in favour when asked about shale gas in their local area. If local shale gas production meant a reduction in bills for people in the community, UKOOG said 59% were then in favour. We’ve asked to see the methodology but UKOOG has not responded.

Challenges

In the past decade, opponents of fracking and shale gas exploration went to court to challenge government, regulators and companies. More than a dozen cases failed to stop fracking plans in South and North Yorkshire and Lancashire.

But two successful challenges became landmark cases. Another case, still going through the courts, could have major implications for shale gas extraction

Planning for shale gas

Claire Stephenson succeeded in her judicial review about the climate impacts of shale gas developments. This resulted in the removal of a paragraph in the National Planning Policy Framework that had required local authorities to develop policies to facilitate onshore exploration and extraction.

Limiting injunctions

From 2017-2019, the High Courts granted five injunctions to oil and gas companies against protest activities. They covered 16 sites in 10 counties, not all involving fracking sites.

Joe Boyd successfully challenged the most wide-ranging injunction, awarded to Ineos. Three appeal court judges struck out sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking, climbing onto vehicles and blocking the road. They said the injunction order had been, in places, “both too wide and insufficiently clear”.

Climate impact

Sarah Finch has won the right to go to the Supreme Court with her long-running legal challenge over the climate impact of fossil fuel extraction. She will argue that decision-makers should take account of the greenhouse gas emissions of the use of fossil fuels. (details)

Who owns UK shale gas companies?

Cuadrilla has often referred to itself as a small British start-up. Since 2020, it has been 96%-owned by the Australian mining group, A J Lucas (source). 65% of A J Lucas is owned by Kerogen Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity fund manager. In 2020, a Kerogen Capital director joined the board of 10 Cuadrilla subsidiaries.

Kerogen capital is also the largest single shareholder in IGas. Kerogen holds more than 27% of shares (2021 annual report) and two IGas directors have links to the firm. Of the three main shale gas companies, IGas is the only one that is stock market listed.

Ineos, the largest holder of English shale gas licences, is more than 61% owned by its chairman, Jim Ratcliffe. The remainder of the company is controlled by board members Andrew Currie and John Reece.

Since 2022, Third Energy has been owned by the renewable energy group, Wolfland, and is now looking to re-use old gas wells to generate geothermal heat.

Fracking politics

After two-and-a-half years out of the headlines, fracking has become a political issue again.

The outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson, said this week:

“If we could frack effectively and cheaply in this country, that would be possibly a very beneficial thing. I’m just, I have to say, slightly dubious that it will prove to be a panacea.

“I would much rather that we focused on the things where we are brilliant, and where the environmental damage is really minimal.”

But his expected replacement, Liz Truss, has committed:

“We will end the effective ban on extracting our huge reserves of shale gas by fracking but be led by science, setting out a plan to ensure communities benefit. Fracking will take place only in areas with a clear public consensus behind it.”

If she is elected and she lifts the moratorium on fracking, how will shale gas help the cost of living crisis and UK energy security?

Should we frack again?

The shale gas industry continues to quote from a 2013 study by the British Geological Survey which estimated the total gas in place in the Bowland Shale could be 37.6 trillion cubic meters.

The industry accepts this is not the gas that could be extracted. It says a typical recovery rate is 10%, which would provide 3,760 billion cubic meters or enough for 50 years UK supply.

In November 2019, after fracking its two Preston New Road wells, Cuadrilla reported “natural gas of the highest quality sampled to date in the Lancashire Bowland Shale”. But the company has never published estimates of what Preston New Road could produce. The site was not fracked as planned and the wells were not fully tested.

The shale gas industry, through UKOOG, has said firms could offer 25% discounts on energy bills for people living near shale gas sites. The details are still being worked out, it said. It argues that shale gas would reduce the UK’s gas supply carbon footprint, raise tax revenue and local business rates and increase energy security.

But there’s no evidence that shale gas would be a quick fix.

Summary of analysis by Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Analysis by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, published in April, ranked shale gas as the least likely solution to have a meaningful impact on reducing bills and improving security.

Carbon Brief argued that plans to resurrect fracking for shale gas in the UK would not reduce energy bills.

Carbon Tracker Initiative explained today:

“Even if more domestic fossil fuels are produced in the UK, they will be sold to the highest bidder on the global oil market, and UK consumers will not see lower prices.

“More diversification away from fossil is the key to energy security and price stability.”

Professor Michael Bradshaw, of Warwick Business School, wrote in March 2022:

“The message should be clear: the answer is not more gas supply, it’s less gas demand.”

He said:

“The size of the proven reserves is unknowable without significant exploratory drilling, and this is unlikely to happen.”

By the time wells were ready to go into production, he said, the UK would be looking to reduce gas consumption dramatically to meet the targets of a net zero economy.

Given the industry’s record so far, it looks unlikely that production would begin quickly.

It would need radical changes to the planning system, probably eliminating time-consuming public consultations. But this would contradict Liz Truss’s proviso that there should be “clear public consensus”.

The industry says it needs a relaxation to the earthquake rules to fully frack shale gas wells. But there’s no evidence that people would support this.

The industry also wants to drop one of the tests for shale gas set by the government’s advisor, the Climate Change Committee. But the CCC said last year the moratorium should not be lifted without an independent review of the impact of shale gas on the climate . As recently as June, the CCC warned about the financial risks of investing in fracking.

DrillOrDrop has been reporting on fracking and shale gas since 2013. This article draws on what is now a large archive of journalistic material. We’ll continue to report on the key players in shale gas over the coming months and continue to add to that resource. Please get in touch with news you think we should be reporting.

DrillOrDrop’s reporting on the UK shale gas industry has been made possible by donations from readers.


Notes

1. Duration of shale gas planning application submissions to decision

(May 2014-November 2017 – source DrillOrDrop site timelines)

Roseacre Wood, Cuadrilla: Application submitted May 2014. Application refused February 2019 after two public inquiries

Preston New Road, Cuadrilla: Application submitted June 2014. Permission granted after appeal against refusal October 2016.

Kirby Misperton, Third Energy: submitted May 2015. Permission granted May 2016

Tinker Lane, IGas: Application submitted May 2016. Permission granted March 2017

Springs Road, Misson, IGas: Application submitted July 2015. Permission granted November 2016

Common Road, Harthill, Ineos: Application submitted May 2017. Permission granted after appeal against failure to decide application June 2018

Marsh Lane, Ineos: Application submitted May 2017. Permission granted after appeal against failure to decide application August 2018

Ellesmere Port, IGas: Application submitted July 2017. Permission refused after appeal June 2022

Woodsetts, Ineos: Application submitted November 2017. Permission refused after appeal June 2022

Reasons for delay

  • Incomplete application that could not be validated (Kirby Misperton)
  • Section 22 request for more information (Kirby Misperton)
  • Company asks for decisions to be deferred (Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road)
  • Additional public consultations (Roseacre Wood, Preston New Road, Kirby Misperton and Springs Road)
  • Company submits second application (Woodsetts)
  • Appeals/public inquiries following refusal (Roseacre Wood, Preston New Road, Ellesmere Port, Woodsetts)
  • Appeals by shale gas companies before councils voted on applications (Harthill, Marsh Lane)
  • Secretary of State fails to meet decision deadline in recovered appeals (Ellesmere Port and Woodsetts)

2. Planning breaches

On 27 July 2017, Cuadrilla delivered the drilling rig overnight, in breach of conditions. (The conditions were later changed to allow overnight deliveries).

Also in 2017, the company received a warning letter over deliveries arriving before the approved time. Another condition required delivery drivers to turn left out of the site but in February 2017 there had been eight right turns. The company did not install a wheel wash, as required by the conditions.

3. Government help for shale gas

2013 Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO)

UK government office, launched in 2013, with aim to “promote the safe, responsible and environmentally sound recovery of the UK’s unconventional reserves of gas and oil”. An FOI response revealed OUGO had an admin budget of £794,000 in 2014-15 and a programme budget of £987,000. OUGO is no longer operating.

2015 fracking licences

The government opened up large areas for shale gas exploitation in the 14th licensing round. Days after the end of the Paris climate conference, ministers confirmed 93 new Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs), most targeting shale gas and mainly across northern and south west England.

According to the industry regulator, just 57 PEDLs from the 14th round remain, after licences were not taken up or rescinded. No exploration has been carried out in a 14th round PEDL.

2015 tackling trespass

The 2015 Infrastructure Act:

  • Gave companies the right to use deep-level land to exploit petroleum or geothermal energy without the consent of the owner, overturning historic trespass laws
  • Allowed companies to leave land in a different condition than they found and leave any infrastructure or substances in the land
  • Set a new definition of associated hydraulic fracturing based on volume of fluid injected and prevented fracking at depths of less than 1,000m

Since then, two shale gas wells have been fracked. Neither used the volume of fluid in the definition.

2015 fast-track

Measures to take shale gas decisions out of local authority control were announced in written ministerial statements. Shale gas applications would be “fast-tracked” through “a new dedicated planning process”. Ministers got the right to intervene in shale gas planning appeals. The performance of local authorities in dealing with onshore oil and gas applications would be monitored. Those that repeatedly failed to determine oil and gas applications within the 16-week statutory limit would be identified. 

Since then, ministers have decided four shale gas planning appeals. The ministerial decision on two of these cases took more than two years. No dedicated planning process was established for shale gas.

2014 shale wealth fund

This was proposed in the 2014 autumn statement, with details announced in 2017 for up to £1bn of additional funding on local projects in local communities near shale gas sites. Each community would get up to £10m. Communities would be able to decide how to spend the money. Projects could include new play parks, sports facilities, libraries, improved transport links or restored heritage sites, the government said.

The fund was to be based on 10% of tax revenues from shale gas production. There has been no shale gas production so no payments were made to communities that hosted sites.

2018 new planning blueprint

A revised version of the NPPF required English councils to:

  • recognise what were described as the benefits of onshore hydrocarbons, including shale gas, for energy security and transition to a low carbon economy (paragraph 209a)
  • Put in place policies to facilitate the exploration and extraction of onshore hydrocarbons and “plan positively for them” (paragraph 209b).

This was despite “limited support” in a public consultation.

In 2019, the government was required to remove paragraph 209a from the NPPF after a High Court challenge brought by Claire Stephenson. Mr Justice Dove said adopting the paragraph was unlawful because the government had failed to carry out a lawful public consultation and take into account scientific developments over its low carbon claims.

2018 another fast track

In Written Ministerial Statements in May 2018, the government proposed treating:

  • non-fracking shale gas exploitation as permitted development, avoiding the need to go through the local planning system
  • fracking applications as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, to be decided by a minister or government-appointed inspector, rather than local planning authorities

Both proposals were shelved in November 2019. The government revealed that more than 97% of people who took part in a consultation opposed the proposals.

2018 extra help

The government announced a new package of measures which it said would continue supporting the development of British shale gas. The package included:

  • £1.6m shale support fund to build capacity in local authorities for dealing with applications
  • Creation of new shale planning brokerage service and shale environmental regulator to “streamline regulation” and ensure decisions are made in a timely way, supporting developers and local authorities

2022 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act

This act gave police powers to clamp down on noisy protests in England and Wales and place conditions on demonstrations. Proposals to criminalise locking-on protest or going equipped to lock on were voted out before the bill became law.

2022 Public Order Bill

This legislation seeks to revive proposals voted out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. It includes action on locking-on protests, extending police powers to stop and search and seize articles related to protests and the introduction of serious disruption prevention orders.

Reform of judicial review

Campaigners have challenged decisions about fracking using judicial review. In 2022, a leaked document revealed the government planned to make it harder for legal challenges to succeed. The 2019 Queen’s Speech followed up on a Conservative Party manifesto to examine the system of judicial review.

PR and policing

The government appointed Natasha Engel as its fracking commissioner in 2018, as an independent link between communities, the industry and regulators. The former Labour MP, who supported fracking and once worked for Ineos, resigned after six months. She accused ministers of killing off the shale gas industry and caving into environmentalists. It later emerged she had been briefed by Cuadrilla for a radio interview and had twice as many meetings with business than residents.

In 2016, ministers were ordered to release a full version of a report on the impacts of fracking in rural areas but they deliberately delayed publication until after Lancashire County Council decided on Cuadrilla’s two fracking applications. The document detailed possible reductions in house prices, increased rents and insurance premiums and increases in congestion, noise and air pollution.

Some documents used to support the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, included anti-fracking protests on lists of terrorism risk, alongside armed groups, such as ISIL or Da’esh.

Objections to planning applications

Preston New Road: The planning officer’s report said that to the end of May 2015, there had been 18,022 objections (excluding duplicates) and 217 comments in support. Five petitions totalling 32,529 (241, 924, 23,624, 7,548, 192. All parish, town and district level authorities objected. (Source)

Roseacre Wood: The planning committee heard that 15,600+ people objected to the proposal and petitions were signed by a total of 91,000 people. The planning officer’s report said there were 13,448 objections and petitions signed by 32,529. There were 205 comments in support, the planning officer said. (source)

Kirby Misperton: North Yorkshire’s planning committee was told there had been 4,800 representations, of these 4,375 were objections, 9 were comments and 36 letters of support. A petition was signed by 3,711. The officer’s report noted 4,000+ representations, many of which were objections.

Springs Road: Nottinghamshire County Council heard there had been 2,630 representations, of which 2,624 objected to the shale gas site and six were in support. A petition from Mison Community Action Group had 363 signatories (source)

Tinker Lane: 793 objections, four in support, petition with 2,869 names (source)

Ellesmere Port: 1,411 objections and a petition of 1,044 signatures (source)

Harthill: 1,000+ objections by the start of November 2017 (source)

Marsh Lane: 5,000 objections and a petition signed by 80,000 people (source)

Woodsetts: 800+ objections to first application (source), about 1,000 to second application (source)

Policing costs

Operation Manilla in Lancashire cost Lancashire Constabulary almost £13m until it was disbanded in December 2019. The Home Office paid £5.8m for policing protests from 2017-2019 and £1.28m for 2019-2020.

In Nottinghamshire, policing protests at the IGas sites at Springs Road and Tinker Lane cost £900,000. This represented nearly 0.5% of the force’s spending in 2017-2018. This was below the threshold for Home Office funding.

North Yorkshire Police estimated its operation at Kirby Misperton had cost it an extra £700,660. The Home Office had agreed to pay £614,000, 85% of the extra costs, the maximum allowed under government special grant funding.

Complaints to Preston New Road community liaison group

22/5/17
16 complaints to Lancashire County Council (LCC) – dust, absence of wheel washing, noise fencing

26/6/17
6 complaints to LCC – dust at site entrance, ePortal difficulties, air monitoring data, vehicle turning right on two occasions in June. 2 complaints to HSE about wheel washing and surface water

4/9/17
Fluid spilt on road by vehicle leaving site (Cuadrilla said this was rainwater); Fylde Borough Council – complaints about pooling of water onsite; noise on site on 11/8/17. Other noise complaints on 2/9/17 and 3/9/17. Complaints to LCC on highways issues, routing vehicles, lighting, water management, ecology

2/10/17
9 complaints to LCC – noise, water, vehicle routing, storage of materials, operational activity

6/11/17
2 complaints – dangerous driving, breach of the traffic management plan (TMP) on 13 October – turn right in or out of site

18/12/17
2 complaints to LCC on noise and surface water and flooding

15/1/18
4 complaints about noise and 1 complaint about alleged wellbore leak.

4/6/18
Noise complaint to LCC (did not breach noise limit) and complaint about protest camps

2/7/18
2 noise complaints from a local resident to LCC; complaint about smell of hydrogen sulphide to Environment Agency (EA)

1/7/19
2 new complaints to Lancashire Police

2/9/19
“several complaints” over the course of the month. Reports of structural damage had been shared with LCC. EA received complaints about seismicity. Lancashire Police said there were 9 ongoing complaints and further 2 received today.

8/10/19
Lancashire Police received 3 policing complaints in September and had 10 “rolling complaints”. LCC received no complaints in September. This was questioned by resident who said he was aware a complaint had been received. 1 complaint to EA.

46 replies »

    • Thank you for your extraordinary independent and balanced reporting, absolutely fantastic. It’s going to be an interesting week for shale gas in the U.K.. RIP Mr Gorbachev.

  1. Maybe the industry players have better things to do than take part in a hatchet job?

    With 53% of local people ie. local people to potential fracking, supporting it in summer 2022, interesting that data was supplied for??? Autumn2021! So, detailed, but still missing some rather important detail. Mentions it but attempts to question it.

    I recall, reaction, having several discussions with you when you declared your knowledge about reading survey data. The point I made then, was the undecided may sit on the fence when it is of no great concern to them and it usually takes an event to concentrate their minds to get them off the fence. Looks as if energy bills may be that event. Shock/horror. The cheapest marketing budget the industry players could have ever expected.

    Can it be done somewhere in UK? Well, only one way to find out and one company with deep pockets has offered to pay from their pockets to find out. Or, they could spend it on Man. Utd. Maybe if they did both, all those millions of Man. Utd. supporters would add to the 53%!

    Meanwhile, LNG from USA and as far afield as Australia will continue to be shipped into UK. Huge amounts of money (tax payers) will be spent on bringing in gas to be plonked under UK ground for future use, whilst there is already huge amounts of gas stored under UK ground! As quoted by Rystad recently:

    “US and European price differences are so wide, producing and shipping US gas across the Atlantic, EVEN ALLOWING FOR THE PRICEY LIQUIFACTION PROCESS, is still economically advantageous.”

    Mid July US Henry Hub was $7 per MMBtu for gas, Dutch TTF was $47 per MMBtu. Now, Nord Stream 1 has been turned off. Wonder which direction things will now go? Some in USA are not happy with the $7 and are calling for an export ban. Logically that should be resisted, but during Mid Terms logic is often lost.

    (I added the capitals to concentrate some of the 47% minds. Although, after the recent cap announcement I suspect there are many who have already been concentrated.)

    Good to see you are an early bird like me. Best part of the day, IMHO. Although, a bit of a chill in the air this morning! Oops.

    • Fred – describing Ruth’s serious, we’ll researched and well referenced post as a hatchet job is rude even for you! Unless you can explain which parts gig that bill and why then I think an apology is in order.

      This industry is going to need public support to get off the ground but failing to engage with reputable and serious journalists just shows that they are running scared and don’t have any answers go the obvious criticisms that they face.

      • Oh dear, reaction.

        Public support?

        [Edited by moderator]

        Looks as if public support may just be influenced somewhat more by what is there for them during times of hardship. What you think is up to you. (Did you get anywhere with the BBC? )
        What I think is that you appear to be worried that the silent majority do not continue to sit on the fence when it becomes very uncomfortable to them. Perhaps you have no issues with fuel poverty, but a lot do. Maybe you should apologize to them for your lack of empathy? Maybe a few of them have seen comments on this site directed at those employed by the industry, and the actions taken against their contractors and wonder where the need for public support was shown then.

        Having seen the details of the money wasted recently on solar farms that has required Government intervention, then renewables are doing their bit regarding public support?? What a joke.

        “Gig that bill”?? OMG. Says it all really.

        • Fred [edited by moderator] you can’t change the fact that fracking has no social licence, it won’t materially impact current fuel poverty, and its proponents don’t dare answer any questions that aren’t put to them by their own patsies in the right wing media.

          Honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that fracking is going to help anyone at all in the current energy crisis – or do you believe your pals will be giving out handouts this winter – if so you are in for a big disappointment.

          [Edited by moderator]

        • MARTIN ,

          [Edited by moderator]

          If ANYONE wants to see what effect , local people power can have against this toxic fracking industry , just Google search ” Barton Moss Fracking ” and check out the many YouTube videos.

          MARTIN , can’t see how 53% of the population would want to increase their chances of Cancer , Asthma or put their new born babies at risk of birth defects , can you ?????

          I also can’t see how 53% of the people living in close proximity to a Fracking site would want to see their homes devalued .

          If you feel I’ve said anything that is wrong , please say , as I will be delighted to fill this page with evidence, ( FACTS.)

          • [Edited by moderator]

            you assume this winter will be the end of the current energy crisis. It will not.
            Fracking is CURRENTLY helping people in the UK in the energy crisis. It is just being done over the horizon, and is by no means a guaranteed source of supply for the future.
            Then, finally, you mention social licence. Well, if that is the case then you have no reason to be so hysterical, do you? Except, the RECENT polling would suggest your arithmetic is just nonsense. Social licence is determined by circumstances, reaction. Circumstances have changed for many, and the numbers have changed. [Edited by moderator] Jack seems to have difficulty swallowing that and implies it can’t be correct, Ruth wants to question the methodology, but I suspect it is a figure that will go higher still.

            In reality, why would any of the potential actors want to answer questions at this stage? (You refer to actors who when they do, have complaints made to the BBC about their interviews? You have helped to create the situation, reaction, you are the problem. )The report that might lift the moratorium has not even been fully considered, so most of the questioning would simply be speculation. I recognize speculation is the specialty of the antis but for the actors it is simply a waste of time. When the time is right, if the report allows that, I am sure they will be discussing such matters a lot, however, I would suspect they will focus their discussions towards those that may be convinced, and recall the history with those that will not be convinced. Target audiences, reaction. Sorry, but you are not it.

            • PS:

              I note Gerald Lyons has suggested a cap on the wholesale price of gas PRODUCED IN UK!

              Difficult to do without stomping down on UK production, but possible. Just a different way, instead of a windfall tax. Goodness, that 53% could go through the roof.

              • [Edited by moderator]

                What are your thoughts regarding cobalt and cancer? Better, or worse, or just ignored?

                • Come on MARTIN , when fully knowing the dangers of Fracking.

                  Do you , in your widest dreams think that 53% of residents living in close proximity to a Fracking are really going want to increase their chances of getting CANCER or ASTHMA ??????

                  Do you think pregnant woman are going to want to risk their children being born with Birth Defects ?????

                  Do you think homeowners in close proximity to a Fracking site are really going to want to see their homes plumit in value ???????

                  REALLY MARTIN ???????

                  Ms Truss has assured the people , that local residents will decide on decisions concerning Fracking applications in their areas ….. That’s good enough for me .

                  JACK has given two plausible reasons why you NEVER back up your comments with any evidence , you dispute my theory on the matter …… Well we are ALL waiting to hear your reasons .

                  MARTIN , What about this ???????

                  Peer Reviewed Study linking Fracking to CANCER

                  https://www.williamstrial.com/blog/2018/november/peer-reviewed-studies-reveal-fracking-cancer-clu/

                  Again I ask , what are your thoughts ?????

                • (Ermm-where did you get the 53% from Jack? Could it be evidence supplied by someone? Like—-me!?)

                  [Edited by moderator]

                  So, Jack, the 53% are what?

                  A figment of the imagination?

                  Idiots, because they don’t agree with you?
                  (That one is a little unlikely, as if they observe your postings and then do a minimal amount of research, they may find they are a lot better informed than yourself, eg. Chesapeake Energy, NT and many more.)

                  Come on Jack, it has to be one of the two. Which one?

                  Or, more likely, just denial.

                  And there was reaction worried about what might be helping the case!

                  Keep it going Jack. If you are not on the (potential) actors payroll, then you really deserve to be. A name change to Trojan Horse would seem appropriate.

                  I see the answer to my question was ignored. So, there it is, No real concern.

                • MARTIN ,

                  Chesapeake Energy

                  Oh dear , here we go again.

                  It seems that you do enjoy Jack , endlessly repeating the same things to you .

                  OK , just for you MARTIN

                  Regarding Chesapeake Energy , I said , quote,

                  During ” normal ” oil prices Chesapeake Energy was a HUGE debt ridden, toxic, white elephant . With unsupportable debts of $9 BILLION …

                  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/29/chesapeake-energy-fracking-pioneer-files-for-bankruptcy-owing-9bn

                  Now at the moment during the current conflict with Russia, the very costly process of Fracking in the USA may be able to keep its head above the water line , but then so can anyone in the Oil and Gas industry.

                  I could extract Oil from discarded human toenail clippings and become an overnight success during these uncertain times. Anybody who can’t make money at this moment in time in the Oil and Gas industry is beyond stupid and shouldn’t be in the business.

                  BUT , what the forum members need to consider is this ….. What happens when this war is over and the price of Oil and Gas stabilize again??????? What happens as the world moves away from Fossil fuels .

                  The answer for the Fracking industry is simple…………HUGE DEBTS , BANKRUPTCIES, and costly toxic legacies will be left for the ” good old taxpayers “, financial institutions, banks and pension funds to shoulder.

                  Just look at American shale debt over 15 years .

                  https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/US-Shale-Has-Lost-300-Billion-In-15-Years.html

                  And you think this is a good thing , do you MARTIN ???????

                  As far as the 53% goes you’ve provided ZERO evidence… So come on MARTIN , if your not frightened put up a ” link ” and show us the data please.

                  I’m still waiting for your thoughts on the information I’d put up linking Fracking to CANCER and Birth Defects

                • As far as the 53% is concerned Jack, if you read what Ruth has posted you would not need me to supply you with information. That is par for your course, Jack. Ignorant of the data so it doesn’t exist. Nope, in spite of your ignorance, it does exist.

                  Then, you again try to claim oil prices in 2020 were “normal”, and so perpetuate the reality that you do indeed have a widespread ignorance. Nope, oil prices were very far from “normal” in 2020. That is why exploration world wide was cut back and why the world has the current situation.
                  I would be careful about “normal” oil prices. They were showing a “normality” of around current prices before fracking really got started in the USA and then world oil prices dropped. Now, what are OPEC seeking to do? Oh yes, not allow prices to drop below what they currently are.

                  So, you haven’t read what Ruth has written, and you wish to raise the subject of how US fracking lowered world oil prices!

                  That’s okay, Jack. Keep on displaying that confusion, but don’t expect the 53% to be convinced by such, and become as confused. They are not idiots. They will see what has happened to gas prices, with the latest increase just today.

                  Going back to when I was around 6 and played cowboys, I do recall the stories about the dangers of a stampede. Watch out Jack. They are on the move.

                • MARTIN ,

                  Ladies and Gentlemen of the UK don’t you think it’s strange that MARTIN has so much concern for people mining Cobalt in far , FAR of places in the world , for the green industry.

                  BUT yet this person , male/female whoever it may be , who says they live n the UK , doesn’t give a HOOT about the toxic risks that Fracking will bring to you and your families here in the UK.

                  If this person is so interested in people in other countries , why MARTIN , are you not talking about the devastating effects that global warming is having on people of Pakistan ?????

                  I can see crocodile tears here from MARTIN , can you ladies and gentlemen ????????

              • oh dear, jack of all trades master of none!

                The long drawn out cancer related to cancer is a tiresome one. Cancer has never been more prevalent in this little island of ours and we currently don’t frack. You are relating cancer to a country which does NOT Frack. Maybe hold your breathe that’ll stop most from catching most of what ever you have been drinking, eating..;. or being brainwashed in to!!

                People can really be deluded like sheep…

                • Eli-Goth

                  Well if you are switched on Eli-Goth to current UK events , then you’ll know about the proposal to overturn the current Fracking monotorium.

                  It’s important that people are aware as to how toxic this industry is , dont you agree ?????

                  I can see with your pearls of wisdom you have made an assumption that I am, quote , ” jack of all trades master of none! ”

                  My knowledge is irrelevant in this matter El-Goth , as I always provide evidence from reputable, qualified sources .

                  Are you not concerned about cancer in children ?????? Or does the share price and profits of a company come first ??????

                • your only argument against fossil fuels cancer, maybe we should all stop breathing?

                  Your knowledge and experience is irrelevant because you have taken the negatives from EVERY situation and you are bashing an industry which hasnt become, and ignored te benefits like every other!

                  FACT, Fracking is not done in this country, Prove FRACKING is causing Cancer in this country?!.

                • But, Jack, you are not concerned about cancer in children. Your own posts dismissing the cancer in children from cobalt shows that.

                  Your knowledge is not relevant? What an admission. But, it is no excuse.

                  As E-G quotes, there is no fracking in UK-apart from geothermal (oops!) So, if there is, will it be done as has been done elsewhere? Nope. That has been discussed on DoD and elsewhere for years. So, knowledge of that is relevant Jack. Perhaps inconvenient to consider it, but required.

                  I suspect dishwashers might not enjoy $60k/year from being employed in UK on a site fracking away either, Jack! And the trucks will drive on the other side of the road, and will be somewhat more controlled in their adherence to safe driving-maybe even with some having their wheels washed.

                  Share price and profits??? Poor one, Jack. That is nothing to do with the 53%. Just stop trying to hang false labels upon others. E-G is probably a very caring individual who observes all the suffering being inflicted upon families in UK by high energy prices, and commentary about how people will die because of that, that he/she is showing a genuine concern. And, you with a lack of knowledge, wish to diminish that?

                  [Edited by moderator]

                • Oh dear MARTIN,

                  Still pretending you haven’t seen my LINKS , highlighting the connections between FRACKING and CANCER.

                  Again I will ask , what are your thoughts on this matter ?????

                  Will the readers get an answer this time ??????

                  I see your still frightened of putting a LINK up on the forum . Why is that MARTIN [edited by moderator]

                • No Eli-Goth

                  My only gripe, as I’m surprised you’ve not picked up on over the years is against the , scraping the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel, otherwise known as Fracking .

                  You may like to pretend that there are no serious health risks associated with Fracking , but the evidence is clear and conclusive .

                  What surprises me most , is knowing these facts , some human beings are still willing to ignore these facts for a quick buck .

                • Sorry Jack, I did post but it got lost.

                  I would just summarize:

                  Most in UK with direct experience of cancer, myself included, find when they speak to the specialists/consultants they are unable to give an explanation as to why someone has contracted cancer. That is the unfortunate reality, and many in the 53% and the 47% will also have had the same experience.

                  [Edited by moderator] your attempts to portray those who disagree with you that they have a profit motive is based upon nothing, and just targeted at base instincts. Maybe their motives are as laudable as your own declared motives? Maybe they see the reports about how many will die from fuel poverty? Maybe your own posts are motivated by profit?

                  [Edited by moderator]

                • Just for curiosity reasons, has anybody on here , ever heard of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb ??????

                  If this is the best Pro Frackers can give, then we can all fight this one sleeping .

                  We’ve got Eli-Goth suggesting we should all stop breathing , eating and drinking and MARTIN talking about dish washers at Fracking companies on £60k a year …… Oh yes , I remember , weren’t toilet cleaners flying in to work in their own private Helicopters , HAHA , HAHA

                  ELI-GOTH , You ask JACK to , quote , ” Prove FRACKING is causing Cancer in the this country?!. ” Didn’t you know ELI-GOTH , were not doing any Fracking in this country, so that one will be a little difficult to prove right now …… BUT , I can give you hundreds of reports from reputable organizations that show how Fracking is highly dangerous in other countries , like the USA .

                  MARTIN , [Edited by moderator] somehow saying that CANCER specialists are in the dark as to what cases cancer [edited by moderator]…….. It’s that type of thought process that kept the asbestos and the tobacco industry active for so long . [Edited by moderator]

              • OH DEAR MARTIN ,

                LETS talk about Fracking then .

                Have you seen the results of this truly miserable petition , END THE BAN ON FRACKING ???????

                It’s on the governments public petition website.

                It ran for SIX MONTHS and ended on the 22nd August 2022…….. It got a total of 18,820 people signing the petition.

                https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/608745

                In a UK population of more than 68.66 MILLION people , this petition gained a laughable, paltry 18,820 votes.

                OH YES , SURE , Frackings really hitting the big time in popularity , HAHA

  2. Thank you, Ruth, for this vital aide-mémoire embodying, this is clear, considerable research. It seems churlish to lament the only omission, (in my opinion), in your points (in red) for examination, to wit the mounting tide of evidence pointing to fracking as a major contributor to global heating.
    What you have produced is, I guess, the first up-to-date account of the progress of, and the domestic struggle against what is increasingly seen as industry’s mendacious fight-back against evidence.
    Be sure, this is much appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Oh what an admission, rather than an omission. Fracking is indeed a major contributor to global heating! Can be seen from all those cargoes of LNG arriving into Europe every week, as Nord Stream 1 follows Nord Stream 2. Strange that no journalist has mentioned Trump was correct on that. LOL. Of course that will not happen, but he was. Comes to something where he was correct and so many self defined intelligent persons were wrong.

    For those who dislike that fact, then gluing oneself to a radiator that is enjoying that contribution, might be the best outcome this winter. Failing that, wrap up.

  4. Wonderful summary Ruth of the fracking years . Please send a copy to Liz Truss who I doubt understands the industry but will push it nonetheless on communities? She appears to want this as one of her first actions rather than looking at clean alternatives . Pnr endured so much to stop fracking in lancs I would hate to see this community itv subjected to Cuadrilla ineptitude again .

  5. Thank you Ruth, excellent journalism as always. Facts are facts.
    The industry has already benefitted from significant government support and delivered nothing. Now by exploiting the war in Ukraine the same arguments and claims are being made all over again. Previous findings such as the BGS/Nottingham University study stating that the size of the U.K. shale resource is likely much smaller than original estimates, or that over 20,000 wells would need to be drilled to deliver Cuadrilla’s claims on gas production have been conveniently ignored.
    I have not found one energy expert that has stated fracking will lower energy bills or make any difference to energy security. Yet the Climate Change Committee has voiced its concerns about fracking and the timing in relation to achieving net zero!
    The industry, in our small, densely populated country, with complex geology remains unproven. And opposition remains.

  6. The word Methane is mentioned only 3 times in 1 short paragraph.

    Methane escaping into the atmos will be the final nail in the coffin.

    The rich will survive relatively comfortably compared to the rest of the human race.

    You old people will all be gone before it gets really bad.

    I don’t think many of you care that much really.

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