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A scientific assessment of fracking, commissioned by ministers, remains unpublished.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 »

  1. Oh, I care Greed. So, what do you propose to do about the swamps-drain them? And those who need to consume rice, as their part of the world is not able to produce much else-eradicate them? And as for those poor cows-slaughter them?

    Methane leaks can be managed from fracking, although I accept the USA has been rather lax in doing so as they have raced for quantity and somewhat ignored quality aspects. There are though plenty of other methane contributions to the atmos. that humanity quite likes and would not like to see gone.

    Here’s a solution. Make sure that methane is captured from fossil fuel extraction and use the stuff. With current prices, it would seem the sensible thing to do, although there is rather a lot of desperation to secure the quantities currently. If not, it won’t only be the old dying.

  2. Hi Ruth

    Good summary, but still worries me that LT and her team will use the 2022 BGS survey as her justification to restart.

    As you know I have very little faith in BGS. They have too much history !!

    Keep up the good work

    Dave Plunkett

    From: DRILL OR DROP? <

  3. To frack or not to frack? Apparently, it will take 5 years before gas starts to be available and up to 10 years to reach full capacity. By then, it’ll be 2032, and we have a legally-binding target to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 (unless government brings in new legislation). Any gas extracted will be sold to the highest bidder. And, don’t forget, we sell our gas abroad because we lack storage. We need to concentrate on carbon capture. Many supermarkets and council will now accept “soft” plastics. What are they doing with these plastics? Could they be used for “fuel”? But again, we need to have somewhere to store the fuel. Carbon capture, better public transport, insulated housing are the way forward and, in my opinion, could be achieved quicker and more easily than fracking.

    • If you achieve carbon capture S.W then gas becomes very green. Perhaps the UK may do some joined up thinking-one day-regarding energy policy. I note there is a coal fired power station in Australia that is about to pipe their emissions a vast distance and then do CCS. Would UK coal then start to look a different beast?

      Gas will only be sold to the highest bidder, if Government allow that. If you look at the USA situation, they did apply an export ban for some long time, and some in USA would now like it re-imposed now their prices have risen to $7, and forget those in Europe who are paying $47 for the same volume turned to LNG and transported there.

      Soft plastics are already being used for fuel in UK by certain Councils. Trouble is, when certain people become aware of that they protest against it! Majority live alongside it and when asked, say, “oh, is that what that place does with our soft plastic and dirty nappies”.

      • So or the sake of money you want to greatly increase the risk of CANCER and ASTHMA for people living in Fracking areas .

        You also think that greatly fueling climate change with the costly, energy intensive process known as fracking s a price worth paying.

        You also think that the value of people’s homes plumitng in fracking areas is a price worth paying.

        Well do you MARTIN ???????

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