Welcome to Drill Or Drop.com, publisher of independent, evidence-based journalism about the onshore oil and gas business in the UK and the campaign against it.

The name

DrillOrDrop.com is named after the “drill or drop” clause in a petroleum exploration and development licence. This requires an operator to drill a well within a certain length of time or give up the licence area.

We ask whether the UK should drill – “go all out for shale” (and other sources of hydrocarbons) for their benefits to the economy and energy independence. Or should we drop the idea because it carries too great a risk to climate change, environmental damage, human rights and an industrialised countryside.

The content

DrillOrDrop.com chronicles the events of the onshore oil and gas industry across the UK. We follow the regulators, political decision-makers, legal developments and the opposition campaign. We look behind the headlines to investigate what is driving the industry and the campaign against it.

DrillOrDrop.com began life in 2013 as InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com with a particular interest in plans to develop oil fields in southern England. In 2014, we expanded our remit to cover onshore oil and gas developments across the UK and gave the site its current name.

P1020902The authors

The main author is Ruth Hayhurst, an independent reporter with more than 30 years’ experience, specialising in environment, energy and local government.  Profile here

Other journalists, researchers, writers and photographers contribute to this site. Uncredited photographs are by Ruth Hayhurst . All other photographs and artwork on DrillOrDrop are credited.

The site

Regular posts appear on the Posts tab on the menu bar.

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DrillOrDrop screen grab2To find posts on subjects that interest you, either use the search box in the top right hand corner of each page. Or use the drop-down list in the category box on the right side. 

Daily Headlines on the top menu has an at-a-glance digest of the month’s news. You can also find links here to the news digest for previous months.

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We use Twitter and Facebook to alert you to when there’s a new post. Or you can follow the blog by using the box on the right side of each page.

We hope you like the site and please let us know what you think. You can get in touch by using the contact page, comment on the posts or tweet @ruthhayhurst

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We look forward to hearing from you.

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33 replies »

  1. The Times 23/9/14. ” Fracking “greener than solar panels” “—– professors at the University of Manchester found that metals used to produce solar panels and wind turbines give them a ‘human toxicity’ rating at least three times greater than for shale”
    Comments welcome!

    • Hi Thanks for your comment and for mentioning this interesting report. I’ve covered it twice in the Daily Headlines section of the blog – see 13th and 22nd September for more details if you’re interested.

    • I thought you might be interested in this too – it’s a review by Greenpeace of evidence on methane leaks from shale gas processes. http://bit.ly/ZcNNfA
      It includes the upward revision of the global warming potential of methane, which Greenpeace suggests the Manchester University report did take into account.

        • The Guardian did a fact check on the Times piece yesterday and included comments from one of the co-authors. Here’s a selection and there’s more at http://bit.ly/1ptr2sO

          Study author respond to Times report
          The Times article was “misleading”, says study co-author Laurence Stamford. Particularly the headline, which placed the words “greener than solar panels” in quotation marks.

          “That makes it look like we are saying that solar panels are all around worse than shale gas, which… is not really what we’ve said. We are certainly not trying to say that shale gas is greener than renewables.”

          He says it would be more accurate to say:

          “For certain environmental problems shale is better than solar, whereas for others solar is better than shale.”

          “Each option has good points and bad points”, says Stamford. The study never attempted to draw a distinction of which energy source was more ‘green’, partly, he says, because this would involve a value judgement about which impacts we preferred to avoid.

          He said that this type of analysis did not only have to rely on judgement, it could be made empirically. This would involve comparing how much pollution was caused compared to the national total. For example, he said, you might find that if the UK’s fracking industry was only small, then its greenhouse gas impact would also remain minor. But such a compasiron was not the purpose of his team’s research.

          “What we have not done is to work out whether those environmental impacts are particularly significant in a wider context. We can certainly say that one option is better than another for each impact. But we can’t say than it is generally greener.”

  2. This site is supposed to be independent but seems to be just a front for anti fracking alas. There is a load of good science out there that is not being reported. For instance no mention of landmark studies by PNAS on methane and frack fluids http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.abstract?sid=bde9ad0a-b32e-4210-92c3-cfff2f4a7c58|PNAS and no mention of the raft of regulation from the Govt. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking If you are wanting to be balanced, could I suggest a look at http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/ or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing_in_the_United_Kingdom which I mainly edit. They may provide some useful information and its all referenced. I have tried hard to be fair in what I have written, but so many of the claims of people against shale/oil are basing arguments on false science, practices that are illegal here, or problems from the largely unregulated US that many have spent a long time here avoiding. I worked for 12 years as a senior (District) wireline engineer for 12 years some time ago, and have some understanding of many aspects of this industry we all rely on (whether we like to or not, and whether this is along term solution is not the point here). We are going to be using gas for many years, as we move into a transition economy and at present we are burning huge amounts of coal. Now I hope you agree that is not a good thing!

    • Dear Ken
      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to write and look forward to reading your work. Your experience will be very useful to people trying to understand this industry, which as you say, we all rely on.
      I did mention the landmark study by PNAS you refer to: See http://wp.me/p3OyVh-16J (spool down to September 15th for summary and links). There is coverage in the Daily Headlines of scientific reports as they are released. I have also included the government material you mentioned, as well as many other pro-shale reports (http://wp.me/P3OyVh-7s)
      It is very hard to represent the many sides of this debate fairly. One of the biggest problems is a reluctance by the industry to talk. To give you a few examples: the PR agency representing a drilling company usually takes three-four weeks to respond to questions or refuses to comment. I have been waiting a week for a response from the main regulator about reported problems at a drilling site. Four staff at the PR company which represents a trade body have read the questions I have submitted but no one has yet responded.
      My objective is to cover this subject as consistently and independently as I can, despite these difficulties. Feedback is always useful. So thanks again for your comment.

    • Environment activists have always the habit and in their convenience to link any natural disaster to anything remotely of a possibility of man made to make their case of argument.

  3. Thank you ,Nick, for drawing attention to this excellent broadcast
    Clearly GM foods can be safe for consumption. The Americans have been consuming them for years, yet the world’s most litigious nation have not raised a claim for so much as an ingrown toenail.
    Benefits to human nutrition, health and the environment must by now be clear to all but fundamentalist Luddites.
    A real concern is monopoly controlled by a few large corporations. Not as serious as some would claim, as the latter part of the programme made clear, but a legitimate concern nonetheless.
    Responsibility for this rests significantly with the well fed Greens in UK & Europe who have opposed independent research , & in some cases vandalised crop trials, so leaving the field open to “American monopolists”
    In spite of all the undue airtime the Greens enjoyed during the recent election campaign they won only one seat in parliament (even the Communists in the 1930’s did better). So let us hope the new government will be emboldened to treat them with the same distain as the voters. Let pointless subsidies to wind & solar power be diverted to affordable homes & preservation of benefits to those in need. Let those whose antics disrupt oil exploration or GM crop trials be treated like any other hooligans.
    There is a legitimate case for preventing over-powerful monopolies. There is an equally legitimate case for protecting food & energy security from unelected mobs.

  4. Hello, I have spent days and days looking at the fore and against fracking issues. Covering most of the problems encountered in the USA along with their government legislation ( a 560 page report issued by the Senate on Environmental Health & Safety ).Comparing geologiocal maps on shale deposits, chemicals used and legal claims made against the gas companies by land owners etc. I have also looked closely at the UK fracking sites, licence areas granted but on hold, shale deposit maps, council and government legislation and thoughts. The one thing I cannot find anywhere and possible my own thoughts :- On comparing Uk shale mapping deposits, I then compared it with an overlay of the UK map of rivers. To this end I used an overlay map of the Environmental Floodplain areas. My point being :- should fracking take place within a floodplain area and flooding occurs, the chemnical waste stored in a pit within a fracking site will be subjected to ingress of flood water and therefore an outflow of chemicals into rivers, streams, lakes or ponds, and to where ever the water seeped away to. The damage from such a spillage would be catastrophic to the environment. We are quite well know as a country that suffers heavy flooding. I worked for an oil company for 22 years, within the actual oil industry. A two year study on the fore and against for fracking has been compiled by a USA University, it concludes that fracking uses more energy than burning coal and by-product waste far higher. Sixtytwo counties within the State of New York have jointly written to the Lancashire Councils advise them not to entertain fracking due to their now unresolvable chemical contaminations of land/water.
    I have to conclude that fracking is not the best thing for the UK. We are a small country and rely on our water resources, many of which are interlinked. Chemicals and gas have a habit of tracking through rock fissures with ease for many miles.. Fracking should not be carried out in this country. The chemicals once in the ground are there for eternity, lists of chemicals used can be found on USA fracking web sites…… not pleasant ! If there is an anti fracking march in London…please advise.

    • With respect, your ‘for & against’ research has missed the central fact that, in the UK and Europe we do not use open pits to store fluids. We use above-ground closed tanks which are not subject to flooding. Important tanks are even double skinned. This is not the case in the US, where you apparently spent your ’22 years in the oil industry’ and the majority of the small number of spills has often been associated with leaks in these open pits.

      This month the US Environmental Protection Agency confirmed this in its draft report, which assessed 950 different technical reports over 5 years, and concluded that the “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources”. Open pits, not being used in Europe are therefore not an issue in the UK.

      The planning permission process includes assessing, in cooperation with the UK Environment Agency, if the site is liable to flood risk and will rule it out if it is. The assessment of the current planning application in Lancashire has investigated the flood risk thoroughly. See document LCC/2014/0101 Roseacre Wood, Roseacre and Wharles,Fylde Appendix 2, page 1 which is available on the internet through a search.

      And if gas had a habit of ‘tracking through rock fissures’, there would be no accumulations of gas which would be available to drill for.

      • Thank you for your reply and the information on containment of chemicals in tanks on sites, plus floodplain issues, all very helpful. I did spend 22 years in the British oil/gas industry…. in Dubai when it was just dust and one hotel, Kharg Island, Rastanura, Nigeria, Venezuela, Rotterdam, Alaska, North sea and many more areas.
        My point about chemicals and gas spreading through rock fissures was aimed at ” after detonation “. Whilst the gas is being extracted, not all of it is, and this is what can travel through the rock fissures, along with chemicals. The fracking company has the information on rock formations and shale beneath a site, but has no idea of its absolute structure, natural fractures however small will cause seepage to other areas. Yes, sounding’s do produce a very detailed map of the geo structure below, but will not show small fissures or where they ultimately lead to, there’s the problem !
        Can you catagoricaly say that there will not be any gas/chem contamination or leakage from a fracked shale section to other surrounding areas, during or after a site has been worked. ( for the sake of this debate, we will take it that there are no equipment failures ) Going on your reply, you sound certain that contamination will not occur ? A yes or no answer would convince me, any other ramifications would not.

        How does the gas company intend to remove the residue of gas/chem from within the shale after use, the answer… it’s not possible. I know that and so do you, they are there for eternity. Multiply this residual contamination by the total number of possible fracking sites in the UK.

  5. Well Peter, you’ve certainly seem to have seen the high spots of the world.

    I’m not in shale drilling, but its no different from ordinary work. The drilling company gathers a great deal of information on the rocks, first, as you say, using gravity and seismic, which due to modern computer processing power and tools is of incredibly detailed resolution of a few metres.
    During the drilling, even features (open fissures are very rare at these depths) of a few mm are visible on tools known collectively as MWD or ‘measurement while drilling’ or LWD, ‘logging while drilling’. (try a google of ‘borehole imaging’ )
    These tools look out into the surrounding rock to measure resistivity, natural gamma radiation, density, porosity, and many other parameters, and thats before geologists examine the rocks and core which come up in the course of the well. This data is fed in real time back to the operators offices for interpretation by specialists as the well is drilled and is integrated into other data sets from nearby wells and other factors such as the mechanical factors observed during the drilling process. When the well is drilled, and before the casing is run, further tools can be run down the well on wireline to give a further set of measurements if necessary.

    So by the time it comes to fracturing, the company knows exactly what the well is drilled in and has confirmed what it has seen and projected on seismic. It knows the chemistry of the rock, the way the rock is stressed and the dips and shapes of the beds and structures.
    It is very rare to have an open fracture at depth. Most faults are either tightly held together, or are filled with minerals or sediment, and very few will transmit gas or pressure. It would be very hard to drill anywhere without crossing a fault of one kind or another and they usually pass without problem, although large ones weaken rock and can cause problems but are easily seen. If these are seen in the reservoir section, the casing will be left unperforated over that zone so no hydraulic injection is made into it (it might hinder the accurate transfer of pressure anyway so would be avoided). And rules have changed after the tremors of 2011 to stop that happening again (google: seismic traffic light system). Today’s Lancashire application included an application for a seismic monitoring network.

    No-one with a science background will tell you that there is no risk to a process. Zero risk doesn’t exist and asking for zero risk in anything is categorically unreasonable. After 22 years in the oil industry, I’m surprised I would have to say that to you given the entire HSE system is based on risk management and its something that every oil worker is made familiar with,
    But there are good physical and geological reasons why contamination is so unlikely as to negate enough of the risk. As for the chemicals staying there for an eternity, well, the chemicals OK’d for use in Europe are mostly food grade. Theres no reason for them to move anywhere if the well is properly abandoned. Again, its down to perception of risk and knowledge of the factors involved.
    Sorry its a bit long-winded. hope that helps.

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    • I’m glad the blog is loading quickly. I use WordPress to host the blog. I’m very pleased with the system and, depending on what you want, you can host the whole thing for free.

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