Top headlines this week
In The Frackers, a book about the fracking industry in the US, Gregory Zuckerman tells the story of “new billionaire wildcatters” who made fortunes and went on to use their wealth to shake up Hollywood, education, politics and sport. In the UK, a similar book would present a very different narrative, as local anger and government delays slow the expansion of the industry.
But now, with the award of licences for fracking in 27 locations in England, some of those who have doggedly supported the controversial method of extracting gas from deep beneath the ground are hopeful they are about to embark on the first chapter of a new, more profitable, journey.
So who could be the UK equivalent of the US wildcatters – the equivalent of Harold Hamm, for example? Hamm came from a poor background as the youngest of 13 children in rural Oklahoma to become one of the richest men on the planet through pioneering the development of fracking on the vast Bakken Shale. Two obvious candidates might be Jim Ratcliffe from Ineos and Francis Egan of Cuadrilla: but the truth is, it is too soon to predict who will make their fortunes from fracking in the UK – if it ever gets off the ground.
The latest licences, all located in the Midlands and the north of England – there is currently a moratorium on fracking in Scotland and Wales – went to a diverse group of companies. They include comparatively big players such as chemicals group Ineos, fracking experts Cuadrilla, IGas, an energy group listed on the Aim market, the French energy giants Total and GDF Suez, and also some less-well-known names such as Osprey and Aberdeen Drilling Management (ADM), Hutton Energy and Canadian-owned Cirque Energy. Ineos has moved into a decent position, winning three licences of its own, but the outright leader so far is IGas with seven.
Ineos’s founder, the Lancashire-born Ratcliffe is determined to push for shale production in the UK, despite fears for the environment. Fracking involves blasting dense shale rock with a mixture of sand, water and chemicals, opening up fissures in the rock to release bubbles of methane gas, which can then be gathered at the surface.
Despite the concerns, Ratcliffe insists fracking must be promoted to keep the British economy competitive and not as dependent on the services sector. His firm has pledged to invest £650m, and the single-minded entrepreneur feels shale has the potential to meet the UK’s gas requirements, making energy cheaper and the nation no longer reliant on foreign suppliers.
Over the past few years, the group, which operates the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland, has borrowed heavily from the experience of those in the US, even going so far as to hire three shale specialists who feature in The Frackers: Nick Steinsberger, Kent Bowker and Dan Steward. Ineos is a big importer of gas and has recently started buying it in huge amounts from the US, where gas is one-third cheaper. Read more: Source
A Cuadrilla rig exploring the Bowland Shale for gas near Blackpool in 2011. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
August 22, 2015
A campaign group says they will use ‘any means necessary’ to stop fracking taking place in the Forest of Dean after fears exploration firms may soon be given a licence.
A campaign group says they will use ‘any means necessary’ to stop fracking taking place in the Forest of Dean after fears exploration firms may soon be given a licence.
Newtown, Wanswell and Halmore near Berkeley are in one block where a licence could be granted, which covers the River Severn and Forest of Dean as well.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) – the UK’s oil and gas regulator – today announced that 27 onshore blocks from the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round will be formally offered to companies.
A second group of 132 further blocks has been subjected to detailed assessment under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the findings of which are now out for consultation.
Subject to the outcome of that consultation, the OGA will announce offers for the second group of licence blocks later in the year. The licences for all offered blocks will then be granted after the terms and conditions have been finalised.
Campaign group Frack Off Our Forest spokesman Drew Pratten said they were prepared to use any means necessary to stop fracking or unconventional gas and oil exploration in the Forest.
“Everyone is united in saying no way will we allow any shale gas fracking/coal gasification or coal bed methane extraction in our beautiful Forest,” he said.
“There has already been a massive surge of interest and support for this new grassroots campaign group.
“We are launching our campaign with a peaceful demonstration at Shire Hall in Gloucester from 9.30am on Thursday September 3, when the planning committee meets.”
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “With almost 100 applications received, the 14th Onshore Round has attracted significant interest and high-quality proposed work programmes from a range oil and gas companies. Today’s announcement regarding the offer of 27 blocks gives those successful companies assurance about the blocks that they will be formally offered later in the year.”
In Stroud, councillor Paul Denney (Labour, Dursley), vice chairman of Stroud District Council environment committee said: “I am very concerned that fracking could be taking place here in the district,” said “I wasn’t informed that this would could be happening and only found out by chance after visiting a Facebook page.
“I have had a brief chance to look through the proposals but already alarm bells are ringng.
“Surrounding the Licence block boundary is a 10km potential zone of impact that covers from Thornbury in the south to Hardwicke in the north and Coleford in the west to Cam and Dursley in the east. “What’s meant by a ‘zone of impact’ isn’t stated but It sounds rather ominous, especially as within that area are two former nuclear power station sites, a wildlife reserve of international importance and a heck of a lot of people.” Source
Birdwatch news team
22 Aug 2015
The RSPB has challenged the government to introduce measures to rule out hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – within all protected areas, including Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs).
The conservation charity’s call was a response to a government announcement on 18 August that a further 27 licences were being offered for exploration of oil and gas, including fracking. The RSPB states that these 27 blocks of land include 53 SSSIs and three RSPB nature reserves. A second group of 132 further blocks could be granted following a consultation.
Matt Williams, RSPB Climate Change Policy Officer, said: “The government is doling out new fracking licences for areas of Britain that put some of our most precious wildlife sites under threat. Sites of Special Scientific Interest, such as Attenborough Gravel Pits and Fairburn and Newton Ings, are up for grabs for fracking companies who will be able to apply for planning permission to frack anywhere within these newly licensed areas.
“SSSIs are some of our most important wildlife sites. Species such as Kingfisher, Bittern and Common Goldeneye could be put at risk in these special places and should be protected from the government’s fracking plans. Questions need to be asked why the government has begun handing out new licences before figuring out how it’s going to protect our most sensitive sites.”
Fracking causes huge environmental damage, including air emissions and
climate change, high water consumption, water contamination, land use, risk of
earthquakes, noise pollution, and health effects on humans.
Photo by Plazak (commons.wikimedia.org). Source
Opposition To Fracking in UK Increases
Following on from research conducted last year, Opinium looked at the changing public reaction to fracking and found that opposition to shale gas extraction in the UK has crept up since May 2014.
Two in five (42%) UK adults said they opposed fracking or shale gas drilling taking place in the UK, while only half as many support it (23%). The gap has widened compared to last year, when 37% opposed it and 25% supported it.
Similarly, when we asked UK adults if they would support or oppose fracking taking place in their local area support dropped to 17% while just over half (52%) said they opposed it.
Public understanding remains low
Despite the slight shift in opinion against fracking, public understanding has not budged at all since last year. Although a large proportion (92%) of the adult population said they had heard of fracking only three in ten (30%) said they knew at least a reasonable amount about it, unchanged from last year.
It appears that the priority for the government, if they wish to change the tide of opinion, should be to concentrate on improving the understanding of fracking. 18-34 year olds were less likely than those aged 55+ to know a reasonable amount about fracking (25% vs 38%) and were also less likely to support it taking place in the UK (19% oppose vs 29% support).
Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,002 UK adults. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. The research was conducted from 18th to 21st August 2015.
Last year, Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,002 UK adults. Results were weighted to nationally representative criteria and conducted from 9th to 12th May 2014. Source
Another licence has been offered to a company which plans to start fracking in the Vale of Belvoir.
A permit for around 100 sq km was offered this week to London-based Hutton Energy, for an area to the north of Melton, by the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority.
Hutton Energy has already been granted licences for fracking within blocks of land covering villages in the Vale, including Harby, Stathern, Colston Bassett, Plungar, Barkestone, Redmile, Langar, Barnstone and Granby (ref PEDL 204) and Knipton, Belvoir, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, Muston and Bottesford (PEDL 208) and Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler (PEDL 254).
It’s anticipated Hutton Energy will be formally granted the Melton licence later this year. They must gain approval from national bodies, including the Environment Agency and Minerals Planning Authority, and would still need to apply for and gain planning permission from the local authority before starting to frack.
Hutton Energy’s communications manager Anna McMaster said: “We’re experienced in this work and we believe the UK has regulations to make sure any fracking operations are done in the safest way possible.”
Alastair McQuillan, of the Rutland and Melton Green Party, said: “We are totally opposed to this and we will take a lead role in any action to keep Melton and the Vale of Belvoir frack-free.
“We believe it damages the environment and puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and if there is a leak in the well it could pollute watercourses.” Source
By Mike Cotton, Town Reporter Friday 21st August 2015
A FRACKING licence covering a huge swathe of Barnsley is to be offered by the government to energy firm Cuadrilla.
It could bring the controversial process to release gas from deep below the earth’s surface to Barnsley for the first time.
Green activists warn of a threat to the environment from pollution, noise and drilling, and there are already calls to mobile opposition to the industry moving into Barnsley.
But Cuadrilla says fracking will bring down energy bills, boost the economy and create up to 64,000 jobs.
The area covered is so-called ‘Gainsborough Trough’ covers a square area including Darfield, Great Houghton, Grimethorpe, Thurnscoe, Bolton-upon-Dearne, Goldthorpe, Wath, West Melton, Brampton and Mexborough.
** The full story is in the Barnsley Chronicle, dated August 21. **
When Dave said he wants to go “all out for shale” gas, he wasn’t kidding. Full story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11809113/Fracking-UK-could-it-happen-near-you.html …
Thursday’s heated full council meeting was presented with recommendations from a cross-party task group, to “cautiously accept” shale gas extraction.
But leader Coun Peter Rankin amended the recommendations, and councillors voted to agree to the new guidance.
A report from the environmental scrutiny panel was described by Coun Nicholas Pomfret, who led the group from March 2013, as a “comprehensive and factual account of the representations that came before us and the interviews that took place”.
The amended report said the council should not declare itself a “frack-free city”, “although this should not imply support of fracking”.
It said: “Council will do all in its power to oppose any attempt to extract shale gas within its boundaries as well as any planning applications outside Preston which will have implications for people living in the Preston area.”
The Conservative group voted against the amended report, and Coun Damien Moore said: “I find it incredible that this council instructs the environmental scrutiny panel to come up with a report, only to be changed by the leader of the council.
“We did not spend 12 months on this for the leader to change it on a whim.”
But Coun Rankin said: “This council asked the scrutiny panel to examine it.
“It’s done that work, it’s taken a long time to come here, a lot of time has passed, and this council is entitled to say ‘no, that’s not acceptable’. Source
- By Val Mager
- August 20, 2015 17:29 BS
Roadside demonstration at Bainton, East Riding of Yorkshire, which is the gateway to Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking gas fields.(Dave Marris/Midnight Blue Productions)
I was born and raised in the East Riding and went to school in Malton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The announcement of the latest round of Exploration and Development Licences placed Yorkshire in the frontline of extreme energy extraction, by fracking, in the UK.
We knew this tranche of licences was imminent, but were shocked when the extent of it began to dawn on us. We consulted the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) licence maps that made the full impact clear.
Since May 2014 we have campaigned against Rathlin Energy’s exploration plans at Crawberry Hill, East Yorkshire. Following the removal of the Protection Camp of protesters last January, a small band of mainly pensioners have stood outside the gates at Crawberry Hill to remind the community and the oil company that we believe this industry poses a massive risk to our water, our air, our health and our precious environment.
We replied: “If not you, another company after your initial exploration of the Bowland Shale.” Meanwhile Rathlin’s failure to meet Environment Agency conditions on gas flaring, waste disposal and adequate safety measures at a second site at West Newton have meant that both sites in East Yorkshire have been dormant for eight months.
A key issue is that Rathlin’s failures were reported by residents, not the company. So much for “strict regulations” here. Now everything has changed and the big boys have moved in.
Cuadrilla is an avowed fracker. No longer are Crawberry Hill and West Newton the outposts of fracking. The very heart of the Yorkshire Wolds is their target. It is all up for grabs.
For those who don’t know what is at stake, the Yorkshire Wolds are a series of undulating chalkland hills and deeply-incised dry valleys yielding some of the finest arable farmland in the country. The landscape is cut by chalk springs and streams fed by the underground aquifer, which is the source of our precious drinking water. The streams feed into the Hull River which is the focus of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust activity to protect one of the best chalk rivers in the country.
The fields also conceal a rich, mysterious Iron Age archaeology at the heart of the largest group of Early Iron Age burials in Britain, the Arras Culture. Wetwang, now in the firing line of Cuadrilla’s ambitions, is the burial ground of an Iron Age Celtic Princess whose body was interred in her war chariot but unearthed 2,300 years later during a housing development project. Numerous Sites of Special Scientific Interest also lie within these licence areas across Yorkshire.
This intention to frack the Yorkshire heartland has become an issue for all of us. Opposition was previously seen as something that extremists or hippies did. Residents of the Wolds villages now face the prospect of fracking and there is an urgent need for protest because choice has been taken out of our hands.
The day after the announcement, our group of protesters took one of our pop-up roadside demonstrations to the village of Bainton within the fracking zone. Support from passing motorists was loud, clear and overwhelming. Cars stopped and the occupants joined our protest. The question newcomers always ask is, “how can our local council and our national government allow this to happen to our communities and our lives?”
In truth, it’s hard to answer that question without sounding like a conspiracy theorist. There is a deep sense of betrayal.
Our Conservative MP Graham Stuart claims that all progress implies risk. We have met Conservatives who will never vote Tory again because of the sense of betrayal to the frackers.
A key part of our campaign has been to raise awareness of the impact of continued use of fossil fuels, including shale gas. Last weekend the local news highlighted huge cliff falls on the coast which the local council describes as the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. More than one third of the East Riding and all of Hull is at or below sea level and we have experienced serious flooding – the homes of 260,000 are at direct risk now and this will get worse if climate change continues.
Siemens is creating employment for thousands in a new factory to support wind farms and it is hard to understand why the government is propping up fossil fuels when this area has huge untapped potential for wind, solar and tidal energy.
Anti-fracking groups are forming all around us, no doubt even as I write, and across the country, people from different backgrounds and political systems are coming together to form broad-based and non-hierarchical groupings to oppose this industry in any way we can. Source