Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The future of fracking in the UK

Fracking - or the removal of shale gas - is to start up again in England:
Fracking gets go-ahead in UK for first time since 2011 as North Yorkshire council approves plans
YP Letters: Opposition to Ryedale fracking is only growing - Yorkshire Post

This will have wider implications for the rest of the country:
Fracking firms set sights on beauty spots across Britain, including Yorkshire | Daily Mail Online

Fracking go-ahead: What happens next?

By John Moylan  Industry correspondent, BBC News: 27 May 2016

Plans for fracking in England are being prepared in the wake of the decision made in North Yorkshire earlier this week.

Brownfield sites and areas near motorway junctions could be used for future shale gas production.

On Monday North Yorkshire County Council approved an application by Third Energy to frack a well near the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
Campaigners say that they are still considering a legal challenge.

'Further applications'

The North Yorkshire decision is a landmark moment for the UK's fledgling shale gas sector. It is the first time a company has been given go-ahead since a moratorium on fracking was lifted in 2012.

"The decision in North Yorkshire was an important first step and underlined our firm belief that the process is safe and can be done environmentally sensitively," says Ken Cronin of the industry body UKOOG. We expect further applications and this chimes well with the need to provide a home-grown source of gas to heat our homes."

And firms are stepping up their exploration plans.

This week the largest independent operator of onshore oil and gas fields in Britain, Igas, said that it would drill two exploratory shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire early next year, subject to planning and permitting. It says it could apply to use fracking at one of the sites near the village of Misson if exploratory drilling is successful. It will also be applying to frack in the North West of England. The company previously drilled wells at Barton Moss near Salford and at two locations in Cheshire.

The chemicals giant Ineos has also confirmed plans to undertake large-scale 3D seismic surveys of its licence areas in Cheshire, Derbyshire and North Yorkshire, to help select exploration sites. Ineos says it is the biggest UK shale player with access to one million acres of potential shale gas reserves.

Plans by the shale gas firm Cuadrilla to drill and frack wells at two sites in Lancashire were the subject of a planning inquiry earlier this year.

A report and recommendation by the inquiry's planning inspector will be submitted to the government by 4 July. It will then be up to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, to decide whether to approve the plans.

However, it looks as though this won't be happening north of the border:
New SNP energy minister 'deeply sceptical' about fracking as Ineos moves resources to England
SNP announces indefinite fracking ban in Scotland - Telegraph

Meanwhile, there are questions about how the UK government is handling this:

UK government accused of sitting on fracking climate change report

Written by Reporter - 28/05/2016 6:15 am

Ministers have been accused of ‘sitting on’ a long-awaited report on fracking and climate change in a bid to help the oil industry.

According to reports the independent Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) study of the environmental impact of the shale gas technology has still not been published despite a legal requirement to do so.

Protestors were furious this week when North Yorkshire County Council made the landmark decision to approve Third Energy’s application to frack on a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

Environmentalists believe the CCC report could have had a material impact on the planning application if it had been made public in time according to HuffPost UK.
Under Section 49 of the new Infrastructure Act 2015, the Government must seek independent advice from Lord Deben’s Committee on whether shale gas production can be compatible with future carbon emissions targets.

In a previous study, the committee concluded that the new energy technology can only go ahead “if production is regulated sufficiently to ensure that fugitive methane emissions are low”. It also wanted shale gas production to be accompanied by “a strong commitment to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions” by setting a power sector decarbonisation target.

The CCC’s new report was submitted it to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd more than 6 weeks ago on 30th March. And under the Act, Ministers are meant to present that report to Parliament “as soon as practicable” after April 1st 2016 – yet it still remains unpublished.

Barry Gardiner, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said that Labour MPs had pushed hard for the Infrastructure Bill to include statutory safeguards such as the CCC study. “It’s outrageous that the Government are deliberately withholding this essential information from both public and parliament,” he said. “If fracking does indeed put the UK’s climate change targets at risk that must be acknowledged and acted upon, not sidestepped. Delaying the report has denied North Yorkshire County Council the evidence it needed to properly consider all the risks that fracking may pose. The Government is now losing the trust of the public on this issue who can see that the Energy Secretary has been sitting on this independent report for 56 days whilst simultaneously threatening to impose fracking on communities against their will.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) told HuffPost UK: “We are carefully considering this report to ensure it is given the proper consideration it is due. It will be published it as soon as that process is complete. This report has no bearing on North Yorkshire County Council’s planning decision. It is a local decision taken by the local council who would have considered a large volume of evidence and opinion when making that decision.”

The Government insists that its duty under the act is to consider the CCC report properly before responding, and that the UK has one of the toughest regulatory systems in the world on fracking.

Energy Voice | UK government accused of sitting on fracking climate change report - News for the Oil and Gas Sector

This is the New Economics Forum's fortnightly take on the energy sector:

Energy round-up: frack on or frack off?

MAY 27, 2016 // BY: DAVID POWELL

Local politicians in North Yorkshire have given the green light to fracking –  so are we about to see shale gas drilling all over the country?
The decision comes after a five year hiatus in UK fracking; minor earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011 prompted a temporary national ban. Since then, the debate has become the fiercest climate battleground.
Local concerns about noise and pollution have combined with energised climate protest movements. Would-be frackers have, until now, found their applications to drill rejected by councils wherever they’ve tried. 
So this week’s approval for fracking near the village of Kirby Misperton clearly has national resonance – so much so that the UK’s former special envoy on climate change, John Ashton, gave evidence against the proposals in person to councillors.
But it does not necessarily mean fracking is about to take off.
The beleaguered fracking industry has spent five years watching lengthy slumps in both international gas prices and public support for the technology – these trends aren’t about to turn around quickly. And while shares in one publicly listed fracking company, iGas, rose on the news from North Yorkshire, they have still plummeted overall over the last year.
As Howard Rogers from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies notes, “there could not be a worse time to embark on challenging gas projects.” 
The Government remains intent on emulating the US shale bonanza  - even though that’s turning distinctly sour. New figures this week that revealed that capital allowances for fracking infrastructure will cost the UK taxpayer £25 million.
The plains of America will always have one thing the UK will never have: hardly anyone lives there. Fracking in Blighty is about doing it in people’s faces; every single fracking application is likely to remain a case-by-case battle in the court of public opinion. Campaigners are already planning a legal challenge.
The industry hopes that trouble-free drilling in Kirby Misperton may help win the public over, but it isn’t just pro-frackers that can look over the pond: the USA is also a growing source of evidence on the worrying economics of fast-depleting shale wells.
As horror stories about flammable water and industry misbehaviouremerge, and studies suggest that the climate impact of shale may be far higher than first suspected, fracking companies may be advised to hold off on the celebrations for now. 

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Donald plays his Trump card on climate
The Republican candidate for the US Presidency, Donald Trump, threatened that if elected he would seek to renegotiate –if not pull out of entirely– the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.  Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a hoax, “invented by the Chinese to make US manufacturing uncompetitive”. He alsoannounced the appointment of renowned climate sceptic and fossil fuel acolyte Kevin Cramer as his official advisor on energy policy.
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Warmer weather means grizzly bears are increasingly mating with polar bears – with the resulting hybrid likely to evolve far more towards the former than the latter. The polar bear didn’t really need more bad news, already desperately under threat from shrinking ice packs and increased pollution. 

Energy round-up: frack on or frack off? | New Economics Foundation

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