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Gaps, flips and starting guns

Ruth Hayhurst photo
Ruth HayhurstUK
In this week’s newsletter: researchers identify 140+ gaps in knowledge about fracking, a leading Yorkshire tourist attraction changes its mind on shale gas plans and INEOS fire the starting gun on fracking in England.

Waste water costs could make fracking uneconomic in the UK - academics

Costs of dealing with waste water from fracking could be significant and make shale exploitation uneconomic in the UK, according to leading academics.

A report published by the Natural Environmental Research Council this week said there was “huge uncertainty” about how much waste water would be produced by UK fracking and how it would be cleaned or reused.

The report concluded there was a "pressing need" for more research. It also identified information gaps in more than 140 areas including the impact of fracking on human health, emissions, earthquakes, public opinion and water quality

The report is the outcome of a workshop held in November last year involving nearly 50 UK and US academics and regulators. From the UK, they included researchers at 12 universities, as well as representatives from the Environment Agency, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas and the British Geological Survey.

“Huge uncertainty” on waste

One of the biggest knowledge gaps involved disposal of waste and produced water from fracked wells.

The authors said:

“A huge uncertainty, given the immaturity of unconventional oil and gas development in the UK, is how much waste water will be produced and regulatory and technical mechanisms for cleaning it or directly reusing it.”

In the US, most waste and produced water is injected deep into oil and gas wells. This is cheaper than treatment but has been linked to earthquakes, or induced seismicity, and removes water from the water cycle.

In the UK deep water injection is currently not an option to the shale industry. The report said:

“Without deep well disposal, it is likely that treatment of the dissolved solids will be required and so research into cost-effective means of doing this is important to the implementation of unconventional oil and gas production in the UK.”

The report concluded:

“The costs related to waste water production may be significant and could make shale exploitation uneconomic. Research into potential uses of the flowback and produced water that might require less treatment should be pursued as well as treatment schemes taking advantage of cheap power.”

Without deep well disposal, the report added:

“There is unlikely to be sufficient industrial wastewater treatment capacity to service the needs of a mature operational industry and so there is a pressing need to address this through research and technology development.”

It said research was currently underway into how and when waste water could be disposed of in wells in the UK and how it could be reused as a hydraulic fracturing fluid.

Other research priorities

The report also called for

· Reliable data on total greenhouse emissions from the “cradle to the grave” in the shale gas process

· More monitoring of unconventional oil and gas infrastructure to understand where the biggest emissions occurred.

· More research on how fracking leads to earthquakes and how to measure seismic activity.

· Work to establish the most effective approaches for engaging communities

· Research on leaks and risks to human health

More details

INEOS “fires the starting gun” on fracking

Seismic testing. Photo: Frack Off

The most successful company in last year’s oil and gas licence round has set out a timetable for its plans to frack in three regions of England.

INEOS Shale announced seismic surveying would be carried out this summer. Planning applications for core drilling would be submitted later in the year and for fracking early in 2018.

Gary Haywood, chief executive of INEOS Shale, said:

“We are firing the starting gun on our programme.”
“We are ramping up the level of activity quite significantly to see if the geology is suitable for the industry in the UK. The economic benefits will be substantial, if the rocks are suitable and it’s successful.”

In December 2015, INEOS was awarded 21 licence areas, the largest number offered to any company in the government’s 14th licensing round.

All the INEOS licences were awarded primarily to explore and develop shale gas. They were clustered in three regions: Cheshire; the East Midlands and South Yorkshire; and the area north and east of York.

Seismic surveys are used to provide information on the location and size of oil and gas reservoirs. They use shock waves, generated by thumper trucks or buried explosive charges. Detectors, or geophones, connected by cabling are used to pick up reflections from the shock waves.

Mr Haywood said:

“Up until now, the 3D seismic data that has been shot in England covers around 400-odd kilometres. Over the next 12 months we hope to top that by shooting more seismic data than has ever been shot onshore in the UK.”
“We think the next one to two years will be very important for determining what the potential is for shale in the UK.”

More details

Fracking at Kirby Misperton: Flamingo Land changes its mind

A fortnight before councillors decide on Third Energy’s plan to frack in North Yorkshire, it has emerged that one of the county’s biggest visitor attractions is now opposing the scheme.

The Flamingo Land theme park and zoo, in the village of Kirby Misperton, is under 1km from Third Energy’s proposed shale gas site.

Last year, it told North Yorkshire County Council it felt the anti-fracking campaign lacked “tangible evidence and/or case studies” to back up its arguments

But in a recent change of heart, the attraction said it had concerns about the health of its animal collection, local residents, visitors and guests.

Flamingo Land’s concerns are about the re-use of water. In a letter to North Yorkshire County Council, it said:

“The treatment of water was a fundamental issue to Flamingo Land and we have reconsidered our position on the issue of fracking due to the difference between what we were assured of and what is now being applied for.”

It submitted six studies of health impacts and asked for more time to research the issue before a decision was made.

Third Energy said Flamingo Lane’s views were based on a misconception and incorrect information. It said it would do nothing that would cause any harm to the “much-loved business.”

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy said:

“The Kirby Misperton site has produced gas a short distance from Flamingo Land for over twenty years without any impact and we have been pleased to see our neighbour thrive.”

More details

Council drops prosecution against anti-fracking signs

In another change of heart this week, Fylde Council announced it was withdrawing its prosecution against an anti-fracking campaigner over signs opposing Cuadrilla’s proposed Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool.

The council had alleged John Tootill, who runs a nursery next to the site, had displayed 26 unauthorised adverts. Mr Tootill denied the charges and alleged an abuse of process, accusing members of the council of connections to Cuadrilla or interests in the company.

This week, the council said the prosecution was not in the public interest after a fire destroyed Mr Tootill’s home.

A council spokesperson said:

“Because of the devastating fire at Mr Tootill’s home, we no longer feel that it is in the public interest to continue the case. Obviously this will be a difficult time for Mr Tootill and we would not wish to add to those difficulties.”

More details

Rathlin Energy secures bankruptcy order against anti-fracking campaigner

A High Court judge granted a bankruptcy order this week against Ian Crane, a prominent anti-fracking campaigner, after a request by lawyers for Rathlin Energy.

The case brings to an end a long-running legal dispute between the company and Mr Crane, a broadcaster and former oil executive.

It dates back almost two years to July 2014 when Rathlin Energy sought permission to evict a protest camp outside its oil exploration site at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire.

Mr Crane and three other people asked for an adjournment of the hearing in the High Court in London. They also asked for the case to be transferred to Hull so that local people could attend. The judge refused their request and granted a possession order to Rathlin Energy.

The company then sought to recover costs from Mr Crane, amounting to £34,000 plus interest and additional legal fees.

This week, Deputy Registrar Stephen Lawson made a bankruptcy order against Mr Crane. He refused a request for a further adjournment so that Mr Crane could challenge the original ruling in the eviction case.

Mr Crane alleged in court that the original decision on the eviction had been based on what he said was inaccurate and misleading information in witness statements by Rathlin’s chairman and the landowner.

After the hearing, Mr Crane said:

“It is an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe. I do not have any property or any assets so there is nothing to shut down.”

We asked Rathlin Energy for a reaction and whether it would be pursuing the other named defendants for costs. A spokesperson said the company did not want to comment on the case.

Coming up next week

Monday 9 May

Presentation by Gary Haywood, chief executive of INEOS Upstream, to local parish and town councillors, 2pm-4.30pm, Speedwell Rooms, Inkersall Road, Chesterfield S43 3JL.

Peaceful demonstration outside INEOS meeting, gathering from 1.15pm onwards until 5pm, Speedwell Rooms, Inkersall Road, Chesterfield, S43 3JL. Details

Tuesday 10 May

Closing date for INEOS tenders for seismic surveying, legal real estate resilience and security services, legal real estate (land) services, legal planning services, regional land agent services and environmental monitoring services. Link to tender page

Presentation by Gary Haywood, chief executive of INEOS Upstream, to local parish and town councillors, 10am-12 noon, Frodsham Community Centre, The Cottage, Fluin Lane, Frodsham, WA6 7QN.

Peaceful demonstration outside Frodsham Community Centre where INEOS is giving a presentation to parish and town councils, 10am-12 noon, Frodsham Community Centre, The Cottage, Fluin Lane, Frodsham, WA6 7QN. Details

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee - oral evidence session on maximising economic recovery of oil and gas. 9.30am, The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Bridge Street, London SW1A 2LW. Details

Presentation by Gary Haywood, chief executive of INEOS Upstream, to local parish and town councillors, 10am-12 noon (Ryedale parishes) and 1.30pm-4pm (York parishes), The Milton Rooms, Market Place, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 7LX

Frack Free Dee and Frack Free Northwich information evening, 7.30pm, Recreation Club, Park Road, Winngton Park, SW8 4EB. Details

Thursday 12 May 2016

Questions to Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd, 9.30am, House of Commons, London SW1. Details

Recommendation expected by North Yorkshire County Council planning officers on Third Energy’s application NY/2015/0233/ENV to frack at Kirby Misperton.  Application details

Friday 13 May 2016

Ed Miliband on climate change. 7pm, King Edward VII School, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2PW. Free entry. Frack Free South Yorkshire has a stall.

Sunday 15 May 2016

Walk and rally organised by Frack Free Dearne Valley. 1.30pm from RSPB Old Moor Wetland Centre, Barnsley S73 0YF to Manvers Waterside Boathouse, Station Road, Wath-upon-Dearne S63 7DG.

Ruth Hayhurst is the only journalist reporting from the front line of fracking in the UK. You can read her daily updates at

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