UK round-up of this week's fracking and onshore drilling news
Government survey reveals record opposition to fracking
The latest findings from an ongoing government survey of attitudes to fracking showed the highest level of opposition to shale gas exploitation so far.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Public Attitudes Tracker (Wave 15), released this week, found opposition to fracking was 31%, an increase from 28% in the previous survey carried out in June. Support for shale gas was 23%, up from 21% in the June survey.
The proportion of people who said they neither supported nor opposed was 43%, down from 46% in June. People who said they didn’t know was 3%, down from 5% in June.
When the question was first asked in December 2013, support stood at 28% and opposition at 21%. The proportion of people who neither supported nor opposed was 48% and people who said they didn’t know was 4%. More details
Energy centre of excellence or fracking capital of Europe?
The government named Blackpool as an “energy centre of excellence” as part of an announcement of a new enterprise zone based on the town’s airport.
But the Northern Powerhouse Minister, James Wharton, who made the announcement, didn’t mention shale gas. This is the potential energy source, accessed by fracking, which Cuadrilla wants to exploit in the Fylde district, inland from Blackpool. The company is appealing against the refusal of planning permission to drill, frack and test up to eight wells at two sites in the Fylde.
Mr Wharton didn’t visit Blackpool to make the announcement. But on the same day a Blackpool anti-fracking campaigner made the reverse journey to deliver a letter to David Cameron.
The Prime Minister wasn’t in Downing Street at the time so Gayzer Frackman read his letter outside. He said:
“This letter is to invite you to discuss with me the reasons why you want to make my home town of Blackpool the fracking capital of Europe.
I will be across from Downing Street until you take my invitation and explain to me, with evidence, why we need this industry. You still have the opportunity to do right by Great Britain and take a cleaner route on energy.”
Defiant reaction to fracking eviction case
The City of Chester MP, Chris Matheson, complained to the Speaker of the House of Commons that he’d been prevented from attending an anti-fracking court case, involving some constituents. They were residents of Upton Protection Camp, established in April 2014, on land earmarked by IGas for coal bed methane exploration.
The judge at Manchester Civil Justice Centre ordered the campaigners to leave the camp by 4th December, after granting an eviction order to IGas and landowners, Tim and Piers Dutton. Mr Matheson was later allowed into the hearing and has received an apology from court staff.
The Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, visited the camp this week and said sometimes non-violent direct action was needed when all other options had been exhausted. Asked what would happen when the bailiffs moved in, one camp member said:
“There will be resistance, there’s no two ways about it. There will be resistance.”
East Yorkshire and Humberside
Fracking policy, decision dates and investment
Hull City Council took a step closer to approving an anti-fracking policy. The Energy and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Commission agreed the authority would not encourage applications to use fracking technology on council land.
It also agreed the council should take any action it believed was needed to protect the community’s interests where the impacts of fracking threatened the city’s water resources, adversely affected traffic movements or required the movement of hazardous waste through the city.
The policy now goes before the planning committee before approval by the cabinet later this month.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council set a date to decide an application by Rathlin Energy to extend the permission at its West Newton A gas exploration site for another three years. The extension, which would allow the company to drill a second a well at the site, is expected to be decided on 26th November.
It emerged that Rathlin’s owner, the Calgary-based Connaught Oil & Gas, wants to sell its Canadian wells and acreage. Sayer Energy Advisors, which is handling the sale, said:
“The company [Connaught] is focused on developing its prospects in the United Kingdom and it intends to deploy the capital raised from the sale of the Canadian assets to its UK operations.”
Government accused of misleading parliament and failing on carbon emissions
The Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, was accused by Labour and environmental groups of misleading parliament in September when she said the UK was on course to deliver on its renewable energy target of 15% by 2020.
But in a letter to government departments, leaked this week and reported by The Ecologist, she said the UK was facing a shortfall, particularly on transport and heating. The letter warned that the missed target could trigger a judicial review or fines from the EU.
Mrs Rudd, who appeared before the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on Tuesday, said the UK was expected to achieve 11.5% of renewable energy by 2020 under current policies. But she said:
“I am determined to take action so that we exceed that and reach the 15%."
Government policy on reducing carbon emissions was also criticised by its advisor, Lord Debden, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change. He said:
“In terms of heat, clearly we are failing. It is much the most difficult thing. This is the area we have to get right. We need a mixture of renewable heat initiatives and energy efficiency. You have to get these two together. This is the area we have so far failed in. There is an awful lot of heat going to waste.”
Fracking risks research and INEOS ethane deal
INEOS signed an agreement with ExxonMobil Chemicals Ltd and Shell Chemicals Europe BV over the supply of ethane from US shale gas. Ethane imported into INEOS’s new terminal at Grangemouth will be supplied to the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmoran, owned by ExxonMobil. Ethane is a raw material of ethylene. Shell has 50% capacity rights in the Fife plant.
An international team, led by researchers at Edinburgh University, will assess the risks of fracking. The three-year project will make recommendations to EU member states on legislation to mitigate risks of the technique.
Fracking application at Kirby Misperton
Councillors in Ryedale agreed last week to delay their recommendation on Third Energy’s plans to frack for shale gas at Kirby Misperton.
Officers at Ryedale District Council had recommended the planning committee object to the company’s planning application because they said Third Energy had not provided enough information on the impact on local heritage. More information was provided but it was too late to be considered by the meeting.
A consultation on the application runs until 25th November. No date has been set for a decision, which will be taken by North Yorkshire County Council.