North Yorkshire Fracking
By Paul Homewood
As mentioned earlier, from the BBC:
Approval for fracking in North Yorkshire has raised the prospect of the controversial technique being allowed at other sites and restarted an intense debate.
Councillors in North Yorkshire on Monday voted to allow fracking near the village of Kirby Misperton.
The decision, greeted by jeers, has been called a "victory for pragmatism" by those in favour.
It is the first application approved since 2011.
Fracking is a way of extracting oil or gas from rocks by pumping liquid into them at high pressure.
New licences for the technique, seen by the government as crucial for future energy needs, had been stalled since 2011 after tests on the Fylde coast, in Lancashire, were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area.
Two applications to frack at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton in Lancashire were rejected by councillors and are now the subject of appeals.
The county council rejected both planning applications last year on the grounds of noise and traffic impact.
Other areas of concern for those opposed include fears that the technique can contaminate the water supply.
The application to drill was granted to the UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas at an existing drilling site using an existing two-mile deep well – called KM8 – drilled in 2013.
Chief executive Rasik Valand said the company now had a "huge responsibility" to deliver on its commitment "to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment."
The council’s planning committee voted seven to four in favour. Anti-fracking campaigners are now considering a possible legal challenge.
A number of objections from people opposed to the plans were heard over the course of two days prior to the decision.
Supporters including landowners, farmers and Third Energy employees also had their say.
Campaign group Frack Off has warned the plans could pave the way for thousands of fracking wells to spread across Yorkshire and many other parts of the country.
Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas said it was an important first step for frackers, an industry which attracts fierce local opposition whenever a site is chosen for fracking but which has strong government backing.
The government has said it is going "all out for shale" to boost energy security and the economy.
Professor Paul Ekins, professor of resources and environmental policy at University College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the decision was a "political watershed".
He said there were still planning conditions that the company would have to comply with, so fracking at the site would not start immediately.
Opponents are exploring whether or not the move can be blocked.
Friends of the Earth called the decision a "travesty" and will see if the move can be challenged.
Greenpeace accused the government of having a "pro-fracking bias", which they said made the outcome inevitable.
Craig Bennett chief executive of Friends of the Earth told the Today programme: "In 2016 we should not be building new oil and gas structures, we should be moving away from oil and gas as fast as possible."
Ken Cronin chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas said it was the right thing to move towards renewable energy but it could not happen overnight. He also said that whatever the type of energy the country attempted to produce there were local planning objectors: "The situation is that in the UK we have a problem whether it’s wind or shale. Getting through the planning system involves a number of objectors."
Note that the disgraceful BBC are still showing this grossly misleading graphic, giving the impression that the shale is only a few feet below the water table:
Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth let the cat out of the bag, when he said "In 2016 we should not be building new oil and gas structures, we should be moving away from oil and gas as fast as possible."
The BBC’s Look North news programme paid an inordinate amount of time to the handful of protestors outside the council offices. North Yorkshire has a population over over 600,000, so why anybody should pay the slightest attention to a small ragbag of protestors. (Far from the “hundreds” mentioned, Look North reporters on site reckoned only 200).
Of course locals will be up in arms about any development, but, as Professor Ian Fells pointed out, at any inquiry the antis tend to be the most vocal, whereas those in broad agreement don’t turn up.
As the BBC could not be bothered to give the proper scientific background to fracking, here is what Professor Robert Mair, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cambridge University had to say in 2013. Professor Mair was appointed in 2012 to chair a joint committee, set up by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, to analyse the environmental, health and safety risks associated with shale gas exploration in Britain.
In recent weeks, the Sussex village of Balcombe has found itself at the centre of the argument around hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. This debate has become heavily polarised, and there has been much speculation around the environmental risks of shale-gas extraction, concerning water contamination and earth tremors.
There are many factors that policy-makers and local people must consider before deciding whether or not they are in favour of fracking – but I believe that the scientific and engineering evidence should play a key part in that decision. Everyone deserves to know the evidence, as it currently stands.
Over the past 30 years, more than 2,000 onshore wells have been drilled in Britain, approximately 200 of which have used techniques similar to fracking to enhance the recovery of oil or gas. Chief among these is Wytch Farm in Dorset – Europe’s largest onshore oil field, located in one of England’s most famous regions of outstanding natural beauty and special scientific interest, and therefore an area where the aesthetic and environmental impact of drilling are highly sensitive issues.
Last year, I chaired a joint committee set up by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering to analyse the environmental, health and safety risks associated with shale gas exploration in Britain. We came up with a set of recommendations for the Government to make it as safe as possible, if they decided to go ahead. The report concluded that these risks could be managed effectively as long as operational best practices were implemented, and enforced through regulation. The Government has accepted all the report’s recommendations.
Fracking in Britain would take place at depths of many hundreds of metres or several kilometres. So far the only shale gas fracking in this country has been at depths of 1.06 miles (1.7km) and 1.93 miles (3.1km), equivalent to the height of many London Shards placed on top of each other. It would be highly unlikely for water contamination to occur by means of fractures extending upwards from these deep shales and intercepting an aquifer, since the two are separated by a vast cover of rock. Even if it were possible, pressure conditions mean that the fracking water would not flow that far upwards.
If there is water contamination, it is much more likely to be due to poorly constructed and regulated wells. These are lined with a steel casing, which is sealed into the ground by cement: ensuring the well’s integrity is very important if the risk of contamination is to be kept to an absolute minimum. Here in Britain, we have a long history of world-class oil and gas industry regulation, plus a unique examination scheme to ensure that the design, construction and abandonment of wells is reviewed by independent, specialist experts.
The other main potential cause of environmental contamination is poor site construction at the surface. However, any risks can again be minimised by best practice and good regulation, which Britain has a good track record of upholding. For example, every company must disclose the contents of the fracturing fluid they use, which is not mandatory in America.
There has also been concern about fracking causing earth tremors – but the evidence indicates that this will not be a big issue in Britain. Coal operations have been causing barely noticeable levels of seismicity for many years, and we expect that those caused by fracking will be at an even lower level, no more severe at the surface than the passing of a truck.
Another allegation against fracking in America is that it can result in methane leakage. We must therefore start to monitor methane emissions and groundwater composition at potential sites now, before any fracking takes place (as well as during and after such operations). This baseline monitoring is vital, since methane can be present in groundwater naturally. Such data will be the only way of keeping close track of the environmental impacts of fracking in situ, and should be submitted to regulators to inform local planning processes and address wider concerns.
Shale gas companies must also play their part in building public confidence. It should be mandatory for operators to conduct Environmental Risk Assessments. Local communities should be involved and informed from the very start. People need have a say in the planning process and to feel their concerns are being addressed.
In our report, we did not assess the climate risks associated with shale gas exploration, although we recommended that the Government should do so. The chief scientific adviser to the Department for Energy and Climate Change is currently leading a study on the potential for methane and other greenhouse gas leakages during extraction. The results will help form a clearer idea of the overall carbon footprint associated with shale gas.
Difficult decisions lie ahead for the Government. Opinions on all sides of the debate must be heard and considered, and uncertainties explored. However, at the heart of any judgment should be evidence-based science and engineering, which will help to ensure that the best decisions are made, unswayed by preconceived notions of risk or benefit.