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STEPHEN GLOVER: We’re sitting on a gold mine. Yet ignorant politicians risk the lights going out on our country

January 24, 2019

By Paul Homewood

 

 

An eminently sensible piece by Stephen Glover today:

 

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Almost everyone I know is against fracking. Not that many of them understand much about it. But this doesn’t prevent them from pursing their lips and shaking their heads while looking solemn and generally disapproving whenever the subject is raised.

What about the United States, I sometimes ask, where fracking on a massive scale has made the country much less reliant on expensive imports of oil and gas? America has vast unpopulated areas, they reply. Britain is a crowded island. They may then add that fracking — which involves extracting gas from underground rocks by injecting high-pressure chemicals — causes earthquakes and ruins the countryside.

It is because of views like these that fracking in the UK has barely got going despite there being enormous reserves of potentially recoverable shale gas, which if extracted would greatly improve our chances of keeping the lights on and the wheels of the economy turning.

Labour is against fracking. As are the Lib Dems. So is the SNP government in Scotland, which has banned all exploration north of the border. Opinion polls suggest a majority of the public is against. And of course every environmentalist you care to mention thinks fracking is the work of the Devil.

As for the Conservative Government, although supposedly pro-fracking, it proceeds cautiously, and seldom defends the practice. I can’t recall the underwhelming Greg Clark, Business Secretary and the Minister with overall responsibility, ever singing its praises.

The Government’s greatest terror is that the process might cause earthquakes. In 2011, shale gas test-drilling triggered tremors in Lancashire, and fracking was banned for a time.

So it’s no surprise that Mr Clark’s department is apparently ignoring the conclusion of two advisers in the government’s Oil and Gas Authority that the existing low limit on tremors caused by fracking be raised because the risk of harm is ‘vanishingly small’.

All in all, it is hard to find anyone in public life who will speak up for fracking, excepting Natascha Engel, the former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire, who was appointed Commissioner for Shale Gas last autumn by the Government. She recently told the Mail that fracking, if safely and sensibly pursued, could create tens of thousands of jobs, and provide Britain’s energy needs for 50 years.

But hers, so far, is a rare voice in a dispute where the naysayers and doom-mongers make nearly all the running and create most of the noise, confident that they have the unthinking support of millions of people, most of whom — let’s be honest — don’t know much about fracking.

It’s a roaring shame we can’t have a reasoned debate. Consider this: on Tuesday, which was unpleasantly cold, the National Grid could supply enough power only by relying on energy produced by the coal-fired power stations that environmentalists hate (13 per cent of the total) and on imported electricity from France and Holland (five per cent).

Because there was very little wind on Tuesday, less than three per cent of our energy was supplied by off-shore and on-shore turbines. That’s the trouble with wind power. When demand is high, as it is bound to be in cold weather, all the wind turbines in the world won’t help if there isn’t even a gentle breeze.

Isn’t it a bit alarming that in a country of around 65 million people, which is the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world, the National Grid can only keep the show on the road by cranking up coal power stations and depending on imported electricity?

It wouldn’t take much to go wrong — a ruptured pipeline carrying gas from Norway or Europe, or a tanker carrying the stuff to our shores running aground — for us to discover there isn’t any spare capacity in the system, and for everything to go kaput.

Looking to the future, plenty of people believe the danger of shortages is likely to increase. Britain’s coal-fired power plants will all be shut down by the mid-2020s. Several have already been closed under EU anti-pollution rules.

Meanwhile, the country’s ageing nuclear power stations, which provide 21 per cent of current power supplies, are expected to be de-commissioned by the 2030s. But the replacement programme has been severely dented by the recent decision of two Japanese companies to pull out of building two nuclear power stations with state-of-the-art reactors in Cumbria and on Anglesey.

With the £20 billion Chinese-financed Hinkley Point now the only new nuclear reactor being built, it seems possible, if not probable, that, in 15 years’ time, nuclear power stations will supply a smaller proportion of our energy needs than they do at present.

In short, as coal-fired power stations are certain to be cashiered, and nuclear power seems likely to be curtailed, there is a looming energy gap which new off-shore turbines can’t be guaranteed to fill because the wind does not always blow.

Nor would it be sensible to make up the impending shortfall by importing more gas from Russia. It would be foolhardy to put ourselves at the mercy of a hostile regime. That is the perilous path down which Germany has recklessly gone — 20 per cent of its energy needs are supplied by Moscow — and we would be mad to follow suit.

How easy it is for virtue-signalling or ignorant politicians to condemn fracking without giving any thought to the consequences in ten or 20 years’ time, or indeed for the thousands of new jobs, often in depressed areas of northern England, which it might create.

 

Read the full story here.

42 Comments
  1. HotScot permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:05 am

    I haven’t heard any more about earth tremors in Lancashire. Funny that, I presume Cuadrilla are still drilling, but nothing about “No more earth tremors” from the BBC.

  2. Geoffb permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:12 am

    Good article, could add that anti fracking propaganda (facebook and twitter), is coming from Russian sources. They do not want UK to be self sufficient in gas.

    • Bidefordcamel permalink
      January 24, 2019 12:00 pm

      No doubt the activists would deny this. Ideology matters after all.

  3. Peter Yarnall permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:20 am

    Our government claims to support fracking, but over regulate it. For example, the site near Blackpool has had to shut down often because of “Earth Tremors”. Yet, when you see the magnitude of such tremors, they are about half of the effect of being passed by a Blackpool tram or an articulated lorry.

  4. Malcolm Bell permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:24 am

    —- and the same people who object to fracking because it might cause earthquakes because of the pressure are enthusiasts of Carbon Capture by pumping CO2 underground and the latest scheme of using excess electricity to compress air and put it into the rocks to be recovered to generate electricity when needed. Apparently these two schemes of pressure in the rocks will not cause earthquakes but fracking will.

    Odd that!!!

  5. Dave Ward permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:35 am

    At 10:55am this morning our Total Metered Capacity of Wind Power (12,051MW) was providing just 196MW, or 1.6% of theoretical capacity. At the same time total demand was 45,877MW. Anyone who justifies the lunacy of trying to run a 24/7 economy on “Renewables” by claiming that “The wind always blows somewhere” needs a reality check…

    • Bidefordcamel permalink
      January 24, 2019 12:02 pm

      Send this to the BBC, just for fun.

  6. Hugh Sharman permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:46 am

    There are hundreds of imperceptible tremors in Blackpool but absolutely nothing that deserves serious concern to truly serious citizens. The Scottish Highlands regularly record tremors over intensity 2 but even these do no more damage than a passing truck. ie about nothing.

    https://earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/earthquakes/recent_uk_events.html

    On the other hand, US fracking’s inability to turn a decent profit is far more serious. After ten years, US fracking finance looks to be a bit of a Ponzi business! https://www.wsj.com/articles/frackings-secret-problemoil-wells-arent-producing-as-much-as-forecast-11546450162

    • January 24, 2019 3:22 pm

      Hugh Sharman, your wsj reference had to OIL FRACKING and not gas. I don’t know of too many gas fracking wells that are not profitable, IF THEY HAVE HIGH VOLUME TRANSPORT CAPABILITY AVAILABLE.

      Of course, if not the availability of cheaper gas adds an economic incentive to add that HIGH VOLUME TRANSPORT CAPABILITY to get product to market than foreign supplies. Another win.

  7. Bidefordcamel permalink
    January 24, 2019 11:58 am

    With the debate about energy seemingly dominated by climate alarmists and environmental idealism, it’s no surprise we are facing problems. For example, we mustn’t frack but it’s OK to burn thousands of tonnes of wood, stripped and shipped from the USA because it’s deemed carbon neutral.
    If only we had political leadership when we need it most.

  8. Charles Wardrop permalink
    January 24, 2019 12:10 pm

    Never listen to alarmists wearing green, they are aye wrong!
    (or does anyone recall them being right, during the last 2 decades at least?)

  9. NeilC permalink
    January 24, 2019 12:42 pm

    Close to lights going out now

    Demand 46.32 GW
    Coal 6.89 GW
    Nuclear 6.11 GW
    CCGT 27.09 GW
    Wind 0.29 GW
    Biomass 2.94 GW
    Solar 0.98 GW
    Pumped 0.39 GW
    Hydro 0.40 GW
    French 0.79 GW
    Dutch 0.12 GW
    Irish 0.22 GW
    E-W 0.03 GW

    So total – Wind/Biomass/Solar/Pumped/Hydro/ and all interconnectors are less than coal. And the stupid government want to shut coal down. No it’s beyond stupid it’s criminal.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 24, 2019 2:06 pm

      A quick look at Windy.com shows that the Netherlands are effectively becalmed, and a substantial part of France has winds of around 7kts or less. I guess that explains why we are drawing much less than normal from the interconnectors – they are in the sh!t as well…

  10. January 24, 2019 12:51 pm

    I live in northern West Virginia. There is a lot of fracking going on around here and the rest of the state. The usual suspects predict dire circumstances with earthquakes and contaminated drinking water and even sit in trees to stop pipelines, but they have not succeeded.

    Studies in next-door Ohio funded by anti-fracking groups on water contamination proved that it was not happening and that the methane was from natural sources having nothing to do with the fracking. The group was peeved and stopped publication of the University of Cincinnati study for 2 years.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      January 24, 2019 5:13 pm

      Joan writes: “I live in northern West Virginia.

      John says: Sorry about that.
      Just kidding. [from 80 miles north of Pittsburgh PA — left in ’65]

      • January 25, 2019 12:40 pm

        I am 72 miles south in Morgantown. My late father was from Butler where his father was superintendent of schools for 40 years. However, both grandmother and grandfather (Allegheny grads) were from Meadville where the families got there in the 1700’s.

    • HotScot permalink
      January 24, 2019 6:54 pm

      Joan

      we had the BBC horror stories of fracking in the US about 10 years ago I guess. Complete with burning taps and cracks in buildings, all fawned over by the reporting team.

      Of course it was all complete bollox as some of us later understood but the cancer had set in. Hysterical smelly greenies with greasy dredlocks (white folks mind) running round with badly hand written banners and snotty brats in tow.

      So when they first drilled in Lancashire there were some earth tremors, imperceptible to humans but the greasy mob reacted to the incredibly sensitive equipment which registered what probably amounts to a fart in a Church. Limits were lowered even further!

      Then it happened again and drilling was stopped again, then started again, since when, not a murmur about ‘catastrophic earthquakes’ from the BBC for probably 6 months.

      Nor a murmur how remarkable well fracking is going from the BBC either.

  11. Gamecock permalink
    January 24, 2019 1:24 pm

    Decadence. The people cannot comprehend that the lights will go out, so they are comfortable attacking that which keeps the lights on.

    BWTM: The lights going out won’t convince them. They will believe that the lights were turned off intentionally.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 24, 2019 1:55 pm

      They will probably blame the EU or Brexit depending on their viewpoint. Leaving without a deal will close down the interconnectors.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 25, 2019 12:19 am

        The interconnectors will not be closed down if we leave without a deal. All that happens is that the interconnector companies have to manage the bids and offers themselves. Here’s National Grid talking about the IFA to France:

        As of the date UK leaves the European Union in a No Deal BREXIT scenario Great Britain’s electricity market is expected to be decoupled from the European internal energy market. In practice this will mean that IFA will cease to use the Harmonised Allocation Rules, and cease to be part of Single Day Ahead Coupling. The solution will be instead to create a new set of LT Allocation Rules, and to purchase IFA capacity through explicit day ahead auctions (like today fallback mechanism from SDAC). Market Participants successful in acquiring capacity through explicit auctions would then be required to nominate that capacity in a second step or lose the right to use the capacity (use it or lose it). The nomination principal would be similar to the process currently ongoing in LT and ID allocation timeframes.
        The key processes to enable daily allocation through explicit trading will be documented in adapted IFA Access Rules, based on those in place prior to GB’s joining market coupling in 2014.

        So we go back to the rules as in 2014.

  12. January 24, 2019 2:20 pm

    The term earthquake has catastrophic connotations and should NOT be used in relation to fracking.
    On the Richter scale the value 0.5 is considered more or less negligible and can only be detected by sensitive seismographs. It is only when the value reaches above 2.5 that it can be felt to any degree but with no damage to buildings. Rather similar to a passing lorry.

    Hysterical pronouncements about the dangers of Fracking induced earthquakes are deliberately FALSE.

    Similarly methane coming out of water taps due to fracking is FALSE; as examples of this all relate to local conditions where the water table is in contact with methane producing biomass irrespective of any fracking activity.

    Imposing a maximum Eartquake Richter value of 0.5 on any fracking activity is grossly irresponsible (similar to imposing a 10 mph speed limit on the motorways!)

    PS: Fracking is merely an improved extension of the oil extraction process. It has been in use since the 1940s. The risks are now well understood and catered for.

  13. Colin Brooks permalink
    January 24, 2019 2:41 pm

    Even the genuine Mr Glover does not really know our fracking potential, it was easy to find at the start but not anymore (surprise). The real info was discovered by Cuadrilla when they first started drilling but you could not see it on their own website. The Australian backers A.J.Lucas carried the info on their own website in their annual reports. If you look at the A.J.Lucas website now that info is not there, it is now archived on an Australian government site to which you have to pay a small amount in order to view it.
    The info shows that the thickness of the Lancashire shale deposit is unequaled anywhere on the planet and that Cuadrilla think it will be about 80% recoverable with the newer methods!

  14. George Lawson permalink
    January 24, 2019 3:09 pm

    It’s good to see the Mail supporting fracking when they have otherwise turned to supporting the Greens AGW scam. What a pity the article appeared only in their on-line edition. If they had published it in their paper edition, it might just have given the support needed to get our government off their backsides and give fracking their full blown support.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 24, 2019 6:29 pm

      It WAS in today’s printed edition!

  15. Vernon E permalink
    January 24, 2019 3:10 pm

    Cuadrilla has gone strangely quiet about their test drilling. I would have thought by now that they would be ready to release at least tentative results. I assume that readers know by now that earthquakes etc have nothing to do with the viability of shale production but the permeability of the shale is paramount. A promising shale operation in Poland didn’t produce viable gas flows and development was abandoned. If the testing by Cuadrilla produces commercial flowrates the nest step must be to submit a fully engineered proposal and impact studies so that the politics can be resolved once and for all on the basis of the facts and the nonsenses can be dumped.

  16. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 24, 2019 3:57 pm

    Partly the problem is people believe we can somehow have all the stuff we want without in anyway making any noise, pollution, vibration or smell. Of course fracking might cause a few problems – so what? Everything has downsides, everything can cause a problem. Being anti-fracking is a ignorant and stupid as being anti-vaccination. It’s truly being a science-denier.

    • Rowland P permalink
      January 24, 2019 4:09 pm

      I would not equate anti-fracking with anti-vaccination. There are very reasonable arguments for the latter in that many of them are essentially unnecessary and compromise the immune system. Eg why is there such an increase in cases of autism and allergies?

      • Carbon500 permalink
        January 26, 2019 3:34 pm

        An increase in cases of autism? Read this, from the journal ‘Vaccine’:
        Vaccine. 2014 Jun 17;32(29):3623-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. Epub 2014 May 9.
        Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies.
        Taylor LE1, Swerdfeger AL1, Eslick GD2.
        Abstract
        There has been enormous debate regarding the possibility of a link between childhood vaccinations and the subsequent development of autism. This has in recent times become a major public health issue with vaccine preventable diseases increasing in the community due to the fear of a ‘link’ between vaccinations and autism. We performed a meta-analysis to summarise available evidence from case-control and cohort studies on this topic (MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, Google Scholar up to April, 2014). Eligible studies assessed the relationship between vaccine administration and the subsequent development of autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Two reviewers extracted data on study characteristics, methods, and outcomes. Disagreement was resolved by consensus with another author. Five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9,920 children were included in this analysis. The cohort data revealed no relationship between vaccination and autism (OR: 0.99; 95% CI: 0.92 to 1.06) or ASD (OR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.20), nor was there a relationship between autism and MMR (OR: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.70 to 1.01), or thimerosal (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.77 to 1.31), or mercury (Hg) (OR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.93 to 1.07). Similarly the case-control data found no evidence for increased risk of developing autism or ASD following MMR, Hg, or thimerosal exposure when grouped by condition (OR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.98; p=0.02) or grouped by exposure type (OR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76 to 0.95; p=0.01).
        Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.

  17. John Peter permalink
    January 24, 2019 4:47 pm

    Re Dave Ward above:
    Operational Capacity (MW) 20,685.980 per RenewableUK Web site. Dave Ward appears to have quoted on shore wind only.

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      January 24, 2019 6:11 pm

      Yep. In the UK we have an operational capacity of 12.6GW of onshore wind and 9.4GW of offshore wind, according to Elexon BM reports. All of that capacity is not actually delivering very much today. 0.4GW at the moment, and not a scrap of solar, which also barely made it out of the MW even at lunchtime. But the OCGTs are idle, demand is past the peak and no system warnings, so nothing dreadful today. Good job we have 36GW of gas to fall back on (CCGT+OCGT? not sure).

      Veering OT slightly, can anyone explain to me why we just had 2 of our reactors refuelling and 2 down for planned inspection work in the middle of winter? Who planned that? On top of Hunterston being out for the count, that’s 6 out of the just 15 we have left!

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 24, 2019 6:25 pm

      No, that figure is taken directly from the BM Reports website, and is the total of all “visible” windfarms:

      https://www.bmreports.com/bmrs/?q=generation/peakwindgeneration

      A couple of excerpts from the “Info” section at the bottom of the page:

      “National Grid forecasts likely levels of wind generation for visible wind farms, i.e. those that have operational metering”

      “The total in this table is a simple sum of the registered capacities of all the wind farms listed in the Power Park Modules spreadsheet”

      As far as I’m aware all (or virtually all) the offshore farms are “visible” – it’s only smaller onshore sites which are “embedded” within the local networks and aren’t centrally metered. These only show up as a reduction in demand, but the lower the output the less this distorts the overall picture. Since onshore winds are generally weaker than offshore, even if you add another 40% or so to my quoted figure it still gives little more than 2% of theoretical maximum output. Essentially, bugger all, at a time when total demand was near maximum. And this slack wind scenario is only during a relatively short period – there’s a weather front coming in from the Atlantic which will change things over the next day or two. Now consider the same situation when we get a week or more of high pressure sitting smack over the middle of the country. It usually happens at least once each year during winter. This will further decimate what little power solar provides during the shorter days, and puts us at the mercy of overseas gas supplies, the ageing (and soon to be retired) coal plants, and a fleet of diesel (STOR) generators spread over the countryside…

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 25, 2019 12:39 am

        Actually, it is now unclear exactly what bmreports is showing. Gridwatch uses the data in this report (every 5 mins):

        https://www.bmreports.com/bmrs/?q=generation/fueltype

        Also available is this data, by half hour settlement period:

        https://www.bmreports.com/bmrs/?q=actgenration/actualorestimated

        The note on that says:

        Wind generation forecasts and actual outturn can be categorised into four groups: metered onshore, metered offshore, unmetered onshore, unmetered onshore. For the ‘Legacy’ wind forecast data (‘Wind Forecast Out-turn’ and ‘Peak Wind Generation Forecast’) on the ‘Generation’ section of BMRS, only the metered wind categories are included (offshore and onshore) and there is a link on the page to the ‘Power Park Modules’ spreadsheet which gives an exact breakdown of which BMU’s are included in the metered forecasts which appear on this page. There are also explanatory notes within the sheet which clarify the BMU’s included for OC2 forecasts as well as ‘Legacy’ wind forecast data.

        For the European Transparency Regulation 543/2013 (ETR) generation forecasts, these are divided into onshore and offshore, and both the metered and unmetered windfarms are included. For outturn values, latest forecasts are used in place of actual metered output for the unmetered wind as allowed for by the regulation. For this reason, the wind forecasts for the ETR data (B1620/1630) will differ from the ‘Legacy’ wind forecast data.

        Comparing the two over time, you can find periods when the 5 minute data is higher than the supposedly comprehensive half hourly data. There is no clear explanation of the 5 minute data.

        Incidentally, all wind farms (at least over 30kW capacity) are metered. It’s just that the embedded ones only submit their meter readings monthly to claim their ROCs: that includes ones on industrial sites, such as Nissan. The distinction is only that they do not have live metering visible to National Grid in real time.

  18. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 24, 2019 5:23 pm

    Off topic:
    Paul, have you seen this banana story from S. Korea?
    https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-46945965

    It seems to me that places get a few years of good weather and think it is a new climate.
    from the text: “They have been experimenting with growing bananas and other fruit in greenhouses for years, but have noticed definite changes since last autumn.

    . last autumn . ?

  19. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 24, 2019 5:43 pm

    Here’s a perfect example of how BBC staff spontaneously warp stories.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46978496

    The article says:

    “The researchers hope the project’s data can help them work out how quickly the White Continent might lose its ice in a warming world.”

    Which is probably dubious enough, but the news headline on 5Live was:

    “Scientists have drilled a 1.3 mile deep hole in Antarctic so they can measure how quickly the ice capS ARE melting.”

    No doubt about the melting, and it applies to Greenland etc. too!

  20. markl permalink
    January 24, 2019 6:01 pm

    Do the so called “environmentalists” really believe we can exist today without industry? They may be trying hard to eliminate it to stop the scourge of Capitalism but do they understand the consequences? Rhetorical question obviously but even if they succeed in “keeping it in the ground” how long do they think we can survive as a modern society without it? Rational people need to intervene before lasting damage to mankind as we know it today.

  21. Ian Miller permalink
    January 24, 2019 9:01 pm

    UNBELIEVABLE.
    You really couldn’t make it up !!!

  22. January 24, 2019 10:50 pm

    The real case against fracking in the UK is that nobody has a clue whether it can be economic or not. The overheads of the U.K. regulatory environment may mean that local resources simply cannot compete with any of the three big suppliers, Norway, Russia or Qatar. We also don’t know at all if the heavily tectonised rocks in the UK have retained enough gas to flow at sufficient rates. In my view, having worked the Eagleford in the US and comparing the geology with the Bowland Shale, Cuadrilla are taking a punt.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 25, 2019 12:49 am

      That’s not a case against fracking. Let Cuadrilla try properly, and we’ll see soon enough. They and the British Geological Survey seem to think there’s over 1200Tcf OGIP in Bowland shale. That has to be worth a punt.

      • January 25, 2019 1:19 pm

        I didn’t mean to imply it’s not worth a exploration test or two (but I personally wouldn’t invest in the Bowland Shale). There can be Tcf galore of gas in place, but zero economic reserves. The majority areas of all the shale basins in the US are uneconomic and the economic sweet spots are relatively small. The chances that Preston New Road happens to be in a sweet spot is very small. That’s why I described the Cuadrilla venture as a punt.

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