United Kingdom and fracking

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Fracking was taking place at Blackpool in the UK until a 2011 tremor later traced to fracking resulted in a temporary ban.[1]

On December 13, 2012, the British government lifted its ban on fracking, allowing companies to continue their exploration of shale gas reserves. Energy Secretary Edward Davey said the decision was subject to new controls to limit the risks of seismic activity.[2] In December 2012 the UK Government announced they would initiate tax incentives for the extraction of shale gas (fracking) during its Budget 2013 measures.[3]

UK energy plans

In March 2012, David Cameron's independent Committee on Climate Change announced new rules that would block any more coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage, but allow gas power until 2045, which some argue might encourage future fracking in the area.[1] In September 2012 UK climate and energy secretary Ed Davey said the government was planning to add 20GW of electricity generation capacity from gas by 2030.[4]

As of October 2013 the UK government is in the process of issuing a 14 round of licences for petrochemicals, which campaigners say will cover two thirds of England.[5]

Government studies

Reserves

In 2010, a British Geological Survey estimated that, based on experience in the US, UK shales could hold 150 billion cubic metres of gas, equivalent to roughly two years of UK demand.[6]

In September 2011, Cuadrilla announced it had discovered 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of Gas in Place within the Bowland shale in Lancashire.[7]

On May 20, 2012, the UK's Independent reported that industry experts reported to senior ministers, including David Cameron and energy secretary Ed Davey, "that the UK's [gas] reserves were smaller than first thought and could be uneconomical to extract" and future shale exploration would likely be "very cautionary", with tight regulations on both environmental impacts and the effects on people living near by.[8]

In summer 2013 the British Geological Survey estimated 130 trillion cubic feet of shale gas could be recoverable onshore in the country, mainly from across the north of England - the equivalent of 40 years of UK supplies.[5]

Safety

On October 31, 2013, the British government's health agency Public Health England (PHE) released a report saying public health risks from emissions caused by fracking for tight oil and shale gas are low as long as operations are properly run and regulated. The PHE report examined evidence from countries such as the US, where it concluded that any risk to health was typically due to operational failure.

Tremors

In May 2011, the UK firm Cuadrilla Resources was forced to halt operations near Blackpool in northwest England after fracking triggered tremors, leading to a temporary ban on fracking.[9]

In April 2012, a UK government report recommended UK exploration of shale gas. The experts published the 2012 findings after reviewing a series of post-earthquake studies published by Cuadrilla Resources. The 2012 expert report suggested tighter rules on seismic monitoring and drilling surveys.[9]

Lawsuits

In October 2013 environmental group Greenpeace launched a legal challenge in Preston, Lancashire, asserting common law rights to forbid the “trespass” of energy firms from conducting activities below their property. The legal challenge was joined by residents from the Fylde and campaigners from Balcombe, West Sussex, who have been fighting Cuadrilla Resources over energy exploration close to their communities.[5]

Under UK law, underground resources are the property of the Crown, but Greenpeace argues that ordinary homeowners must give their permission before horizontal drilling can begin close by. The UK Onshore Operators Group, which represents gas drillers, disagreed in a statement: “Operators in this country are abiding by the law, which states that activities at depths of over a mile under the ground do not impact landowners. However, in line with the law, operators will inform all landowners in a very clear and transparent manner.”[5]

Reports

The 2013 Grantham Institute for Climate Change report, "A UK ‘dash’ for smart gas," found that, in the short term, new gas-fired power stations could help cut carbon emissions, but only if they replace existing coal-fired power stations rather than nuclear plants or renewable energy sources. Beyond the 2020s, the report recommends that gas-fired power stations should only play a significant role if fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, and therefore the UK should not build too many new gas plants. The report also stated that there are large areas of uncertainty around future gas prices and shale reserves.

Companies

Citizen action

UK Direct Action Shuts Down Fracking Company Headquarters

It was reported in August 19, 2013 that "anti-fracking protestors from Reclaim the Power have targeted Cuadrilla at locations across the United Kingdom, shutting down their headquarters in Lichfield, their PR company in London and the Balcombe drill site. Campaigners condemned violent policing at the gates of the drill site, where police charged, shoved and kettled a group that included children, people in wheelchairs, pensioners, journalists and Member of Parliament (MP) Caroline Lucas."[10]

Anti-fracking protesters camp out at exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex

On September 30, Anti-fracking protesters began a slow withdrawal from their camp outside an exploratory oil drilling plant in West Sussex. As the Guardian reported, "Tents, banners and makeshift structures were being cleared from verges on the outskirts of Balcombe following two months of protests. Campaigners have promised to vacate the site, which became the national focus of anti-fracking sentiment, by 8 October, but say they will come back if energy company Cuadrilla returns. The firm dismantled its drill rig and left the site last week after completing test drilling earlier this month."[11]

Resources

References

Related SourceWatch articles

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