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Fracking: An Essential Ingredient In The UK Energy Mix – Part I

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series on fracking.

The UK has closed down its Coal Mining Industry. We import huge amounts of coal from abroad. We import massive amounts of wood pellets from the USA to fire very inefficient generators; decimating the US forests, using more oil to send ships to pick up the pellets and bring them back while closing down efficient cheap coal generators. All to save Carbon Dioxide emissions which have no effect on the climate.

Let me first address the (Not in My Back Yard) NIMBYs. No one wants to have a drilling operation at the bottom of their garden. However there are ample opportunities to drill for gas without having drilling operations and a final gas farm at the bottom of your garden, or causing concern, discomfort, danger, or annoyance to people local to fracking operation. This has already been proven in the UK and USA with sites being selected some considerable distances from habitation.

In England the first fracking well was drilled in the reserve of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) at Beckenham Marshes near Balcombe, Nottinghamshire in 1963 (yes, that’s 54 years ago) and has been successfully producing 300 barrels of crude oil and 1 million cubic feet of shale gas daily ever since, without harm or damage to the environment. This produces enough electricity to power 21,000 homes every day. Furthermore, most people interviewed in the locality were not even aware of the existence of fracking well so close by. There have been 2000 onshore oil wells drilled in the UK by BP in the last 30 years, 200 of them using the fracking process.

In the USA there has been a massive investment in fracking, resulting in energy prices falling by 50% largely due to this now well-proven technology. I repeat ‘well-proven technology’. In the early days some mistakes were made by individual companies in the USA and some bad effects were felt. But is this any different from other new technologies? As a further indication; the desire to claim compensation from anyone on any pretext was unfounded and did not succeed.

In January 2017, Friends of the Earth admitted false fracking claims. This green campaign group has agreed not to repeat misleading claims about the health and environmental impacts of fracking after complaints to the advertising watchdog. Friends of the Earth spent more than a year trying to defend its claims, which were made in a fundraising leaflet, but has been forced to withdraw them. The group’s capitulation is a victory for a retired vicar and a retired physics teacher who has been working for years to expose what they believe is scaremongering about a safe technique for extracting shale gas.

The Rev. Michael Roberts and Ken Wilkinson complained about Friends of the Earth’s anti fracking claims to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which also received a complaint from the fracking company Cuadrilla. ASA found that Friends of the Earth (FoE) failed to substantiate claims that fracking could cause cancer, contaminate water supplies, increase asthma rates and send house prices plummeting. The ASA produced its draft ruling in July but was forced to delay sending it to its council for approval because FoE repeatedly requested more time to challenge the findings. The group finally agreed not to repeat the claims in a deal with the ASA under which it has avoided having a formal ruling against it. The ASA said:

We have told Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd and Friends of the Earth Ltd not to make claims about the likely effects of fracking on the health of local populations, drinking water, or property prices in the absence of adequate evidence.

Mr. Wilkinson, who said that he had no connection with the fracking industry and was acting purely to ensure the public received accurate information, welcomed the ruling. “It is outrageous that FoE used false information to raise money,” he said. “We need a frank debate about fracking and its potential impacts but it should be based on facts, not scaremongering.” Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said:

FoE’s repeated falsehoods have been exposed as nothing more than scaremongering designed to frighten the public into giving it money. It is the unacceptable face of the charity sector.

He called on the Charity Commission to take action against FoE, which he said had breached a previous commitment to the charity regulator to stop campaigning against fracking. Cuadrilla is planning to start constructing a shale gas exploration site near Blackpool. In October, the government overruled Lancashire county council, which had rejected Cuadrilla’s plans to drill and frack four wells at Preston New Road.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, which represents fracking companies, said that the ASA had consulted with “numerous independent scientific, health and regulatory experts before concluding that the anti-fracking myths perpetrated by Friends of the Earth were fundamentally false.” He added:

 The opponents of onshore oil and gas development must withdraw their scaremongering rhetoric and argue on the basis of the facts, which quite clearly show that the risks associated with fracking can be mitigated by the strong regulation and world-renowned best practice that we benefit from in the UK.

Friends of the Earth declined to respond directly to questions about its agreement with the ASA. A spokeswoman said:

We continue to campaign against fracking, alongside local people, because the process of exploring for and extracting shale gas is inherently risky for the environment.

I don’t think that the fact that ‘Friends of the Earth’ have been caught lying will come as any great surprise to any of us. Note: the revenue of Green Peace in 2014 was £303 million per annum.

There will be the ‘anti-brigade’ for everything and anything to do with energy unless it is wind mills, solar panels or tidal methods of producing what is called the highly desirable ‘renewables’, regardless of cost and consequences. Greens, Friends of the Earth, the World Wild Life Fund, and similar are driven by:

  1. A lack of scientific knowledge and/or:
  2. Ill-informed scientific knowledge and/or:
  3. Deliberately ignoring and/or distortion of factual scientific information.
  4. Encouragement and pecuniary gain from those making huge profits from wind farms, solar panels, some hydro systems and associated jobs in government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

Above all, they are driven by the belief or pseudo-belief and the resulting ‘feel good’ factor from believing they are saving the planet and future generations, from the man-made carbon emissions which are driving anthropogenic global warming. Nothing could be further from the truth as independent and unbiased climatologists and scientist have proven.


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7 Comments on Fracking: An Essential Ingredient In The UK Energy Mix – Part I

  1. I too am very much at odds with UKIP on this.

    Doubt any votes for fracking.

    Accidents can and do happen.

    How would an accident be corrected at such depths ?

    Who would be liable for any cleanup should the operator be in difficulties either financially and or with competence to clean up ?

    Would the whole area for miles around be contaminated for ever as with Chernobyl ?

    Underground waterways travel in all directions for miles so nowhere safe.

    Another fossil fuel.

  2. The ‘anti-brigade’ members need a cause; if necessary they just invent one.

  3. Gordon thank you for an exciting and much needed article on this topic which I believe will be vital to our poste Brexit economic recovery and the next industrial revolution.

    Here’s the part that got me excited.
    “… about Friends of the Earth’s anti fracking claims to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), …”

    Could the Global Warming brigade be given the same treatment? After all, scaring people using false claims to make money is their stock-in-trade.

  4. Fracking is one point where I do not agree with UKIP policy, I believe that pumping wierd chemicals into the ground beneath our feet (totally without knowledge or control of how they can spread out in future) can only result in massive problems for future generations. The perpetrators, sitting comfortably on their winnings will be able to honestly say that they “acted according to the scientific knowledge available at that time” which of course is often overtaken by later developements. The costs of damage reduction will have to be paid by taxes on the population as usual.

    • Which weird chemicals are those Oddsbods?
      98-99% of the fracking fluid is water and sand and it’s a technique that’s been in use in this country for decades.
      Also, any small quantities of chemicals added to increase efficiency, for example by reducing friction, have to be approved as non-hazardous by the UK Environment Agency.

      • Hi Howard
        I am not a chemist, I am an engineer so I do not know what effects all of these chemicals can have for future generations and companies like to keep their mixtures a secret, but amongst others they do use :-
        Petroleum distillates, copolymers,hydrochloric acid, bacteriocides, biocides,ceramic beads,methanol,peroxydisulfates, zirconium oxide…. the list of “allowed” chemicals goes on and on. They say it is only 0,5 to 2 per cent of the volume pumped in, but we are talking about enormous volumes over many years. At least some of these are going to end up in our descendant’s drinking water and they do not belong there

        • I’ll reply to this one as briefly as I can, when part two is published.

          Meanwhile look up ‘Well Approval’ by an ‘Independent Well Examiner’ who has to approve well operations – a legal requirement.

          Odds, as an engineer you should know what CHARM Chemicals are (if not google it for yourself – pdf is free). They are a legal requirement in all industries and have to be declared to the Governement for approval before starting – but you must know that.
          The chemicals are not secret except in the minds of greenpeace, and the CHARM sheets for all of them are available.
          Ceramic beads? What like ceramic used in coffee mugs?
          Zirconium oxide? The stuff they stick on ‘sandpaper’?
          On a well test, glycol is used to cure hydrate problems – same as the antifreeze in your car radiator. Maybe two 55 gall drums of glycol and as a court of last resort you may use 20 galls of methanol. Yes methanol is nasty stuff but 20 galls ‘dissolved’ in 100 cu metres of aqueous fluids is hardly leaping with death.
          By the way, zinc oxide cream is that the stuff you put on babies’ bottoms to prevent nappy rash. It is of course outlawed in the oil & gas industry.

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