Gosport Borough Council, Lee West Ward
Councillor John Beavis MBE


Public Concerns about Fracking

2/27/2016

Public Concerns about Fracking

To date there have been no applications for oil or gas extractions in the Borough of Gosport.

The Government have just published this document:-

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking

Which will answer your questions. I have extracted some statements below which I thought that you might find helpful.

Public consultation is part of every oil and gas application for planning permission, which is required for each stage of exploration, appraisal and production. For shale development, the industry’s own charter sets out that communities must be engaged from the very start of the planning application process. The Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil has made it a priority to help people understand the facts about shale gas, including supporting local authorities’ engagement with their communities to help resolve any issues.

The process of obtaining consent to drill a well is the same whether the well is targeted at conventional or unconventional gas. Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy-climate-change  issues a licence in competitive offerings (licence rounds) which grant exclusivity to operators in the licence area. The licences however do not give consent for drilling or any other operations.

When an operator wishes to drill an exploration well, their first step is to negotiate access with landowners for the drilling pad area and the surface under which any drilling extends. Permission must also be obtained from the Coal Authority if the well encroaches on coal seams. Then the operator needs to seek planning permission from the Minerals Planning Authority (MPA) (Hampshire County Council (HCC)) (In Scotland the local planning authority). The operator must obtain the appropriate environmental authorisation/permit from the Environment Agency (EA) in England, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland, who are also statutory consultees to the MPA or Scottish planning system.

The MPA (HCC) (or local planning authority in Scotland) will determine if an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required, such assessments are required if the scale of the operations meets certain thresholds, or if, depending on their nature, scale and location, they may have significant environmental impacts. If an EIA is required, it must be completed by the applicant and submitted to the MPA/planning authority before the MPA/planning authority decides on planning permission.

An environmental permit/authorisation from the appropriate environmental regulator may also be required. At least 21 days before drilling is planned, the HSE must be notified of the well design and operation plans to ensure that major accident hazard risks to people from well and well related activities are properly controlled, subject to the same stringent regulation as any industrial activity. HSE regulations also require examination of the well design and construction by an independent and competent person. Notification of an intention to drill has to be served on the Environment Agency under S199 of the Water Resources Act, 1991.

DECC will check that the EA/SEPA/NRW and HSE have no objections before consenting drilling operations. If hydraulic fracturing is intended, DECC will require that a fracturing plan to address the risk of induced seismicity is submitted, and will review this plan before these operations are permitted.

If the operator wished to drill an appraisal well or propose to start production operations, they start again with the process described above; the landowner’s permissions and planning consent (Public consultation is part of every oil and gas application for planning permission), which may also require an EIA; EA, NRW or SEPA consultation and HSE notification, and finally a decision from DECC.

Sorry there are lots of abbreviations but the full title is in the earlier paragraphs.

 The UK is entering a period where, as a consequence of the Climate Act, oil and coal and power stations are closing. Nuclear power stations are also closing though age.  A looming gap is therefore developing in the UK between energy supply and demand. For example The Institution of Mechanical Engineers only last week estimated that the gap could reach 55% by the mid 2020s if new generating plant is not rapidly build and put into service. Many £billions will be required to close the potential energy gap that is developing.

 Much of this new replacement energy must be reliable and continuous. It cannot be achieved by renewables such as wind farms and solar. Shale gas fracking or large increases in highly expensive energy imports (if available) offer the only solution. If the lights are not to go out and industry not be priced out of the market (Electricity in the UK is already the most expensive in the Western world – this in part already causing closure of much of the UK’s steel industry).

 Renewables are not enough. If all agricultural land in southern England were to be covered in solar panels or wind farms their energy output would equate only to that of just one single conventional power station.

 Below, I have reproduced some of the Government safety measures that will ensure fracking operations in the UK will be safely carried out. Full details are available at:

  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking 

 Shale Gas Fracking

The government believes that shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs. It is  encouraging safe and environmentally sound exploration to determine this potential.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique used in the extraction of gas from shale rock and has been extensively used over the last 60 years – it is estimated that more than 2.5 million wells have been successfully ‘fracked’ worldwide.

The UK has a strong regulatory regime for exploratory activities, and over 50 years of experience of regulating the onshore oil and gas industry nationally. They are bringing that experience to bear and measures are in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent environmental contamination, mitigate seismic activity and minimise emissions. In 2012, the Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society reviewed the scientific and engineering evidence on shale gas.

The review concluded that “the health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (often termed ‘fracking’) as a means to extract shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK.

The environment

In September 2013 Professor David MacKay (then DECC’s Chief Scientist) and Dr Timothy Stone wrote a report on potential greenhouse gas emissions from UK produced shale gas. They concluded that the overall effect of UK shale gas production on national emissions is likely, with the right safeguards, to be relatively small. Indeed emissions from the production and transport of UK shale gas would likely be lower than from the imported Liquefied Natural Gas that it could replace.

Public Health England assessed the risk to human health of extracting shale gas in an October 2013 report. They evaluated available evidence on issues including air quality, radon gas, naturally occurring radioactive materials, water contamination and waste water. They concluded that “the risks to public health from exposure to emissions from shale gas extraction are low.

It was announced in Parliament recently that the country’s national parks will be protected from fracking.

Why do we need gas?

A third of UK energy demand is met by gas. In 2012, around a quarter of the gas used in the UK was used to produce electricity, a fifth by industry, and around 40% to cook our food and heat our buildings.

As we use less coal in the next 10 to 15 years for electricity generation, gas will help fill the gap alongside renewable and nuclear electricity, helping the UK reduce carbon emissions. We forecast that in 2030, the UK’s gas consumption will be a round the same level as it is today. We will continue to need gas for many years. In 2003, we were a net exporter of gas. But North Sea production is declining and now we are a net importer. By 2025 we expect to be importing close to 70% of the gas we consume, assuming we do not develop shale.

The UK has invested in facilities to make sure gas is easy to import. There have been no major interruptions to gas supplies in recent history, but we cannot be complacent. To secure our energy supply we must maximise UK production of fuels we need, including gas, increase generation from renewables and new nuclear and then use our energy more wisely. Shale development could also support the economy. The Institute of Directors estimated that UK shale gas production would be a net benefit to public finances, could attract annual investment of £3.7 billion and support up to 74,000 jobs directly, indirectly and through broader economic stimulus.

There are currently around 176 licences for onshore oil and gas in the UK. These are formally referred to as Petroleum Exploration Development Licences. DECC plans to conduct a new round of onshore licensing (the 14th) in 2014, and is conducting the necessary Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Licences themselves do not give consent for drilling, hydraulic fracturing or any other operations. Operators then need:

·         Landowner(s) agreement

·         Planning permission, which may require an environmental impact assessment

·         Permits from Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency

·         Their plans are examined by the Health and Safety Executive, and an independent competent person reviews the well design

·         Consent for drilling or production from the Department of Energy and Climate Change

 

To conclude, I believe that providing sufficient energy to keep our homes warm, the lights on, transport moving, industry and commerce working and the economy buoyant cannot be prejudiced by nimbyism.  Fracking is a national issue and as such is a matter that has to be determined by our democratically elected Government. The issue is far too important to do anything else. Too much time has already been lost through indecision caused by the antics of the few.  I am confident that Fracking will also prove to be be a safe industry. 

 

Posted: 2/27/2016