A MORATORIUM IS GREAT…BUT NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH. LET’S BAN FRACKING FOR GOOD.

The news that the UK government has ended its support for fracking and implemented a UK-wide fracking moratorium is, of course, both welcome and excellent news. However, the electioneering attempt by the Conservatives has not gone unnoticed.

Shaky moratorium?

Based on the uncontrollable and damaging seismicity from fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, the government were left with little option than to prohibit further fracking, due to a 2.9ML earthquake caused by Cuadrilla on Bank Holiday Monday, 22 August 2o19. The quake rattled the Fylde Coast in Lancashire and beyond, with thousands of ‘felt’ reports submitted to the British Geological Survey and hundreds of reports of property damage. Local residents, understandably, were angry with the fracking industry and government, with the constant palming-off of the community’s genuine concerns over the fossil fuel extraction technique.

It has become clear after many years of trying and failing, that Cuadrilla is unable to carry out fracking with any degree of safety, respect for the local community, or, more crucially for the spivs and speculators, any gas or commercial certainty. The industry and government placed the Preston New Road site on a pedestal, with sources from Whitehall saying that it was the flagship site and all eyes were on Cuadrilla to lead the way to prove fracking could be done safely.

The constant seismicity from fracking in Lancashire, with earthquakes that weren’t supposed to be felt, let alone cause damage, has been the end of the road for Cuadrilla’s attempts at jacking gas out of the Fylde’s fragile geology.

Even the constituency’s Tory MP, Mark Menzies (not averse to a little fracking, but not in his backyard), said:

“There will be no fracking in the UK. This is a necessary decision and something that, when I met with the OGA and the minister in recent weeks following the 2.9 magnitude tremor, that I have called for.

“This has come about due to the stringent regulations and transparency we had put in place, and which I fought for from day one.

“I would like to thank the Government and the regulator for looking at all of the science and the data, and acting in the best interests of people in Fylde.”

Steve Mason from Frack Free United said:

“This a very welcome announcement from the government. We will certainly be raising a glass to anti-fracking campaigners everywhere.

“It is a really great step in the right direction and we will be watching with interest in the next actions of all political parties. They must commit to the necessary action to dismantle the legislation backing fracking, and take the UK down a clean energy strategy.

“We also look forward to seeing the money that would have been spent on pushing fracking onto communities being used to support green energy, the police and the NHS.

“We will, however, be remaining vigilant and believe all forms of extreme fossil fuel extraction should be included in this de facto ban. Our call has always been for an immediate halt to fracking AND associated methods of unconventional oil and gas extraction in the UK, such as coal bed methane and acidisation.

“For us, it is clear that developing all forms of extreme extraction will result in unacceptable negative impacts on local communities, local democracy, energy security, jobs, the climate, health and the environment.

“All the political parties now have the opportunity in their manifestos to include the urgent need to develop an energy policy that will provide a clean vision for Britain, building on this great news from the government.”

The Business and Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom MP, said:

“Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration in the UK must be carried out safely. In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.

“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.

“For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”

Double-cross

However, just hours later during the Radio 4 Today programme, Leadsom waffled a bit of a panicky row-back, full facepalm moment, stating that the reason the government hadn’t implemented a full ban on fracking was:

“Because this is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom.”

Oh dear, Andrea, do keep up. The “opportunity ” is only to pollute the environment, stretch out the use of fossil fuels under the fake-news pretence of shale gas being a “bridge fuel” and create more offshore profits for companies who successfully dodge taxes here in the UK.

The moratorium, however, does not include other forms of extreme extraction like the acidisation of oil and gas wells. This is despite international studies and evidence that correlates the same risks through high volume hydraulic fracturing as being the same as the acidification of wells: environmental pollution, induced seismicity and groundwater contamination.

In Brockham, Surrey, residents from the campaign group, Brockham Oil Watch, who raise awareness about the threat of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation, have launched a legal briefing, outlining the loopholes in the regulations for acid stimulation of oil and gas wells in England.

The briefing,  Acid Stimulation: Fracking by Stealth, is co-authored by Brockham Oil Watch and  Harrison Grant Solicitors, with advice provided by Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, David K. Smythe.

Pip Hockey, a campaigner from West Newton Monitors, who oppose Rathlin’s plans for acidisation in East Yorkshire, said:

“The risks of acidisation are not much different to those associated with hydraulic fracturing.  There are still problems with air and noise pollution from the site itself and from the huge amount of lorry movements.  There is a risk from the hazardous acids and chemicals used and of induced seismicity. The traffic light system doesn’t apply to these sites so they can produce much larger earthquakes than even those seen at Preston New Road and not have to stop operations. Then, of course, there’s climate change. These sites produce the highly potent greenhouse gas, methane, as well as carbon dioxide when the oil and gas is consumed.
“And we mustn’t forget that the stricter regulations associated with fracking sites don’t apply to acidisation sites so they are not as well monitored.
“This is fracking by stealth. They are just giving it another face and another name.”

Actions to take

The group has also launched an open letter to the Government, based on the recommendations of their legal briefing. The requests to be implemented are:

1) an amendment of the definition of fracking in the Infrastructure Act 2015 to include all well stimulation treatments which may enhance the productivity of oil and gas wells by increasing the permeability of the target rock;

2) a permanent ban on all well stimulation for oil and gas exploration and production.

Campaign groups are encouraged to sign in support of the letter, along with environmental groups, elected representatives in affected communities, academics, NGOs and other all other supporters.

Traffic Light System (TLS)

A specific recommendation included within the briefing is that the seismic traffic light monitoring system (TLS) should apply to all well stimulation treatments, not just high volume hydraulic fracturing. This is further supported by the fact that the Preston New Road (PNR) tremors, which have brought about today’s moratorium, were caused by injections of fluid well below the volumes defined in the Infrastructure Act 2015 definition.

 

The largest tremor recorded at Preston New Road in Lancashire was 2.9ML, whilst the largest tremor registered in Newdigate, Surrey was 3.1ML. The Newdigate ‘Earthquake Swarm’ refers to 57 earthquakes that have been registered in Newdigate, to date. The strongest tremor, measuring 3.1 ML, was recorded on 27 February 2019.

There are grave concerns and some evidence to suggest that the Newdigate earth tremors are caused by operations at the nearby Horse Hill site. The thought is, that these tremors could be better understood by implementing a traffic light system and having an adequate reporting framework, something that isn’t currently in operation.

Just ban it already

The fracking industry, since 2011, has sunk millions of pounds of taxpayers‘ cash into the ground – literally. For nothing. Since Cuadrilla first caused earthquakes in 2011, where the well bore was deformed, their track record has remained at a 100% failure rate. IGas failed to find the Bowland shale that they were supposed to drill into at Tinker Lane,  Nottinghamshire (no, really – they actually missed it); Third Energy spent millions only to be held up indefinitely at Kirby Misperton due to “financial resilience” issues, with the government being unhappy at their state of operations

All that remains from eight years of fracking attempts in the UK, are communities left shattered following the intrusion from an unwanted and immoral industry; infrastructure and wells lodged underground forever, potentially leaking who-knows-what-and-when; a deep distrust of the Conservative government, due to their clear collusion and dodgy deals with the oil and gas industry, but more importantly, there is still no commercial viability for fracking in the UK.

Time to change the moratorium to a permanent ban, including all forms of extreme fossil fuel extraction like coal bed methane and acidisation, and put the fracking wannabes out of their misery.

 

*Featured image courtesy of Brockham Oil Watch.