Minister: methane extraction to go ahead in UK, despite drastically diminishing gas prices

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change Matt Hancock expressed his desire for Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction to proceed despite the fact that recent drastic diminishing oil and gas prices may make the energy extraction process even more unprofitable for both government and corporations.

Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party's business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.
Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party’s business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.

When asked by co-anchor Guy Johnston that current low oil and gas prices may postpone and delay the need to extract methane gas from the strata of the UK, Hancock denied any reduction in what he called a ‘neccessity’ to drill for methane gas as he looked to minimise any fear that gas prices were being hit as hard as oil prices.  In response, Johnston gently forced the Minister to confirm that it follows that gas prices diminish soon after oil prices. The minister firmly replied:

“The contracts are tied. This is a long term project for the UK, we’re right at the start of a long term project [that] has cross party support in the UK for the principle of getting this potential that could be enormous out of the ground. Geologists are clear that there is a huge quantity of gas deep underneath the UK. The question is how much of it we can economically recover. There are planning decisions this month…and later this year just to get the first extraction out….. It’s an exciting prospect. It is the duty of the government to [make sure] it happens.”

When challenged again by female co-anchor Francine Laqua on the fact that oil and gas prices are diminishing and that this would reduce the sense of urgency for unconventional shale gas extraction, the Minister replied:

“I don’t think that’s quite right, [as] the benefits are not only obviously just for getting the shale out of the ground for the companies involved, but also [for] the security of supply domestically.”

In an interview that did little to tackle scientifically proven environmental or social liabilities of the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction experienced elsewhere around the globe, the Minister further reconfirmed that significantly lower natural gas prices in the UK will not have any impact on the desire of the UK government to conduct the controversial process of fracking.

When Anchor Johnston, by way of analogy, stated that if methane was extracted at a price that was higher than the selling price, an economic loss would be incurred, inparticular if gas prices are tied to oil prices. The Minister for Energy and Climate Change stated in response:

“From the government’s point of view….the benefits remain…. In terms of companies who may be looking to take part, we’ve got to make the margins work….we need to change the fiscal regime [to make it] economic.”

Anchor Lauqua questioned if the government planned on giving any benefits to alleviate the [financial] burden [of lower sales price for oil and gas] for the drillers. To view the Minister’s measured response to Anchor Laqua’s question, you may watch the Bloomberg interview in full, click the link below.

UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change discusses methane extraction with Bloomberg News. 05/01/15.

The right honourable Matt Hancock not only serves as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, but also as Minister of State at the Dept. of Business, Innovation and Skills. Previously he gained a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge.

 

DEP fines Carrizo $192,044 for fracking offences

On the 18th June, 2014, the Department of Environmental Protection fined Carrizo subsidiary for two 2013 offences related to unconventional shale gas extraction practices.

The first was a well control incident in March 2013, which led to 200,000 gallons of fracking waste water into local environment, an incident which led to the evacuation of three families from their homes.

The second incident which took place from a separate pad, occurred month later in April 2013 when 9240 gallons of produced water was released into local environment.

The $192,044 fine covers both 2013 offences.

CARRIZO

“These were serious incidents that resulted in environmental degradation and the evacuation of citizens from their homes,” DEP Director of District Oil and Gas Operations John Ryder said. “The department has been working closely with Carrizo during the past year to ensure the company implements changes that will greatly minimize a recurrence of these incidents.”

The first accident, the well control incident, came during the fracking of a well in Washington Township, when production fluid began escaping from the gas well because of a technical defect.

In response to the leak, which bled around 800 gallons of fluid per hour, Carrizo implemented a temporary containment system for the escaping fluid. They removed escaped fluid with vacuum trucks and commissioned a control specialist to respond to the site. The company recovered 5,400 gallons of production fluid from the well. With Carrizo having release 200,000 gallons in total, a recovery of 5,400 gallons equates to a recovery yield of only 2.7%.

However, due to the toxicity of the chemical that were released from the damaged well, Carrizo was forced to issue evacuation notices to four local households, which lead to three families in the area being evacuated in anticipation of natural gas being released from the well as the accident was brought under control. In response to the accident, the company implemented several staffing and technical improvements, including the hiring of a worker to monitor for leaks during the actual fracking process.

The second accident, occurred when a hose transferring fracking fluid into a tank became unsecure and released about 9,200 gallons of the material off the well pad, as a result of Carrizo employees who had not followed proper procedure in transferring the fluid.

The fluid migrated through the stone foundation of a nearby residence and leaked into a basement garage, and also traveled across the road into a field housing livestock.

The DEP stated in a press release that:

“DEP’s Oil and Gas Program staff requested Carrizo to sample potentially impacted residential and agricultural water supplies, and provide potable drinking water to them, which Carrizo did. The company also implemented a number of remediation measures in a timely manner.

The department issued a notice of violation letter to Carrizo on May 7, 2013 for violations of the Clean Streams Law, Solid Waste Management Act, and Chapter 78 oil and gas regulations. The letter also required that a sampling plan, engineering study and fluid handling analysis be submitted.

Carrizo’s response indicated that personnel conducting the fluid transfer operation failed to follow proper procedure.

DEP’s Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields program is overseeing the remediation at both well pads. Contaminated soil has been excavated and properly disposed, while periodic groundwater sampling by Carrizo continues.”

Beginner’s guide to fracking: 4 fracking and tourism

Fermanagh welcomes you – Naturally?

The most recent DETI figures indicate that the tourism sector in Co. Fermanagh generates over £36 million per annum

DETI Draft Tourism Strategy for NI to 2020
“There is also a real recognition that what makes NI special is the quality of the experience and any development must be sensitive to this.”

tourism2

Why do visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Restful and relaxing holiday – peace and tranquility
– Quality of the scenery – unspoilt landscape
– Natrual Heritage – lakes, Cuilcagh Mountain Park, Marble Arch Caves, Global Geopark (54,092 visitors 2011)
– Cultural Heritage: musicians, artists, photographers, writers
– Built Heritage – National Trust properties (92,441 visitors 2011)
– Fishing and boating
– Outdoor pursuits: hill/trailing, watersports, caving
– Good quality food and restaurants

tourism3

Opposition to fracking has been expresses by both Fermanagh District Council and Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism

What impact will fracking have on tourism in Fermanagh?
– Frack pads will be located approximately 1 mile apart changing our rural landscape forever
– Our roads will be congested with heavy trucks and machinery
– Fish stocks may be contaminated
– There is a risk of earth tremors
– Our rural landscape will become an industrailised zone
– There is a risk to natural heritage
– The air will be heavy with dust and smog
– The Erne waterways are at risk of pollution
– Noise and light pollution are inevitable
– There will be public health concerns
– We will lose our clean and green image

tourism4

What will happen if fewer visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Loss of revenue from tourism
– Loss of jobs in tourism
– Loss of income for local providers including hotels, B+B’s, hostels, resteraunts, cruise hire and supplies, shops, fishing tackle stores, arts/crafts stores, outdoor pursuit centers, golf courses, the Marble Arch Caves and National Trust properties.

tourism1

DETI Draft Toursim strategy for NI to 2020
Northern Ireland needs to “Value tourism, value the tourist, value what the tourist values.”

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

Fracking rig blowout in morgan county, ohio

NBC4 have reported a blowout of a shale well that not only forced residents to move from their homes, but the 184 barrels of drilling mud that was lost, made its way into local waterways.

NBC4 reported: The drilling operation has been stopped dead in its tracks, as dozens of people from several federal, state and private organizations clean and remove the drilling fluids.

MORGAN

The US Environmental Protection Agency said in a pollution report, “a pocket of unexpected natural gas was encountered during the drilling leading to over-pressurization of the casing leading to the failure of the well head and release. Natural gas was also released causing an explosive atmosphere leading to dangerous working conditions and the evacuation of 7 residents from 3 homes adjacent to the site.”

NBC4 checked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who approve, permit and inspect all gas and oil drilling throughout the state. A little digging shows ODNR rules require a blowout preventer on oil and gas wells, which might have prevented the blowout and a containment pad big enough to hold a large spill.

To read the NBC4 article in full, click here.

Queen’s speech endorses fracking, circumvents UK trespass laws

The Guardian reported on the 4th of June, that the practice of unconventional shale gas extraction has been endorsed in the Queen’s speech, putting an end to the legal requirement that energy companies must notify homeowners when they drill under their land.

The Guardian writes: “The proposals in the speech, which sets out the legislative programme for the year and is the last before the 2015 general election, marks a further hardening of the Conservative party’s attitude against environmental measures.

Their coalition partners, the Lib Dems, see the survival of any zero-carbon home policy as a victory but failed to get other green proposals into the speech.

Current laws of trespass require land- and home-owners to give permission for shale gas and oil drilling under their land, but the government intends to end this requirement in order to speed up fracking. Drilling can extend up to 3km horizontally underground from a central well pad.”

To read the Guardian article in full, click here.

North carolina to penalise any one that discloses fracking chemicals

The state of North Carolina has set laws that allow energy companies mining for unconventional shale gas, to sue any party that discloses information on the chemicals used.

The Energy Modernisation Act, SB 786 (Act) was passed on the 15th of May this year was primarily sponsored by Senators Rucho, Newton and Brock.

FRACKING

Located on page ten of the Act, Section 7(a) makes an amendment to Article 27 Chapter 113 of the General Statutes stating that: “while confidential information must be maintained as such with the utmost care, for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment, the information should be immediately accessible to first responders and medical personnel in the event that the information is deemed necessary to address an emergency.”

Section 7(a), subsection (c) goes further to reveal that the only parties exempt from prosecution of disclosure penalties are:

1. The Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety, who are expected to treat the list and names of chemicals as confidential.

2. Medical responders who may need to treat injured parties in the event of an accident or emergency. However, the medical responders are automatically held liable to a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

3. Fire Chief, who , upon emergency, may need to treat an accident and will need to know what chemicals have caused the problem. In the same instance as the Medical responder, the Fire Chief and their personnel too will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

On page 11, subsection (d) of section 7(a), provisions are outlined for the penalties of disclosure of the fracking chemicals used during unconventional shale gas extraction, stating that outside the persons named in subsection (c): “any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes.”

If you wish to read the two page Article 24 the Trade Secrets Protection Act, click here.

All in all, in North Carolina, the Energy Modernisation Act is a legal blow to local communities who wish for fracking chemicals, many known to be harmful to the environment and human health, to be disclosed fully, without punishment.

Whilst County Fermanagh is not affected by the Act, one must consider what European or National equivalent will be passed that holds us to the same effect, as we ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals, as we look to avoid imbibing, through our air, water and soils, chemicals that pose a serious risk in diminishing the quality of our human health.

California reduces recoverable shale oil by 96%

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reduced its estimate of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey shale formation from 13.7 billion barrels to just 0.6 billion barrels—a reduction of over 95%.

The original estimate were based on figures release in a 2011 report by the EIA which had stated that there was up to 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil in the state’s Monterey shale formation, 64% of the nation’s total.

monterey

The over inflated figures figures sparked optimism for financial analysts over the state of California’s energy future.

The reduction in recoverable estimates were previously highlighted in a report, “Drilling California: A reality check on the Montery Shale” by geoscientist David Hughes. The report utilised empirical analysis of actual shale oil production data from the Monterey shale formation, basing its figures on data, rather than assumptions.

“We’re pleased that the EIA has corrected what was a groundless and highly misleading over-estimation of the potential of the Monterey,” said Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute. “We hope that everyone—from the EIA to policymakers and the media—will learn a cautionary lesson from what transpired here in California as we wrestle with questions about what the future of American energy policy can and should be.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, click here.

‘Lancet’ medical journal raises detrimental health implications of fracking

One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.

lancet

The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”

The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”

Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.

The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.

Source: aljazeera.com
The practice of unconventional shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking, has drawn criticism as a result of the negative impacts on human health and the environment. (Image source: aljazeera.com)

Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”

In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.

If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.

British Medical Journal criticises safety of fracking

The world renowned British Medical Journal(BMJ) has strongly criticised false assurances of safety given by the recent Public Health of England report which opined that whilst unconventional shale gas extraction posed a risk to public human health, it would not pose a health threat to humans on the European side of the Atlantic.

BMJ

The BMJ article, penned by Adam Law (Cornell Medical College), Jake Hays (PSE Health Energy), Seth B Shonkeff (PSE Health Energy) and Madelon Finkel (Cornell Medical College), draw attention to the fact that whilst the PHE Report acknowledges a real risk to public health, as shown by existing scientific research, the claim made by the report that the health risks will not exist for citizens of the UK and Ireland are theoretical at best.

“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. The optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk
oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk

The BMJ continues: “The [PHE] review appropriately acknowledges differences in geology and regulation between the United States and the United Kingdom. Yet in a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence, its authors suggest that many of the environmental and public health problems experienced in the US would probably not apply to the UK. Unfortunately the conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health is not substantiated by literature.”

“Furthermore, the [PHE] report incorrectly assumes that many of the reported problems experienced in the US are the result of a poor regulatory environment. This position ignores many of the inherent risks of the industry that no amount of regulation can sufficiently remedy, such as well casing, cement failures, and accidental spillage of waste water. There is no reason to believe that these problems would be different in the UK, and the report provides little evidence to the contrary, despite repeated assertions that regulations will ensure safe development of shale gas extraction.”

The BMJ also draws attention to the fact that unconventional shale gas extraction, on this side of the atlantic, will be taking place in more densely populated areas, than usually seen in the US.

In conclusion the BMJ state that: “Rigorous, quantitative epidemiological research, is needed to assess the risks to public health, and data are just starting to emerge.”

To read the BMJ article in full, click here.