On Thursday 21st June, a delegation from the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network attended the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Investment Ministerial Committee to give evidence regarding the potential effects of the proposed shale gas extraction in Fermanagh. Read their full submission here with additional visual material here.
The updated Tyndall Centre report on the environmental and climate change impacts of shale gas extraction has recently been released, and makes for sobering reading (which is why we’ve added a picture of Prof. Tyndall’s whiskers to cheer you up). The key conclusions of the report are as follows:
1.There is little to suggest that shale gas will play a key role as a transition fuel in the move to a low carbon economy. … At the global level, against a backdrop of energy growth matching, if not outstripping, that of global GDP and where there is currently no carbon constraint, the exploitation of shale gas will most likely lead to increased energy use and increased emissions resulting in an even greater chance of dangerous climate change.
2. UK Government commitments on climate change require major investment in zero and very low carbon technologies; this is likely to be delayed significantly by the exploitation of shale gas.
3. Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas is likely to increase total emissions. … (I)n this energy-hungry world, with GDP growth dominating political agendas and no effective and stringent constraint on total global carbon emissions, the exploitation of an additional fossil fuel resource will likely feed increased energy use and an associated rise in emissions.
4. Evidence from the US suggests shale gas extraction brings a significant risk of groundwater and surface water contamination and until the evidence base is developed a precautionary approach to development in the UK and EU is recommended… An analysis of substances that have been used in the US suggests a significant number with toxic, carcinogenic, radiological or other hazardous properties.
5. Requirements for water in commercial scale shale gas extraction could put pressure on water supplies at the local level in the UK. Shale gas extraction requires high volumes of water. Given that water resources in many parts of the UK are already under pressure, this water demand could bring significant and additional problems at the local level. Conversely volumes of contaminated wastewater returning from wells will require careful disposal.
6. Exploiting shale gas within the UK is likely to give rise to a range of additional challenges. The UK is densely populated and consequently wells associated with commercial scale shale gas extraction will be relatively close to population centres. The proximity of such extraction will give rise to a range of local concerns for instance, high levels of truck movements on already busy roads and the potential for seismic disturbances, that require meaningful engagement, assessment, regulation and enforcement.
The full report, together with the Tyndall Centre’s earlier report from January 2011, is available on our Documents page.
Government ministers have now discovered what we in Fermanagh already know – that shale gas will do nothing to solve our energy needs or to reduce our fuel bills. According to the Independent on Sunday,
The Government has rejected shale gas technology as a solution to Britain’s energy crisis, conceding it will do little to cut bills or keep the lights on. The Independent on Sunday has learned that industry experts made clear at a meeting attended by senior ministers, including David Cameron and Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, that the UK’s reserves were smaller than first thought and could be uneconomical to extract. Now senior coalition figures have agreed that shale gas has the potential to be deeply controversial without securing major benefits in lowering carbon emissions or reducing energy costs.
Joss Garman, from Greenpeace, said: “The shale gas bubble has burst. Despite all the hype, even the energy companies now acknowledge shale gas isn’t the answer to Britain’s energy needs. Ministers are having to face up to the fact that there isn’t much of it, it won’t bring down bills, and it’s damaging to our climate.”
The Prime Minister convened the Downing Street summit to hear from companies including Shell, Centrica and Schlumberger, which have been working on shale gas projects in America and exploring the potential of supplies in Ukraine and China.
The ministers were told Britain was not in a position to exploit vast amounts of its own shale gas stores. “The reserves aren’t absolutely huge compared with the likes of America, Ukraine and North Africa,” said a senior government source. “And we are relatively densely populated. It is a question of how much we can get out, and at what cost. There is a not-insignificant amount of domestic supply, but not a game-changing amount.”
Mr Davey now rejects the idea that a rush to bring shale gas online will have the biggest impact on reducing household energy bills. Speaking after the Downing Street meeting, he said industry experts were “clear that it would take time for shale gas to be exploited in the UK” and cautioned that the reserves “are not quite as large as some have been speculating”.
Read the full article here Government backtracks on fracking – Green Living – Environment – The Independent. but remember that this does not mean an end to the plans for fracking in Fermanagh and elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Licences for gas extraction have already been granted, and unless we speak out and act now, our communities will become test beds for this speculative and damaging industry, regardless of what government policy may be. To find out how you can help, visit our What can I do? page now.
Flaring, the deliberate burning of gas at the sites of wells and refineries, is an heart-breaking problem for both local people and worldwide. Gas flares release poisonous chemicals including benzene, nitrogen dioxides and dioxin into the air, causing cancer, respiratory problems, leukemia and other blood-related diseases. As well as being a gigantic waste of precious energy, it also contributes enormously to carbon dioxide emissions, speeding up climate change and all its related tragedies.
This new exclusive article in the Chicago Tribune shows how, after years of much-needed decline, the amount of gas flared globally is once more increasing – thanks to shale gas extraction.
There has been a flurry of fracking interest in the media this week, as the Preese Hall Review was released. This report was commissioned by the government to examine the relationship between fracking and the earthquakes which occured in Blackpool last year. It has been reported as an all-clear for the technique, but a closer look tells a rather different story.
The findings of the review include the following:
1) That the earthquakes were caused by fracking.
2) That these earthquakes could happen again.
3) That it is unlikely that surface structural damage will occur due to these earthquakes.
4) That the extraction company did not carry out proper assessment either before or after the fracking to try to stop these earthquakes from occurring. Nor did it gather essential data on the damage caused to the well casing by the earthquakes.
Earthquakes, by definition, cause structural damage underground and this
is the crux of the earthquake issue; not whether or not the quake shakes
tables and chairs on Blackpool promenade. The seismic activity, though
weak on the surface, is potentially much more harmful underground if
fracking pipes are nearby. Seismic activity can weaken the well bore
integrity underground and increase the failure rate of its cement casing.
The report states that earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 have occurred in
several UK coal mines during the last 100 years and have had little
surface effect. But these mines did not have thousands of kilometres of
pipes running through them carrying contaminated and toxic water up and
down, past and through the water table.
The report recommends that a “traffic light system” of regulation should
apply. This assumes that fracking is essentially safe, so the starting
point is a green light. If fracking triggers an earthquake of less than
0.5 [magnitude on the Richter scale] they get a warning card, i.e. an
amber light. If the fracking causes an earthquake above 0.5, this triggers
a red light and the fracking stops temporarily until the Company figure
out what went wrong. This system is not exactly the precautionary
principle of science that would normally apply to an evolving industry, an
industry that is basically a huge engineering experiment in progress.
Our regulators are currently struggling to monitor fracking as the
industry is changing faster than we can properly assess. The type of
fracking done in 2012 [High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing] bears
little resemblance to the simple process used from the 1950s until the
beginning of the 2000s. It’s rather like saying that an AK47 and a
blunderbuss are equivalent as they are both guns. The companies
themselves are still learning by trial and error. The fracking industry is
a constantly moving target that is slow to admit its errors and then asks
us to trust it. We were told that we would not get the cowboy operators
that have caused such problems in the USA but we are still not regulating
this industry properly. This is why, in our view, we need a moratorium for the foreseeable future until the full scientific reports currently being carried out become available.
Moreover, the danger of earthquakes is just one of many factors which can cause environmental contamination, serious effects on human and animal health and irreparable damage to our economy, society and rural way of life. The Preese Hall review was not set up to consider any of these – but we can.
“Bulgaria’s Cabinet decided on January 17 to amend the licence awarded to US oil firm Chevron, explicitly banning the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology in the exploration of potential shale gas reserves in the country’s northeast.
The Cabinet awarded the exploration permit for the Novi Pazar area in June 2010, but did not specify at that time what technology the company could use. The January 17 decision now limits Chevron to drilling conventional wells only.”
“On January 14, several thousand people gathered at protest rallies in Bulgaria’s largest cities and towns to protest against shale gas extraction and the use of fracking. Apart from Sofia, there were protests in Plovdiv, Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Shoumen, Pleven, Bourgas, Kazanluk, Dobrich, Smolyan, Rousse and Blagoevgrad, while according to Capital Daily, Bulgarians living in London and Copenhagen also held protests.
Protesters called for Parliament to put a moratorium on exploration and extraction of shale gas and for a legislative ban on fracking.
Lawmakers obliged on January 18, passing an indefinite ban on highly-pressurised hydraulic fracturing (at more than 20 atmospheres) with a vote of 166 in favour and only six against, all of them from [the] right-wing Blue Coalition.”
“But even [the] co-leader of the Blue Coalition, Martin Dimitrov, backed the moratorium, saying that he was “opposed to experiments done on Bulgaria. The time will come when the technology is safe or its risks are clarified.”
Other supporters of the ban, including former environment minister Djevdet Chakurov of the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms and former economy minister, socialist Roumen Ovcharov, said that Bulgaria was better off waiting for other countries to conclude their environmental risk assessments before allowing shale gas exploration to proceed.”
[T]he area covered by Chevron’s licence has some of Bulgaria’s most fertile land and has long been described as the country’s “bread basket”.
“Fermanagh District Council has passed a motion to oppose fracking in the county.
Erne West councillor Brendan Gallagher said fracking had the potential to scar the landscape of Fermanagh and said the environmental health factors outweighed the economic benefits.”
“Councillor Gallagher said that while it had been mooted that 700 jobs could be created from fracking that equated to 10 jobs a year for Fermanagh and even at that, there were no guarantees that they would be sourced locally.
He highlighted Fermanagh’s dependence on its local agricultural industry and tourism.
He also claimed there were concerns that water contamination that could impact on health, from dizziness to brain damage or cancer. He said there was also the potential impact of noise and air pollution and the increase of traffic on the road.”
“Independent councillor Bernice Swift said she supported the motion and reminded the council that there had been no community consent for fracking so far and that the community must be listened to.”
“COUNCILLORS IN CLARE have agreed in principle a total ban on ‘fracking’ to extract shale gas from underground rock formations in the region.
The council voted to send an official letter to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte calling for an outright national ban on fracking.
There was also an agreement to amend the Clare development plan, a legally binding document, to forbid the controversial practice.This will now go forward for public consultation.Green Party councillor Brian Meaney, who put forward the motion to amend the development plan, told TheJournal.ie that the change was ‘the most powerful method available to us, to put into that legal contract a stipulation that we don’t want to see any fracking.'”
“Two companies have been licensed to carry out initial studies of the possible viability of fracking in parts of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo; while Enegi Oil is planning technical studies in the Clare Basin. Cllr Meaney said this area covered “most of west Clare”.
Cllr Meaney said there was a serious “lack of regulation” of fracking at the national and European levels. He said it had the potential to ’cause huge environmental problems, in a country where our main export is food.'”