Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis

i Sep 30th 2 Comments by

With the government deciding to ignore not only the evidence of its own report, but also 99% of the input to its so-called ‘consultation‘ on fracking, and fracking companies now seeming to bribe landowners with billions of pounds, it seems a good time to step back and take stock of the situation.

Where have we come from, where are we now, and what is going to happen next?

Can we really win?

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 13.59.26

1) Stimulus:

a. David Cameron has said that he wants to go “all out” for shale gas.

b. Ryedale sits on top of one of the biggest reserves of shale gas in the world: up to ten thousand feet thick in places (nearly two miles).

c. In other places where shale gas has been extracted, the USA, Australia, the consequences have been appalling: in terms of health of humans, livestock, crops, and wildlife, and the effects on people’s livelihoods and property prices.

d. From a climate change point of view (if you believe in climate change) fracked gas is worse than coal.

2) Response:

a. Shale gas extraction so far has been carried out in places with far lower population densities than here. In the USA, densities are typically 100th of the UK average. Even at eight pads per square mile not many people live close by.

b. As frackers have moved into areas with higher population densities, like New York state, so popular resistance has grown. In places like Dryden (New York) and Bentley (Australia), Romania, Northern Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, people have been able successfully to hold fracking back — at least for a while.

c. Meanwhile the price of solar electricity is falling rapidly, with banks like UBS and Citibank predicting that solar will achieve “grid parity (even in the UK)” by around 2020. And whether you believe in the worsening effects of climate change or not, the movements for fossil fuel divestment are growing.

3) What next?

a. So, despite all the evidence of harms, and the opinion of the vast majority of the British people, some people in government seem to be set on fracking.

b. And despite some some setbacks in the planning system, the fracking companies are continuing to press ahead.

c. But their approach is very much ‘softly softly’. Seismic surveys and planning applications are “not for fracking”… until they are. They seem to be trying to slip things through ‘under the radar’. And now they are trying to use money to change our opinions.

d. Why? Why are they behaving like this? If fracking is so good for us, why aren’t they showing us the facts (to contradict our facts)? And if the government is behind it, why aren’t the fracking companies simply charging forward full steam ahead?

e. The only thing that makes sense is because they know we can win. They know the harms, and they know we can win.

f. Across the UK there are now over 300 groups against fracking, up from zero just two years ago.

4) Conclusions

a. The fracking companies know we can win. It won’t be an easy fight, because billions of pounds are at stake. But we can and will win.

b. For them, that is ok. Because fracking is just a game. The Bowland shale is just another “play”. And their attitude to investors is the same as their attitude to the local people on the ground.

c. Fracking has been described as a ponzi scheme. (The first investors in make a lot of money. The last investors in lose everything.) The bankers don’t care about them, any more than they care about the people who live nearby.

d. The banks’ don’t risk their own money — they risk the money of other investors, and they take their cut. And once the ‘play’ is over, they move on to the next game.

e. This is why we shall win: because for the fracking companies it is just a play, but for the people on the ground fracking is about health, wealth, and quality of life.

f. It won’t be an easy win. But there are two ways to stop fracking:

— One is to remove the political will, by demonstrating how many people are against it.
— The other is to remove the financial will, by raising the costs of fracking, at the same time as the costs of other forms of energy are falling.

British Geological Survey Report into Bowland Shale

i Sep 29th No Comments by

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 14.03.48This report by the British Geological Survey into the potential oil and gas content of the Bowland Shale (upper and lower) makes for interesting reading.

“The assessment of shale gas resources in the UK is in its infancy”

“This large volume of gas has been identified in the shales beneath central Britain, but not enough is
yet known to estimate a recovery factor, nor to estimate potential reserves (how much gas may be
ultimately produced). “

“The organic content of the Bowland-Hodder shales is typically in the range 1-3%, but can reach 8%.” (Different authors place the threshold for potential economic recovery at 4%, 2% or even 1%.)

“Where they have been buried to sufficient depth for the
organic material to generate gas, the Bowland-Hodder shales have the potential to form a shale gas
resource analogous to the producing shale gas provinces of North America (e.g. Barnett Shale,
Marcellus Shale). Where the shales have been less-deeply buried, there is potential for a shale oil
resource (but, as yet, there is inadequate geotechnical data to estimate the amount of oil in-place). “

” It should be emphasised that these ‘gas-in-place’ figures refer to an estimate for the entire volume of gas
contained in the rock formation, not how much can be recovered.”

 


 

In the years 2010-2012, five wells in the UK have been drilled explicitly for shale gas exploration.

Others have been drilled for coalbed methane.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 14.08.37


And so on.

You can read the full report here (or if that link is not working, here).

(Your taxes paid for it.)

“Net potentially productive shale in the upper Bowland-Hodder unit is 200-3,000 feet (60-900m) thick; the lower Bowland-Hodder unit is up to 10,000 feet thick(3,000m thick). These latter thicknesses are much greater than in the US analogues [equivalents].”

“It is still too early to [estimate recoverable reserves]. In time, the drilling and testing of new wells will give an understanding of achievable, sustained production rates. These, combined with other non-geological factors such as gas price, operating costs and the scale of development agreed by the local planning system, will allow estimates of the UK’s shale gas reserves to be made.”

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 13.59.26

Economic analysis of US shale gas and implications for the EU

i Sep 29th No Comments by

Click to visit IDDRIThe Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), a non-profit policy research institute based in Paris, has published an economic analysis of US shale gas and implications for the EU.

Key points include:

  • “Despite very low and ultimately unsustainable short-term prices of natural gas, the unconventional oil and gas revolution has had a minimal impact on the US macro-economy”
  • “There is thus no evidence that shale gas is driving an overall manufacturing renaissance in the US.”
  • “The US shale revolution will not lead to a significant, sustained decarbonisation of the US energy mix nor will it assure US energy security”
  • “Oil imports continue to rise in monetary terms.”
  • “There is also the risk that the unconventional oil and gas revolution further locks the US into an energy- and emissions-intensive capital stock.”
  • “It is unlikely that the EU will repeat the US experience in terms of the scale of unconventional oil and gas production.”
  • [If plans went ahead] “Shale production would not have significant macroeconomic or competitiveness impacts for Europe in the period to 2030- 2035.”

Ineos accused of ‘bribes and bulldozers’ approach to fracking

i Sep 29th No Comments by
Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of UK fracking company Ineos

Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of UK fracking company Ineos

One of Britain’s biggest industrial firms has been accused of taking a “bribes and bulldozers” approach to fracking after unveiling a multi-billion pound plan to compensate landowners and local communities affected by its plans to frack on their land.

Jim Ratcliffe, the 61-year-old industrialist who founded the chemical giant Ineos, is promising to hand more than 6% of future shale gas revenues to those sitting on the reserves or affected by their extraction.

Simon Clydesdale, UK energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “This is just more of the same bribes and bulldozers approach that has already proved a failure. With one hand the fracking industry goads the government into steamrolling people’s right to oppose fracking under their homes, with the other it offers cash incentives.

“The industry forgets people have legitimate concerns about fracking that won’t be easily assuaged by cash sweeteners. The simple fact that the shale lobby can’t win the argument on safety but has to buy up consensus instead will help convince people that nothing good will come from letting the frackers through the door”.

Read the full article in the Guardian.

Sham government consultation ignores 99% of responses

i Sep 27th No Comments by
"Consultation, what consultation?"

“Consultation, what consultation?”

The Government have decided to press ahead with their plans to frack below UK citizens’ homes without their permission after ministers decided to ignore the results of a DECC consultation about the new trespass laws.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

Good to see democracy alive and well in the UK, isn’t it? You wonder why they bothered asking us in the first place. Read more about this disgraceful decision in the Telegraph or the Guardian, and watch a news report on this on YouTube.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, ministers are demanding the right to decide for themselves.

Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, said: “UK government proposals to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to drilling under their homes, without so much as debate in the Scottish Parliament, flies in the face of Scotland’s cautious, considered and evidence-based approach on this issue.”  Read more on the BBC website or in the Scottish Daily Record.

 

Fracking industry will be minimally regulated in UK

i Sep 23rd 1 Comment by
Fracking in McKittrick, California.

Fracking in McKittrick, California.

The Government has repeatedly claimed that there would be a ‘gold standard’ of regulation for the fracking industry. However, letters obtained by the Guardian show that the industry will be minimally regulated, there is confusion within the government about which department is responsible, and that no government body has overall control over the industry.

This week Cuadrilla announced they had discovered 200tr cu ft of shale gas below Lancashire, and is hoping to drill thousands of gas wells. However, local residents, environmentalists and engineers fear that shale gas extraction could potentially devastate water supplies near where fracking takes place, because methane or chemicals used in the process could leak into ground water.

Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University, called for a moratorium on drilling: “The best evidence indicates widespread contamination of drinking water wells within 1km of gas wells. A moratorium is necessary to step back and better study the risks to water quality, air quality, and global warming.”

Read the full details in the Guardian article.

And it’s also interesting to read George Monbiot’s comments on the role of climate change minister Charles Hendry.

The world marches to demand action on climate change

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

15121798828_ea75d5cf61_o[1]On Sunday people took to the streets all over the world to demand action on climate change.  More than 300,000 marchers flooded the streets of New York in the largest US climate change march in history, taking the environmental threat to the top of the global agenda.

This was only one of 2,700 simultaneous climate events from Melbourne to Manhattan, from Kathmandu to Buenos Aires, from Delhi to Jakarta.

Organisers claimed 570,000 people protested in 161 countries. Everywhere the message was the same – time is running out and we need to take action now. The events put pressure on world leaders assembling for climate talks in New York this week, in preparation for a major conference in Paris in 15 months time.

RIMG3372Meanwhile in London, three Frack Free Ryedale members joined the 40,000 people marching from Temple to the Houses of Parliament. Apart from sore feet, it was an enjoyable day and inspiring to see so many people (and the occasional orang-utan) marching for the climate.

There were a large number of anti-fracking banners and placards among the crowd, highlighting the contribution that burning more fossil fuels produced by fracking will have on CO2 emissions and global warming.

Read the Guardian and New York Times accounts of the events, and see some amazing and inspiring photos from a variety of demonstrations around the world on Avaaz.

Solar and wind power alter global landscape

i Sep 22nd No Comments by
Solar panels being fitted on new homes in Germany. Why isn't this compulsory on all new-build properties in the UK?

Solar panels being fitted on new homes in Germany. Why isn’t this compulsory on all new-build properties in the UK?

This extremely interesting and inspiring article from the New York Times describes the rapid advancement of solar and wind power in some countries and states.

There is nothing short of a revolution going on outside UK waters, and one that we are sadly missing out on. Worldwide sales of solar panels have doubled about every 21 months over the past decade, and prices falling roughly 20 per cent with each doubling.

Germany is the biggest country leading the change to renewables – they even have a word for the transformation taking place, which they call ‘energiewende’, or  energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

Germany’s push towards renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago. Even in the USA, some States such as California are on track for 30% renewable by 2020.

Read the full article in the New York Times and be inspired.

Myths and Facts on Fracking

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

FFR LogoI have been learning about fracking off and on for over a year now, and have been heavily involved in Frack Free Ryedale for just over two months.

I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the key learnings I have made during this time – a summary of the “myths and facts about fracking”, if you like.

I enclose it below, with links to some of the key sources I have found.

I hope it is a reasonably comprehensive and well-referenced source. (And it barely even begins to talk about the health impacts, or the volumes of traffic and water, or…).

Myth 1: Fracking is a 60-year-old, proven technology

Fact: The way fracking is currently being done is a new combination of four different technologies that has only been tried since 2007. There are still problems with it.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/q256zzf
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 2: Fracking is a ‘green’ fossil fuel

Fact: While it is true to say that burning methane (natural gas) obtained by fracking produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal, this is not the full story. During the drilling process, methane is also released into the atmosphere, or burned off by ‘flaring’. If these full impacts are considered, then the greenhouse gas / climate change impact of fracked gas is even worse than coal.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/qy8ewmj
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)

Myth 3: Fracking is a cheap source of fuel

Fact: The price of solar electricity is falling fast. Citibank, UBS and other banks have recently issued reports advising investors to get out of fossil fuels. Citibank says that solar electricity will achieve “grid parity” even in Britain, by 2020. UBS, the world’s largest private bank, says big power stations in Europe could be redundant “within 10-20 years.”

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/q5vo8mm
(“UBS urges investors to join renewables revolution”, Guardian, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/q8sorn2
(“Oil industry on borrowed time as switch to gas and solar accelerates”, Daily Telegraph, August 2014)
– http://tinyurl.com/kkemuhn
(“Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete”, Guardian, July 2014)

Myth 4: Fracking creates jobs

Fact: Fracking does create some jobs, in the oil and gas industry. These do not benefit local people. Friends in the USA (near the Canadian border) have described how the economy of their small rural town was affected when large numbers of single men moved in.

Fracking also destroys jobs. The main industries here in Ryedale are farming and tourism. Animals and crops in the USA have died after coming into contact with waste fracking water. And you can guess what the impact on tourism would be if there were eight fracking pads per square mile in Ryedale (which is standard, and which was requested in the planning applications for 3,000 wells in Sussex.)

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/l3pqcap
(Website of frack-off (UK), section on Agriculture and Animal Health, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/kawlo87
(“Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers”, Bloomberg, February 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/k7dkeqm
(“Fracking frontline as Sussex has 15 licences to drill”, The Argus, December 2012)

Myth 5: Fluid migration from faulty wells is rare

Fact: Fluid migration from faulty wells is a well known long-term problem, with an expected rate of occurrence. About one in twenty wells fail in their first year of operation. With 8 well pads per square mile, and 6-20 wells per pad, that is a lot of failed wells. After 15 years 50% of wells will be leaking. And eventually all wells fail. A recent report in Pennsylvania listed 243 cases in six years where companies prospecting for fracking were found by state regulators to have contaminated drinking water.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/puo8b7h
(Dr Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, talk to Sierra Club, March 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/ouv3pz7  http://tinyurl.com/l76ztgp
(“Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling”, Wall Street Journal, August 2014)

Myth 6: Fracking only uses fluids you would find in most households

Fact: While many of the chemicals used in fracking are probably also found in households, the point is do you want them in your drinking water?

The fact is also that the USA has passed legislation forbidding people from disclosing what chemicals fracking companies use. And when the water is pumped out of the ground it contains a variety of heavy metal salts and radioactive elements that it has picked up underground. When these are pumped back underground they can cause earthquakes and contaminate drinking water.

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/chkk7cn
(Physicians for Social Responsibility website, June 2012)
http://tinyurl.com/q858ulo
(Catskill Mountaineer website, undated, viewed September 2014)

Myth 7: Fracking only causes tiny earthquakes

Fact: The process of fracking does cause small earthquakes. What causes bigger earthquakes is reinjecting the dirty fracking water back into ground, (in the same way that Third Energy is applying for planning permission to inject large amounts of waste water at Ebberston Moor near Pickering).

In Oklahoma, injecting waste fracking fluids is now causing hundreds of earthquakes per year, where there used to be very few. The largest so far registered 5.6 on the Richter scale and caused millions of dollars worth of damage. Could the roller-coaster at Flamingoland or the Temple of Winds at Castle Howard withstand a 5.6 earthquake?

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/mc7luak
(“Why fracking may be responsible for increased earthquakes in Oklahoma”, GlobalNews.ca, May 2014)

Myth 8: Fracking is good for the economy

Facts: The growth of fracking has been financed by debt, not profits: speculators are gambling on a return.

In the meantime, the reality for people who own homes close to actual or proposed fracking sites in the UK is that house values have plummeted dramatically. The value of one woman’s house in Lancashire fell by 70% as a result of a nearby proposed fracking site. When the government was called upon to publish its own report into the likely effect of fracking on house prices and rural communities, it blanked out all of the key predictions.

Sources:
http://tinyurl.com/kp3dbek
(“Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale”, Bloomberg, September 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/lyjzp9d
(“Fracking threat wiped £535,000 off my home’s value”, Daily Mail, August 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/ps99xwj
(“The fracking cover-up: Defra censors key report 63 times in 13 pages”, Daily Mail, August 2014)

And a last-minute addition: on why fracking is a ponzi scheme: http://tinyurl.com/olhwbe3
(“Shale Fracking is a “Ponzi Scheme””, GlobalResearch.ca, September 2014)

And here’s a list of just some of the people and animals harmed so far by fracking:
– http://tinyurl.com/6oz29yq
(“Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Dedicated citizens fighting to protect our most valuable resources”, September 2014)

List of the harmed

i Sep 21st No Comments by

This doesn’t make for pretty reading, but I’ve just stumbled on to a citizen page of a “list of the individuals and families that have been harmed by fracking (or fracked gas and oil production) in the US.”

The page is here: http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/