East Midlands shale gas: a great opportunity

I’m very pleased with the news that potentially commercial volumes of shale gas (natural gas extracted from shale deposits) have been identified around Melton Mowbray in the East Midlands region.    As the UKIP spokesman on Industry & Energy, I recall the dramatic impact that the discovery of shale gas has had in America, where the price of natural gas has dropped substantially, and the US is no longer dependent on imported gas.

Shale gas offers the prospect of a huge economic boost for the region.   Locally-sourced gas reserves could help bring down energy prices, ensure energy security, reduce the UK’s dependence on politically-risky sources like Russian gas, and could bring new jobs and investment into the region.  Unlike the wind turbines that are blighting our landscape, gas delivers low-cost, continuous and sustainable power:  For those worried about CO2 emissions or pollution, gas power has substantially lower emissions than coal in both cases.  And unlike wind, which requires massive adaptation of the grid, the infrastructure for natural gas distribution is already largely in place.

Concerns have been raised about environmental issues related to shale gas extraction.  Of course local residents are entitled to clear reassurance on the safety aspects, but companies in the business will be subject to strict licensing and regulation, and will be responsible for treating and purifying the extraction medium using long established and proven methods.

There have been horror stories circulated by green lobbyists, who seem to be opposed to all forms of energy extraction and generation, but in fact the large-scale extraction of shale gas in the USA has been remarkably successful.  Shale gas extraction requires a drilling rig to be put in place for a few weeks, but when drilling is complete the rig is removed and the remaining installation is unobtrusive.  The British Geological Survey, based in the region at Keyworth in Nottinghamshire, will be very much involved in setting standards for shale gas in the UK.

Britain faces a crisis of oil prices and energy security — just check the price of petrol.  Home-grown shale gas has the potential to be a major part of the solution.  It can be used in existing home appliances installed for North Sea gas.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry (whom I have met a number of times) seems fairly receptive to the idea, but adds that he doesn’t know how economically and environmentally viable it will be, and “At best it’s years away.  If it comes, we must be ready to take full advantage of it”.

But to quote the immortal line of Gaffer Gamgee, Sam Gamgee’s father in The Lord of the Rings, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”.  We need the government to take a less dilatory and much more pro-active approach to this huge opportunity, which can bring jobs, prosperity and investment to the East Midlands, and to the UK.  For energy costs, and energy security, and economic recovery, this could be our Get-Out-of-Jail card.

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32 Responses to East Midlands shale gas: a great opportunity

  1. Maureen Gannon says:

    Have we a British Firm that could do this otherwise I feel sure Dine wiv me Dave will find us a foreign buyer to sell another portion of England to..

    • Yes, although at present not involved in shale processing.

      The Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company Limited
      Company Number: SC000221
      Date of Incorporation: 4 January 1866
      Contact Details: 1 Wellheads Avenue, Dyce, Aberdeen, AB21 7PB
      Operating Details: Active (now a subsidiary of BP, see history)
      Other names (if known):
      Function of Company*: Other business activities (7487) previously shale oil refining (2320)
      Headquarters/Base of Operations Location: Addiewell, West Calder
      Area of Operation: Addiewell shale/oil works

    • Katy Dunne says:

      “In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.
      “Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing,” said Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study and research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health.
      The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment.
      The report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene but information on their toxicity is limited.
      “Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells,” the report said. “The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period.”
      That’s due to exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, the study said. Those effects could include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
      “We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away],” the report said. “Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios.”
      The report, which looked at those living about a half-mile from the wells, comes in response to the rapid expansion of natural gas development in rural Garfield County, in western Colorado.” –
      The Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only accredited school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed by the University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues, including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries.
      The above is one of many studies indicating the health problems caused by fracking.
      In the Marcellus Shale between 7-9 percent of wells between 2008-2010 have had a ‘major environmental violation’ each year. These statistics are from a report by the Mahattan Institute, which, incidentally has nothing to do with green lobbyists. Sulfuric compounds which the fracking process releases into the air severly aggrevate asthma and other respiratory problems. British tourism and farming could be severly effected, a study by Cornell University shows fracking has a history of poisoning both farm animals and people. Fracking is well known for causing earthquakes, and this is undisputed. The geology and substrata of Texas are nothing like the UK. In Balcombe, where Fracking is also a threat the aquifer and the frack zone are far closer to eachother than in Texas. And Texas is dry. Cuadrilla, the company have planning permission for exploration at Balcombe say that Frack fluid could potentially migrate 2000ft up a unidentified fault line. In Balcombe this would take it into the aquifer. You may wish to establish what the distances involved are in your area. If people truly love this land then learn to consume less, and commit to renewables. Fossil fuel will run out, sooner or later, and we will have to switch to renewables, so why not do it now, rather than poison ourselves procrastinating. We need fertile land which hasn’t been polluted if we want healthy, local food and farming economies in the future. As far back as 1987 the EPA in the US reported that fracking can pollute drinking water.

      • Mike Stallard says:

        “If people truly love this land then learn to consume less, and commit to renewables. Fossil fuel will run out, sooner or later, and we will have to switch to renewables, so why not do it now, rather than poison ourselves procrastinating. We need fertile land which hasn’t been polluted if we want healthy, local food and farming economies in the future. As far back as 1987 the EPA in the US reported that fracking can pollute drinking water.”

        I do not like the imperative here. I would prefer the first person plural – but I think we have been into this already.
        Fossil fuel will run out, the world will end and, no doubt the twelfth Imam will reappear from his occultation to judge the world. Meanwhile we in GB are sitting on billions (yup) of free fuel!
        We need fertile land. Like the Fens? Here every field – well almost every field – is taken up with biofuel wheat and yellow stuff. And it is one of the most fertile places in the world.
        Fracking can pollute drinking water. Windmills kill birds and frighten children. The North Sea is dangerous for people who work on windmills. “Safe” carbon extraction is dangerous if the carbon leaks out into the ocean, killing all small mammals. etc etc.

        Meanwhile, back in England…….

      • Generation Awake says:

        Thank you for setting the record straight, Katy. Mr Helmer seems to prefer to stick his head in the sand on this issue.

      • Mike Stallard says:

        Back to the healthy age of STEAM TRAINS! And bicycles!
        Or perhaps beck to the Middle Ages when you had to walk? (Dr Pachaury doesn’t like cows much).
        Or even, back to the stone age when people were healthy and had real muscles?

  2. Chris Inglis says:

    Trouble is that while shale gas could solve much of our energy problems but there’s too many people now with something to lose with wind farms on their land and the income that generates for them such as Push Boy Cameron’s father-in-lkaw

  3. Rozza says:

    Not sure that Hamfast Gamgee was talking about fracking when he said that, but you have at least sourced the quote. Any chance of sourcing the other facts in your article?

    And how will shale gas affect the price I pay at the pump?

    • Shale gas can only effect the price you pay at the pump by changing the way the country does business. In America, the “Pickens plan” established by T. Boone Pickens (who incidentally is heavily invested in wind power) seeks to transform the energy focus.
      First – all long-haul trucks should be run on compressed natural gas reducing oil consumption by about 35% (electricity generation converts to natural gas and away from coal). More oil refining then can go toward producing petrol for the auto.

      • However it isn’t just pure methane that is extracted from a Shale Strata processing works, and all sorts of fractions come out, including ethane, propane, butane, hexane, heptane, and others. As many products can be produced as in an ordinary crude oil refinery, including sulphuric acid, paints, dyes, long chain polymer plastics, and including diesel, pertol, and kerosene.

        See the website of the Scottish Shale Museum

        UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry should see it too

    • rfhmep says:

      I think other comments answer most of your points! I’ve sourced the BBC East Midlands report. The rest is generally well known and accepted (though the green zealots still try to peddle scare stories). We can’t predict prices. But if shale gas proves to be available in volume in the UK, it will certainly moderate energy prices, and cars can be adapted to natural gas.

  4. Charles Wardrop says:

    Wonderful news! We’re it in wartime, even the Liberals and Greens and Tories might agree to speed up access. The national debts being so vast represent the equivalent of war, in terms of national (financial) survival. What’s holding these politicos back? Are they afraid of the terrible “Guardianistas” or the wretched, in political terms, BBC?

  5. I am a Texas Oil and Gas attorney and am intimately acquainted with the argument of the environmental impact of oil and gas hydro-fracturing to extract natural gas from shale source rock. The loudest complaint from the environmental crowd is the pollution of the water table.
    The Barnett Shale, located 2 miles below Fort Worth, Texas, is where the shale production started in the late 1990’s. In this area, the water table is located at approximately 300 feet below ground. Translated – there are 9,700 feet between the natural gas and the water table. This space is not void…there are literally one hundred different strata of rock between these two geologic areas and there has NEVER been one instance of natural gas from the Barnett Shale polluting the groundwater.

    The University of Texas in Austin and an independent panel have both come to the same conclusion and the environmentalists must find some other burr to credibly put under their saddle.

    Cliff Williams

    • Mike Stallard says:

      My son in law is in oil too and he totally agrees with this post. He told me that shale oil fracking is being done by his company all the time and so far there are no difficulties.

  6. Jon says:

    Aside from the over-egging on the ease of extraction and the downplaying of the risks (look at the gov and BGS reports on the earthquakes in Lancashire, and the methane entering water supplies in numerous parts of the US including NY – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/09/shale-gas-methane-drinking-water) – what about the concerns about the chemicals polluting aquifers and the massive water resources needed when water is already scarce.

    To quote the EAEM (Energy and Environmental Management) “Substantial amounts of water are required. Evidence given by the Tyndall Centre to the Energy and Climate Change Committee suggests that “to sustain production levels [of shale gas] equivalent to 10% of UK gas consumption in 2008 would require around 2,500-3,000 horizontal wells spread over some 140-400km2 and some 27 to 113 million tonnes of water”. ” http://www.eaem.co.uk/news/shale-gas-find-lancashire-may-never-be-exploited

    In terms of climate change – this peer-reviewed study from Cornell suggest that ” Compared to
    coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.”

    Click to access Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf

    The Co-operative commissioned a report from the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre on Shale Gas:

    “Key conclusions: general
    Evidence from the US suggests shale gas extraction brings a significant risk of ground and surface water contamination and until the evidence base is developed a precautionary approach to development in the UK and Europe is the only responsible action. The depth of shale gas extraction gives rise to major challenges in identifying categorically pathways of contamination of groundwater by
    chemicals used in the extraction process. An analysis of these substances suggests that many have toxic, carcinogenic or other hazardous properties. There is considerable anecdotal evidence from the US that contamination of both ground and surface water has occurred in a range of cases. This has prompted the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to launch a research programme to
    improve understanding of this risk (timetabled to provide initial results towards the end of 2012).” http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/coop_shale_gas_report_final_200111.pdf

    So, I hope you’ll understand why I’ll be opposing this development in Melton, and working on reducing energy demand;


    • It would be great if you actually had some clue as to what you are talking about, instead of simply being a gainsayer and doom-merchant though. Simply being a pointless Luddite does nothing to improve the economy of the country, and create jobs in manufacturing and export. We cannot preserve the land in aspic, and have employment in genuine manufacturing at the same time. Remember that all shale doesn’t need to be exploited by “fracking” and that millions of tonnes of shale has been mined in the past, just like coal is in the present day, both by opencast and deep mining.

      • Jon says:

        It’s nice of you to judge me in a number of ways, without trying to engage in debate. Perhaps you could have started by directly responding to the points I made.

        Open cast mining also tends to have a number of adverse effects. I’m not saying energy is risk-free. rather than being a Luddite, I’m working with people who are examining large scale developments that have some energy production built on, and their own Smart-Grid technology for load balancing and voltage optimisation.

        Shale Gas is being positioned here as a better alternative to Wind Turbines, including on environmental basis. I cannot see how that is possible on a wide range of criteria.
        I think we have to make some choices and accept a changing landscape, I’m not a NIMBY or BANANA, and ironically enough I work to increase and support employment. I’d be happy to see AD plants, Miscanthus bio-mass CHPs, tidal, geothermal, Nuclear (using the right generation technology and scale, if we cannot balance the grid, perhaps small Thorium reactors). Before that, I want us to reduce energy profligacy, that’s just common sense.

        Whether it be through Fracking, or from mining, I don’t think it’s right for the area, or the choice we should be going for.

  7. rfhmep says:

    Dear Cliff, Comments from the USA are always very welcome, especially when they come from someone with your technical perspective. Many thanks for your endorsement.

    • Thank you. I want to see a strong and free United Kingdom. I follow your posts and the energy industry and think that energy independence, for both our countries, is possible. The signs are abundant that natural gas from shale could be the key. Today the price of natural gas is very low, just over $2.00 per MMBTU, largely due to shale gas abundance. We should reduce imported oil dependence in favor our nationally produced gas which will keep money in our respective countries and give us a valuable export.

  8. Yes Shale was extracted by mining all over West Lothian at many sites.
    Here is a short Motorcycle tour of Philpstoun Bing (waste heap) near Linlithgow …..

  9. Maureen Gannon says:

    Parrafin this is not a provocative question but a hope to learn ,
    Will nature take its course and grow as it appears to already doing so, the reason I ask if so surely that is better than the money guzzling windfarms that are so ugly and costly? I personally have always thought this country being an island why a wave system has not been the maiin option.

    • Briefly, yes “nature” will gradually encompass the “shale bing”, if left to it’s own devices. The habitat is not unlike the mountain scree, seen in many upland areas throughout the UK, and gives an opportunity for colonisation by specialist plants and other organisms, like lizards, slow-worms, and other increasingly rare reptiles, to give one example. The rounded contours of the blaes heap, seen from afar look like nothing more or less than a natural hill range, whereas the stark vertical, out of scale artificial geometry of the windfarm contrasts with the natual realm in such a way as to offend the eye, and indeed the sensibilities. Whilst I might wish to agree with your remarks about wave or tidal power, I am not an expert in that field, but simply advocating here a strong case for shale extraction and surface processing, as an adjunct or even an alternative to underground strata fracking.

      • Maureen Gannon says:

        Thank you so much, I cannot see any argument against it then, your reple was very informative thank you,

  10. Mike Stallard says:

    I am afraid that Jon is right. “So, I hope you’ll understand why I’ll be opposing this development in Melton, and working on reducing energy demand;”
    There are risks attached to any form of carbon usage.I remember the time when Peterborough, where I was a boy, was so thick with black greasy grime that I used to find my knees and elbows were always coal black.
    This must, however, get personal in order to answer his carefully researched points.
    I hope that Jon is cutting back on the following: his own personal heating. His own personal use of electricity/ gas for cooking, bathing and heating his water. His own personal use of the car, buses and trains (diesel oil).
    I hope also, that in view of his take on global warming he does not use any of the above and also that he has foregone air travel and travel by sea, both of which depend on carbon emissions in vast quantities.
    When the debate on education was going on under the last government, it was shocking how many people spoke up for Comprehensive Education while actually sending their own children to free, independent, and very expensive schools.
    I do hope that Jon’s own way of life is as simple as it sounds.

    • Jon says:

      Hi Mike,

      It’s funny how I have to be saintlier than saintly, rather than on the right path and concerned (about like saying, do you think charity is good, so why aren’t you giving all your money to charity?).

      I have not flown for years, I don’t own a car (in a rural area), I use minimal gas and electric (LED bulbs in some of my lights, electric induction hobs), and generally use a bike for most of my travelling.

      Does that change whether my points are correct?

  11. Mike Stallard says:

    No it does not.
    But it does put you in a tiny minority in a democratic country.

    • Jon says:

      I’m not sure what your point to me is?
      Surely it is better, with widespread fuel-poverty, and reliance on fuel-imports, that we reduce energy demand, or perhaps more accurately, wastage, first? And decentralising energy makes sense.

      I’m not against energy production, and I am fully aware of the load-balancing implications of intermittent generation sources on a centralised distribution grid. I can foresee natural gas being used for sometime to provide, along with the gravity-hydro reserves, top-up capacity in the grid.

      I just don’t think the argument for exploiting shale in this region stacks up.

      • @Jon
        You stated ……..
        “I just don’t think the argument for exploiting shale in this region stacks up.”
        That’s it in a nutshell really isn’t it? You make this pathetic plea, knowing practically nothing at all about the methods, or actual risks of shale production. We are supposed to pay some heed to your notional thoughts on these matters. You make some references to shills who have made some studies about shale, yet ignore the fact that shale was, for well over 100 years in Scotland, and still is used to produce all kinds of useful products. Indeed Paraffin Young’s company was principally responsible for saving the Whales from extinction, among the many other benefits. Even the waste is useful, and almost the entire Scottish motorway network, as well as many other roads, paths, car parks, and even all weather sports pitches have been constructed from the “red blaes” which is the final, and indeed non-toxic end product of surface shale extraction and refinining.

      • Jon says:

        @Paraffin Young

        Instead of trying to belittle people whom you believe hold a contrary view to yours, why don’t you try to share your knowledge, provide some links and debate reasonably? Why the hostility?

        What is a pathetic plea? You didn’t have to pay any heed to my thoughts, you chose to.

        I gather, you are assuming that shale production in this area might be from surface retorting, rather than in-situ from hydraulic fracturing?

        It’s quite unlikely to pass planing for open pit mining for extraction around here when many are trying to oppose windfarms by declaring more areas as AONB.

        Would the other choice be Room and Pillar mining? Would that make it harder, energy and money wise, to recover deposits efficiently as you have invest in more infrastructure and miss more deposits? Happy to be corrected on this.

        With surface retorting, both vertical and horizontal, high temps are needed, which requires a lot of energy – what’s the energy ratio of extraction versus input?

        Is GCR the only way to avoid large-scale water usage at a time of water stress?

  12. NJK says:

    Hi all,

    I wanted to learn a little bit more about the plans for shale gas extraction in the East Midlands, for no greater reason than I read about it recently have a few minutes spare. I Googled Shale gas East Midlands and clicked on this blog. After just finishing reading through the entire thread it seems to me that ‘Jon’ is easily the most well informed of all the contributors and also appears to not have any vested interests (unlike the contributor from America).

    More than anything else, however, I am staggered, genuinely staggered, by the vitriol directed at Jon, who was trying to put his points across in a reasoned, and importantly, referenced fashion (unlike anyone else in the post, I think), without making any of the arguments personal, and beligerent like many of the respondents to his posts. For someone like me, who is relatively uninformed about the extraction of shale gas and it’s potential advantages and disadvantages, who has come online to try and learn a little bit, and who then comes across this thread, there is one side that I am far more likely to take and that is the referenced, non-vitriolic and non-personal one.

    Please everyone try and learn to be civil to eachother. Just beacuase you are online doesn’t mean that you should abandon the common coutesies that you were hopefully taught when you were younger.

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