Shale gas: a huge opportunity for Britain

In the small town of Mansfield PA, on the great Marcellus shale field

In the small town of Mansfield PA, on the great Marcellus shale field

Recently a number of people have written to UKIP raising concerns about shale gas.  I have replied in the following terms:

Thank you for writing to us about shale gas.  I can well understand your concerns, given the torrent of negative stories from “green” groups.  You may like to know that you are helping to fund these groups, via the European Commission.  Many commentators also believe that Russia has a hand in promoting anti-shale-gas campaigns – they are fearful of losing Gazprom’s lucrative export markets.

But there is another side to the story.  As Energy Spokesman for UKIP, I have taken the trouble to go to the USA and look at shale gas first hand, in Pennsylvania and in Texas.  In the small town of Mansfield PA, on the great Marcellus shale field, I found local residents delighted by the economic resurgence, based on the new shale industry, in their previously declining town.  New businesses, new shops and restaurants and hotels, and house prices boosted by increased demand.

What I did not find was people complaining about pollution, or earth tremors, or any other problems.  Admittedly during the drilling phase – several months – a new shale well means a football-pitch-sized area of industrial activity.  But when drilling is complete, the landscape is reinstated, and the remaining well which goes on producing for two or three decades is no more intrusive than a garden shed – far less intrusive and disturbing than a wind farm.

More generally, America is enjoying an industrial renaissance based on shale gas.  Businesses that were off-shored to Asia are coming home.  There are more jobs, more prosperity, more energy security, industry is more competitive on the back of lower energy prices, the balance of payments is improved.  It would be utterly irresponsible for politicians to ignore this huge opportunity.

These are vast benefits, and they stand in stark contrast to Europe, where energy prices are far too high, jobs and investment are moving abroad, and we depend on insecure energy sources like Russia.

We hear about methane in tap water.  But the USA experienced methane in tap water long before fracking.  It comes from the natural decay of plant material in the soil.  There has never been a case of fracking per se leading to pollution.  There have been a few cases of pollution from cracked piping.  But occasional minor issues occur in any energy industry.  Seismic events resulting from fracking are very small – less than those associated with coal mining, for example.

Indeed shale gas is much cleaner, safer and less intrusive than coal mining.  Across Britain, communities regret the loss of the coal mines.  They should be delighted to have a new technology that offers similar economic benefits, without requiring hundreds of men to spend decades underground acquiring respiratory diseases.  Gas also burns cleaner than coal.

If we had seen the same sort of protests against the nascent coal industry in the eighteenth century that we see today against shale gas, the Industrial Revolution might never have happened.

Some people say we need more time to see evidence of safety – but they’ve been fracking in the USA for fifty years with no major problems.  We’ve even had fracking sites in the UK for a couple of decades, and they were so problem-free that local people hardly knew they were there.

The industry has made great strides in improving well integrity, reducing water use and recycling more water, and reducing the use of chemicals in fracking fluid.  Fracking fluid now consists of water, sand, detergent, and other perfectly safe chemicals which can typically be found around the home in toiletries and cleaning products.  The concerns raised by protesters really relate to an earlier period.

For more technical background on safety questions related to shale gas, please visit

Please do stand back and take a new look at the opportunity represented by shale gas.  Don’t be taken in by the black propaganda of “green” campaigners.  These people aren’t “Friends of the Earth” – they’re enemies of the people.

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43 Responses to Shale gas: a huge opportunity for Britain

  1. tapestry says:

    If this were all true then why are all fracking companies in the US going tits up?

    • catweazle666 says:

      “All” fracking companies aren’t doing anything of the kind.

      Some are suspending operations until the oil and gas prices stabilise.

      Stop making stuff up.

    • PeterKos says:

      Tapey: Me thinks you drink too much cool-aid. Over 1,000,000 fracked wells in the USA, over 100,000 fracked wells in Canada and over the last 50 or so years. There has not been one documented case investigated that proves any ground water anywhere was ever polluted.

      If you would personally go on site to where a frack well is being drilled and observe exactly how it is done and ask some serious questions, you just might get an eye opener. But then again, if you are a water mellon, truth and evidence is not going to convince you.

      The only real dangerous chemical used in any quantity that you should be afraid of in the fracking process is di-hydrogen monoxide. As I understand it, in the right conditions it can cause burns and again, if you inhale it directly you can die. Other than that, fracking in 50 years or so has never been a problem anywhere if the rules are followed.

    • PeterKos says:

      Could you name them please.

  2. tapestry says:

    Why is California no longer able to pump ground water during the drought? Why is Texas importing drinking water, and Colorado? Fracking is an environmental and economic catastrophe. Where are The Great Lakes disappearing to? Fracking water. The story of fracking is more about fresh water and the access of people to water, than it is about gas. It’s about control. Once you have to buy in water, you’re powerless, totally in the hands of foreign suppliers. That’s exactly what Roger Helmer, supposed patriot is advocating for Britain. Save our water. Stop fracking. Drill casings leak. Fact. They leak into aquifers. It all looks lovely on the surface but deep down where the most valuable commodity on earth is stored, there’s catastrophe happening. That commodity is not gold like bankers like to think. The most valuable commodity on earth by far is fresh water. Stop its destruction now. Stop brainless frackers and their junkets for jovial uninfomed MEPs now.

    • catweazle666 says:

      More alarmist drivel.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      In America, more water is used on golf courses to keep the greens green than is used in the shale industry. Lots of industries use considerable amounts of water (e.g. the brewing industry). Do you want to put a stop to beer?

    • PeterKos says:

      California is mostly desert, and over many, many years ground water was pumped to irrigate the huge vegetable and other types of farming done in this desert. Fracking did not create this problem.

      When fracking is done, lots of water is used (recycled) and then it is recaptured and reused and so forth.

      You do need to do some true investigations rather than shooting from the LIP.

  3. Graham Livings says:

    Roger

    When last summer traversing The Fosseway & Slad Valley enroute to Tim Congdon’s BBQ in support of UKIP Forest of Dean you commented on what an extraordinary landscape you had witnessed. On a question from the writer on UKIP ‘policy’ supporting ‘Fracking’ your response was to hang it on the ‘coalition’ government..

    UKIP Wells constituency successfully had a resolution carried at a prior national conference resisting the relaxation in the ‘planning’ amelioration enunciated in the previous budget. (small print!)

    As a former UKIP PPC & Wells constituency chairman UKIP policy is fundamentally flawed:; the incumbent LD member for Wells Tessa Munt MP to be congratulated on resigning her parliamentary ‘bagman’ to Vince Cable MP to support the overwhelming wish across Somerset to oppose ‘fracking’…

    • Martin Reed says:

      Does Somerset oppose all industrial activities or only those with a low environmental impact such as fracking?

      Does Somerset oppose viable and inexpensive energy from shale gas and prefer no-costly intermittent (unreliable) energy from wind?

      Does Somerset reject industries that have a virtually unblemished accident free record?

      Does Somerset reject a drilling technology used for more than 1.1 million wells without any significant evidence aquifer contamination?

      Does Somerset live in the real world or the alarmist fantasy simulation?

      Would Somerset prefer to exist in the Stone Age or the 21st century?

      • Martin Reed says:

        Correction:

        Does Somerset oppose viable and inexpensive energy from shale gas and prefer costly intermittent (unreliable) energy from wind?

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        It really is an ecological balance, and reliability should count highly against the useless wind turbines and variable output solar farms. Not one would have been invested in had it not been for massive subsidies paid out of our depleted pockets.

        It is being rumoured that funds originating in Russia fund anti fracking activities via an offshore account.

  4. Thomas Fox says:

    The advantage for fracking in Blackpool Fylde is the the water table is not used for drinking also a short run at shallow depth out to the sea . Tap water is mostly from the Lake District National Park which is protected from contamination ?

  5. Ex-expat Colin says:

    (H/T Bishop Hill today)

    1. BBC on water requirements for shale gas operations:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14432401

    The first [concern about fracking is that it] uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.

    2. The Royal Society on water requirements for shale gas operations: https://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/

    Estimates indicate that the amount needed to operate a hydraulically fractured shale gas well for a decade may be equivalent to the amount needed to water a golf course for a month; the amount needed to run a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant for 12 hours; and the amount lost to leaks in United Utilities’ region in north west England every hour (Moore 2012).

    3. Scottish Government expert panel on water requirements for shale gas operations:
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00456579.pdf

    Truck movements could be minimised where water supply can be obtained from the public water mains, or by a licensed abstraction from a nearby waterbody.

    LOL

  6. georgyporgie says:

    Very concisely written Roger and I agree wholeheartedly !!!

  7. Ex-expat Colin says:

    (H/T Bishop Hill today)

    1. BBC on water requirements for shale gas operations:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14432401

    The first [concern about fracking is that it] uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.

    2. The Royal Society on water requirements for shale gas operations:

    Estimates indicate that the amount needed to operate a hydraulically fractured shale gas well for a decade may be equivalent to the amount needed to water a golf course for a month; the amount needed to run a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant for 12 hours; and the amount lost to leaks in United Utilities’ region in north west England every hour (Moore 2012).

    3. Scottish Government expert panel on water requirements for shale gas operations:

    Truck movements could be minimised where water supply can be obtained from the public water mains, or by a licensed abstraction from a nearby water body.

    note:
    This site allows only one link/post (URL) but all the links are on today’s Bishop Hill site.

    LOL

  8. Maureen Gannon says:

    Fracking has been in Dorset for 30 odd years obviously the greens have not heard of it , there has been nothing untoward happened.

    • catweazle666 says:

      Since the 1970s over 200 wells have been fracked in the UK.

      The only reason the Watermelons (Green on the outside, Red on the Inside) have got their kinckers in a twist recently is that it has entirely destroyed their beloved “Peak Oil” alarmist fantasy, and so the anti-capitalists have had one of the major pillars kicked out from under their moronic plans to return us to the Stone Age.

    • catalanbrian says:

      The fracking in Dorset at Wytch Farm where some 200 wells have been drilled is for oil, not coalbed methane gas. The two are not in any way comparable. It is worth mentioning that fracking for coalbed methane requires many well pads as the sideways directional drilling is only for distances of some 400 metres and there thus will be many pads across the landscape which are approximately 800 metres apart, so,Mr Helmer is misleading people in playing down the impact on the environment. And that is ignoring all the pipelines necessary to transport the gas, which will undoubtedly have an additional substantial impact.

      It is also worth pointing out that a recent report has suggested that the American Shale revolution is likely to peak in 2020 with substantial declines thereafter. Not such a panacea for our energy problems then. See here

      http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/How-Long-Can-The-Shale-Revolution-Last.html

      • catweazle666 says:

        Total uninformed nonsense from start to finish.

        Hydraulic fracturing technique is the same whether it is applied to oil or gas wells,

        Coal bed methane is entirely different to shale gas as it is applied soley to coal seams as opposed to shale strata (the clue’s in the name!), and uses entirely different extraction techniques.

        As for the shale revolution peaking in 2020 – in your dreams!

        Just another piece of alarmist claptrap from the “Peak Oil” brigade.

      • catweazle666 says:

        Also, the 200 wells that have been fracked in the UK are not by any stretch of imagination all at Wytch farm. Approximately 10% of onshore wells in the UK have in fact been fracked.

        You really haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, you’re purely regurgitating alarmist propaganda from crackpot “Green” sites that have no intention to inform, purely to disrupt..

  9. Jane Davies says:

    Does the UK still have near drought conditions during the summer months? If so will the fracking stop to conserve water supplies? Two earthquakes this week not caused by fracking of course.

    I’m a lot nearer to the USA than you guys and I’m not hearing that everything is wonderful in the areas where fracking is going on.
    http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/23/fracking-wastewater-spill-north-dakota/

    Roger has a good point “These are vast benefits, and they stand in stark contrast to Europe, where energy prices are far too high, jobs and investment are moving abroad, and we depend on insecure energy sources like Russia.” Does anyone really believe energy prices will come down?

    But the picture you paint is because you are in favour of fracking, it’s the new gold rush and the government are now getting the go ahead to drill under peoples homes without needing permission to do so….not at all happy about that.

    • catweazle666 says:

      “Does the UK still have near drought conditions during the summer months?”

      Only in the South-West.

      In the areas that are being considered for fracking, there are huge quantities of water.

      Note also that the fracking operation only takes place during the initialisation of the wells, and is not continuous.

    • Flyinthesky says:

      I tend to look at it from a simplistic perspective, The choices on offer, Continuance of our lifestyle and wellbeing or mudhut, candle and bicycle. Worth a little risk I would think.

  10. catweazle666 says:

    We hear about methane in tap water. But the USA experienced methane in tap water long before fracking.

    So does – the UK, and always has.

    Most/all utilities that use water from underground sources have methane removal facilities, especially those that are drawing supplies from any aquifers sitting above coal seams.

    To illustrate this, it is worth to the Abbeystead disaster which occurred on the evening of 23 May 1984 and resulted in 16 deaths of the attendees at a public presentation resulted from improper purging of methane from the system before the presentation took place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbeystead_disaster

    It is worth pointing out too that another of the alarmists’ concerns – that of radioactive contamination – is due to a gas that is routinely removed from many underground water supplies, radon. This is found in all areas where there are deposits of radioactive minerals due to the decay of radium and thorium, areas which which covers much of the UK, and so is a well-known matter.

    http://www.ukradon.org/information/ukmaps

    Once again, it is routinely removed by all utility companies that use water extracted from underground.

    As to assessment of risk, this is what the enquiry jointly conducted by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering has to say on the subject.

    The health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (often termed ‘fracking’) as a means to extract shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation. Hydraulic fracturing is an established technology that has been used in the oil and gas industries for many decades. The UK has 60 years’ experience of regulating onshore and offshore oil and gas industries.

    http://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/shale-gas-extraction-in-the-uk

  11. Ian Terry says:

    Brilliant entry Roger. I can remember when the “then greens” were up in arms over the Canvey to Leeds pipeline and that was all underground. They have to have something to grizzle about.
    Up here in Scotland the snow is snowing, the wind is blowing and the turbines ain’t turning. What with the moratorium up here on shale gas, Grangemouth owners wanting it to survive, nuclear subs being relocated to Wales how many jobs is that going to cost Queen Nick? As previous entries have stated there is nothing new in all of this. If the land and property owners got a payment direct to their account then nearly all this anti crap would go away. Who drives all the on shore turbines? Land owners!!
    Lord Lawsons GWPF latest edition about fracking is great, it highlights the billions wasted on the whole green energy scam. Are you one of his advisors Roger?!!!

  12. Francis says:

    Roger, I have corresponded directly with you over this issue before. You were taken on a guided tour at a perfect location. There are many serious problems caused to the environment and health issues with the local residents and farm animals in the US as a direct and indirect result of fracking. The evidence is mounting daily and is overwhelming. Yet you continue to ignore the media on these issues. Fracking for oil is not viable, what is viable in the US is fracked gas. Milions of gallons of water are mixed with toxic chemicals and then pumped into the ground at high pressure. It forces open small pockets of gas (or oil) and this is pushed to the surface. What do you think happens to that water after it is used? It remains in the water table and finds its way (through the cracks) into the surrounding areas. Eventually this toxic cocktail ends up creating widescale pollution. This is why the US EPA is now finally investigating these issues and why several states have banned fracking.

    Furthermore the geology in the UK is very different and test drilling has so far not produced any indications that we would receive the same output as experienced in the US. Therefore the viablity in this country is questionable anyway. That said, millions of pounds have and will be invested in this enterprise that receives government support in tax breaks, incentives and even changes in the law coming through to facilitate drilling under our houses without our permission.

    I am a paid up member of UKIP, I spent several evenings walking around Bromley delivering leaflets during the elections. I spent two full days in Rochester delivering leaflets all over the constituancy to support Mark Reckless. I joined UKIP because I believed it was a party for change. A party that was in touch with the people and that listened to their concerns.

    I attended the very first meeting at Balcome in Sussex that was called by the locals when it was announced that a fracking well (or wells) would be put in their neighbourhood. The people that attended that meeting were not New Age, or similar. These were normal families very concerned about the health and environmental issues that they had heard and read about. They were articulate and well prepared. They were angry too and the resulting few weeks saw civil unrest never before known in this quite leafy backwater. The people rose up and they prevailed.

    These were the very same type of people as us fed up with not having a voice, fed up with the usual politics and lack of representation and now ready for a change. The same type that would join UKIP in their droves and be useful and active members too. However because of your stubborn continued support of this practise called fracking you have forced them to join the ‘Greens’ as the only party standing against it. They now make up the 7% voting against UKIP. This Roger is a grave mistake.

    I am not suggesting you embrace global warming theories, or any other green proposals. What I am suggesting is that you listen to the people rather than pushing your narrow point of view.

    Thank you.

    • catweazle666 says:

      More disingenuous – meendacious even – alarmist propaganda.

      “Furthermore the geology in the UK is very different and test drilling has so far not produced any indications “

      First, the Bowland Shale is indeed different than the beds in the USA, it is considerably thicker. Also, the Royal Geological society study confirms estimatees that there are economically viable resources.

      Second, it is not surprising that test drilling has not produced any indications yet, you and your anti-fracking mobs have effectively prevented any test holes from being drilled.

      “The people that attended that meeting were not New Age, or similar.”

      A quick google of images of the Balcombe anti-fracking demonstration rather belies that statement.

    • Ian Terry says:

      Francis. Until they actually sink one in the designated area then no one will ever know what the outcome either way is going to be. Catweazle is correct that all areas have different geology make up. In light of the fact that this procedure has been used for years surely must mean something.

      The residents and greens on the picket lines have never risen up about the effect of turbine bases, effect on bats and eagles, damage to water courses, noise, flicker and the effect on property prices wherever turbines are erected. No mention of the millions in fuel debt and poverty and the industries having to relocate due to high enrgy prices.

      It is all about a perception on what is good or bad for the country, not saving the world.
      It is also when you vote for party it is not just one aspect you have to accept all its policies, some of the green policies scare the SH one T out of me.

    • PeterKos says:

      Francis: You don’t have a clue about fracking. All you have is propaganda that will not pass the BS test. You need to go on site and ask some serious question and if you perchance can have an open mind, then and maybe only then you could think before you shoot from the LIP.

  13. Richard111 says:

    Funny people the ‘greenies’. They firmly believe gas underground can come up but are quite happy to pump CO2 gas under the ground and expect it to stay there.

  14. Dave Swindon says:

    you can’t claim that we would see the same economic benefits of fracking as the USA. Of course some people are happy with it over there – they have mineral rights to their land and we do not.

    No ‘check in the mail’ from the drillers for UK land owners as the government has changed trespass laws to allow fracking under our property and we have no mineral rights either.

    The environmental risks extend to the transportation and storage of contaminated water once removed from the drill site. Some of which will end up being transported on ships.

    This is not a Green Party left v right watermelon issue. There are many concerned Ukip and conservative voters that oppose fracking without further investigation, assurances and associated legislation.

    Rember deep water horizon anyone? They said that was perfectly safe too.

    • catweazle666 says:

      “you can’t claim that we would see the same economic benefits of fracking as the USA.”

      Why?

      “The environmental risks extend to the transportation and storage of contaminated water once removed from the drill site.”

      Rubbish.

  15. Graham Livings says:

    Roger

    Why was my prior deposition expunged? You asserted at Tim Congdon’s BBQ last summer on traversing The Fosseway and Slad Valley the unique English ‘landscape’ and their were no votes in ‘fracking’.

    As a former UKIP PPC and Wells constituency chairman the incumbent LD MP for Wells, Tessa Munt’s ‘principled’ opposition to ‘fracking’ needs to be emulated by UKIP and its ‘flawed’ policy and adoption at conference of UKIP Wells resolution carried.

  16. Pingback: Fracking. 40 million people in Britain will be living within a mile of a gas well. |

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