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I will edit and organise this page with useful information about fracking as I receive your feed back. Elizabeth (07543281999,,



Supporters of fracking claim that one reason to go down the shale gas route is that its carbon footprint is smaller than that of coal or oil and that this will help in climate change reduction. Therefore, until renewable energy sources can provide energy that is cheap and plentiful, shale gas is the way to go.

Carbon footprint is a handy term, but can be easily mistaken as referring to release only of carbon dioxide. Pro‐frackers have often used this argument. However, methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Although shorter lasting in its effect, it is some 72 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 17

on a 20‐year timescale, and 25 times as potent on a century timescale.
A report for the EU published in September 2012 (by UK firm AEA Technology plc) focussed on the climate change implications of shale gas.
The summary said that a number of studies had been carried out on shale gas GHG emissions since 2010, with a wide variety of results. Nevertheless the report concluded that the majority view was that emissions were higher than conventional gas, but lower than coal. The summary describes the deficiencies of the reports examined and goes on to draw the conclusion that electricity generated from shale gas produces GHG gases around 4% to 8% higher than conventional piped gas from within Europe, and that the extra arose primarily in the well completion phase with methane returning to the surface as waste, along with fracking fluid.
This report also confirms that data is simply not available on some of the less quantifiable aspects of methane release. These include unplanned fugitive emissions, and deliberate burning off of waste methane ‐ flaring ‐ during the well drilling and fracking process.
This is not insignificant ‐ the Financial Times has reported that US oil companies are burning off enough gas (as waste product) to power all the homes in Washington and Chicago. In North Dakota, the flared gas rose by about 50% in 2011. Other states show similar surges with Texas issuing 1,963 permits to flare in 2012, against 306 in 2010. The World Bank estimated in October 2012 that gas flaring wastes $50 billion a year.

The flares burning from the shale fields are clearly visible from space. It is cheaper to burn the gas than contribute to the so‐called “energy security” of the US. The economics of the process override environmental ‐ and even political ‐ considerations.
US studies on shale gas contribution to climate change are mixed, as the EU report said. There was a sharp divide amongst the professors at Cornell University, when research led by Robert Howarth suggested that fracking wells leaked up to twice as much
methane as conventional gas wells. His results, despite the fact his paper had already been peer‐reviewed, were disputed in an attack in “Climatic Change” journal, led by his Cornell “colleague” Lawrence M. Cathles III. Howarth returned to the fray to contradict the assertions that his research was flawed and defended his findings.

In January 2013 columnist Andreas Spath of News24 summarised more recent data published in the Journal of Geophysical Research entitled “Hydrocarbon Emissions Characterization in the Colorado Front Range: A pilot study”. He reported that the authors found around 4% of all methane production in a Denver field was lost to the air. More data from wider Colorado and Utah suggested the leakage was up to 9%. These excluded any pipeline losses.

If it still remains unproven whether shale gas production is likely to bring positive or negative results for climate change compared with conventional natural gas production, the comparison with coal is clearer, and has been seized on by advocates of shale gas to promote it as a climate‐change‐friendly solution. It is claimed that shale gas has reduced US greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact the US policy on vehicle efficiency standards will have more effect than shale gas in reducing US GG production.
But the claim is wrong for a different reason. The main effect of shale gas in the US has only been to reduce US coal burning. It has had no effect on coal production. The US is simply exporting its surplus coal to the UK, Europe and Asia. US coal is still being burned, but not in the US. Shale gas has therefore on a global basis increased production of greenhouse gases, not reduced it.
The surplus US coal pushed down prices on world markets, and caused coal consumption in 2011 to reach its highest level for over 40 years.

The Guardian reported in October 2012 that UK coal consumption had risen by nearly a quarter in a year. Europe, China and India were also burning more coal. Cheap coal from the USA was blamed as the biggest factor in these rises. CNN reported similarly in early February 2013 how disruptive shale gas had become and how it was leading to perverse outcomes across the global energy system.
We can only hope this is a temporary state of affairs. But if in Europe regulation means there may be no future for this coal boom the US will still find markets for its coal elsewhere in the world.

In order to meet the UK targets for greenhouse gas reductions, DECC and the National Grid have developed alternative scenarios for the government to choose from. In DECC’s introduction to its 2050 Pathways document published in 2009‐2010, the then secretary of state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne said:

“We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. When we take into account the expected levels of population growth over the period, that means that each person in the UK will need to have a carbon footprint that is about one fifth the size of their current footprint”.

He also said “a successful shift to a low carbon economy requires a clear direction and early action”. And “Creating a low carbon economy will require the consent and participation of citizens”.

Sadly, since then, and with Huhne’s departure from the political scene, we have seen no resolve on the part of the UK government to provide such direction. Indeed the recent (December 2012) resumption of shale gas testing sends a single and contrary message, that the government will pursue an energy policy which will not reduce energy demand, but will break greenhouse gas pledges, by prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels.

At the same time as offering tax breaks for investment in fracking, the government was cutting subsidies to the renewable energy sector. In July 2012 the policy energy secretary Ed Davey announced a cut of 10% in subsidies for onshore wind farm development. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was said to have argued for a 25% cut. In return for a compromise agreement, Liberal Democrat Davey was said to have had his arm twisted to accept a new generation of gas power stations. In December the plan for up to 30 new gas power stations was announced by the Chancellor.

Widely reported was the outspoken reaction of David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, which is charged with charting the lowest cost, lowest risk path to a low carbon economy:

“This would not be economically sensible, and would entail unnecessary costs and price increases. Neither would it be compatible with meeting carbon budgets and the 2050 target. Early decarbonisation of the power sector should be plan A – and the dash for gas Plan Z.”
Ed Davey has always been less than enthusiastic about shale gas, at least in theory, but his actions have shown his lack of ability to stick to his principles. In December 2012 he gave the green light for Cuadrilla and others to resume fracking operations. Back in May he had argued that support for shale gas by the Conservatives would undermine energy generation from renewable sources.

This is at the heart of the problem, the big issue. Shale gas will delay the UK development of renewable energy sources such as on‐ and offshore wind, wave and solar power. Without these there is no hope whatsoever of Britain meeting its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets. Worldwide we are heading for climate change disaster.

It has been claimed that with Carbon Capture and Storage we can continue using fossil fuels. But there is little chance now of Britain moving ahead in the short term with developing CCS. In announcing his plan for 30 to 40 new gas power stations, the Chancellor George Osborne made no reference to it. For CCS it was an opportunity lost. The government has pulled the plug on CCS projects, or used delaying tactics, and it is unclear whether funding for these will ever come about. There is no chance without either renewable energy investment or CCS that the UK will meet carbon reduction targets by 2050, far less the 2030 targets. This is not only a UK problem. Worldwide there has not yet been delivered an electricity project with integrated CCS. If we need CCS, no‐one is willing to pay for it. It doesn’t make anyone rich. I am not advocating CCS. There is a serious environmental risk in pumping carbon dioxide underground at high pressure. It still supports fossil fuel development. But those who say we should continue developing fossil fuels undermine their own argument by not developing CCS. It is now looking unlikely that CCS will ever happen.

Osborne’s mind is fixed on the economy, not the environment. But he is wrong about the financial attraction of the dash for gas. Recent research from think tank Cambridge Economics argued that the UK economy would be £20bn a year better off by 2030 if investment were directed towards large‐scale offshore wind projects rather than new gas power stations. With an economic benefit as well as an environmental one, adopting a positive wind and other renewables energy strategy would be a win‐win situation. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the refusal to accept this is the result of a powerful oil and gas lobby.

The worst news about onshore shale gas is that it provides no long‐term solution to any perceived energy need. There may not be enough down there to last very long. In which case onshore shale is a short term dirty fix. The short answer to the question of how much shale gas there is under UK soil is that at the moment nobody knows. BGS originally quoted an estimate of UK reserves at 5.3 trillion cubic feet.

Shale “resources” means how much gas is underground. This is not the same as available reserves, referring to how much can actually be extracted. Shale doesn’t give up its gas easily, and the percentage that can be extracted may be only around 10%. The industry claims higher figures are possible, but this would only be the case with more intensive well drilling.
But assuming BGS was correct, then 5.3 trillion cubic feet would provide about a year’s gas supply for the UK.

In 2011 Cuadrilla came up with a new estimate of resource in the Bowland Shale of 200 trillion cubic feet. Assuming a very optimistic recovery rate of 20% this means about 40 trillion cu ft. Or about 11 years’ supply of gas. No‐one, it seems, knows how they calculated this figure.
More recently DECC and BGS have been promising to release new estimates. After a number of pre‐announcements followed by delays, in February 2013 we still don’t have the figures, although 300 trillion cu ft has been quoted. So we will have to wait and see what figure the next round of guesswork comes up with. However Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan has been trailing the expectation that the new BGS estimates will be in line with Cuadrilla’s own. Cynics point to the fact that the BGS is new to such estimating, only producing their first guess in 2008. Also they point to the fact that the government advisor is part‐funded by companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger.

But as yet, there has been no estimate made which suggests that shale gas ‐ which has been in the rocks for some 350 million years ‐ will generate electricity for more than a decade or two, or maybe for forty years if the rate of extraction is reduced. To squander a fuel like this just because it’s possible, when it is leading us further along the road to climate change disaster, doesn’t make sense. No wonder some of the opponents of fracking use words like ecocidal madness.

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