Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shale Gas. What's the potential?

I am a DECC sceptic. Since I've been an MP, my confidence in the Dep't of Energy and Climate Change has collapsed. I no longer believe a word that emanates from anyone with any connection with DECC. And I do not think this will change until the whole wretched department is abolished. Until today, I thought I was a lone outrider in this opinion. But Peter Lilley almost matches my disillusionment in today's Telegraph - and he's a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee!

Peter has based his article around the attitude of DECC to shale gas. The shale gas debate took off after what happened in the US following development of huge supplies, and then the discovery of massive reserves of the stuff in N E England. Inevitably, anyone interested in the 'energy' question began asking questions about whether the same sort of price fall could happen in the UK - or at least a significant reduction in dependency on gas imports. All I've heard from DECC is discouraging noises, playing down any possibility of significant benefit. Leaves people like me, who have no confidence in anything DECC says without much idea of what the true position is. At least Peter Lilley is challenging the cosy consensus. I'll add a few quotes from his article;

" Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary was so upset by the British Geological Survey's new estimates, which show there may be 250 times as much shale gas as previously thought, that he told them to go and redo their figures. That means a delay of several months - on top of the 18 month moratorium previously imposed on drilling."  Mr Lilley describes this as reprehensible.  He suggests that anyone involved with DECC is desperate for shale gas to be a failure.  Certainly looks that way.

Speaking of all witnesses called by the Energy and Climate Change Committee he said "They assured us that previous reserve estimates were too high, that little of it would be recoverable, that the cost of extraction would be far higher than in the US and that planning problems would prevent its development" If any of this is true, why should they be bothered. It just would not happen. But of course the reality is that probably none of its true.

"Fracking is a tried and tested technology which has been used since the late Forties. Hydraulic fracturing simply involves pumping water under great pressure into shale beds several kilometres underground until tiny fissures open up...so that the gas can flow out. Over 100,000 wells have been fracked in recent years. Not a single person has been poisoned by contaminated water, not a single building damaged by the almost undetectable seismic tremors sometimes released. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded unequivocally that any health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively in the UK..."  And there's a whole lot more besides.

Now I've not yet been myself convinced that 'fracking' is going to deliver the bonanza we would all like (except DECC of course) but every time I hear the case against being made by exaggeration and embellished by plain untruths, the more I feel inclined to support it. Peter Lilley, is undergoing a resurgence in his political influence - and interestingly has just been appointed a member of  Jo Johnson MP's policy committee reporting to the Prime Minister. He will not remain quiet. Hydraulic fracturing has a clear-thinking and redoubtable champion.


Democritus said...

So you will be supporting the hydraulic frackers when their rigs set up in Montgomeryshire will you?

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Peter Lilley who is a director of Tethys Oil, which has major interests in shale oil extraction?

Glyn Davies said...

Democritus - Not sure what that's got to do with it! If there were huge reserves of naturally occurring gas under mid Wales I would not oppose extracting it if I believed it was in the national interest. Just as I'm only supportive of the process elsewhere if its extraction will be in the national interest.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - The same Peter Lilley, and as fully declared in Register of Member's Interests. Most of us knew of Peter's work - but of course we do not know who you are, hidden behind anonymity

Jac o' the North, said...

There are too many people now in positions of authority desperately trying to defend positions they took up 20 or more years ago when few were prepared to question global warming.

There has been no global warming for 15 years or more - if anything, the world is cooling - but we are paying the price, in fuel bills and other forms, for decisions taken by misinformed zealots. This of course includes the wind turbines blighting Montgomeryshire. Strange, Democritus, that you should mention something that's never going to happen while ignoring the real damage being done today by those on 'your side'.

Reality is slowly creeping into this debate. The zealots have shifted ground from 'global warming' to 'climate change', a catch-all term that they use to cover any unusual weather . . . which when examined more closely, as with tornadoes in the USA, are LESS frequent now than in earlier times. Due to modern communications we just hear more about them.

Democritus, you're losing the debate, and you know it. Ten years ago you had every politician at your beck and call (while those who doubted didn't dare raise their voices), but now a combination of hard evidence and electricity bills will be your undoing.

If fracking provides secure, cheap energy, plus jobs, then the public will insist on it. You push the scare stories too far and you might jeopardise your whole position.

Luke Ashley said...

Rather than being convinced by what somebody else says either for or against, why don`t you just do your own research??
I`m an ex North Sea drill crew worker and spent the last 3 years researching the oil and gas industry (especially fracking for shale and coal seam gas) and feel I now know enough to say it should be banned worldwide. If you`d just spent as much time as all these other well informed ordinary concerned citizens, you would feel the same way. Why don`t you just do your job you were voted in to do and leave all this fracking stuff to the forward thinkers who know what they are talking about? National interest means different things to different people. For the government who are playing geopolitical games with the rest of the world, trying to bring down Russia and OPEC, want to stay ahead in the global financial wars. This is what`s meant by benefiting the `economy` which outweighs the serious and long term impacts of shale gas extraction. UK citizens idea of national interest is a future for the following generations where they can enjoy clean, safe, cheap and sustainable energy sources. Did you know that the US gas price has steadily risen to the extent that they have now resorted back to burning cheaper coal again to generate their power? Did you also know that in 2011 and 12 we in UK burnt this cheap coal from the US in our power stations more-so than gas. But as they did this, they put the prices up for the consumer saying it was due to higher priced gas imports? Then the price went up again after the Elgin platform major gas leak in the North Sea. It`s no wonder that these well informed people who often get called nimbys, left wingers or eco warriors are so against the fossil fuel industry, they and the politicians they cohort with just cannot be trusted to protect the best interests of the UK public.

Anonymous said...

Luke> Shale gas has driven down the price of methane in the USA - the US chemical industry is investing billions in building new plant to use shale gas a feed-stock, especially wet-methane (with additional alkanes, ethane and butane) so says 'Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)' published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). cw

Jac o' the North, said...

"I`m an ex North Sea drill crew worker and spent the last 3 years researching the oil and gas industry (especially fracking for shale and coal seam gas) and feel I now know enough to say it should be banned worldwide."

I've read that before, somewhere. You must be a godsend to the anti-fracking lobby, 'Luke'. So good that I question if you're real. How how about giving me verifiable facts about yoursef?