Shale Gas - Energy and Climate Change Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 71-117)

Jennifer Banks and Professor Kevin Anderson

9 February 2011

Q71 Chair: Good morning, welcome to the Committee. Thank you for making time to see us. As I said at the start, certainly I am starting from a relatively uncluttered mind on this issue, so we look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Could I ask generally whether it is right to say that the carbon footprint of shale gas may be a bit larger than conventional gas, but it is still a lot smaller than coal?

Jennifer Banks: I think that Kevin will probably go into the findings of the Tyndall Centre. Shale gas inevitably uses more energy than conventional gas exploration because of the hydraulic fracturing process and the injection of high pressure water into the ground. One of the questions is to do with methane emissions, which may be about 1.5% of the total gas produced, which are called fugitive emissions, and may be basically methane that is escaping in the production and transportation process. There is certainly more research required on that issue. A paper by Robert Howarth recently suggested that it may significantly decrease the advantage of gas over coal to the point where the emissions may be equal. That was a preliminary paper, which has been criticised in some quarters, but it certainly would merit more investigation.

Professor Kevin Anderson: It depends whether you have good practice or bad practice. There is plenty of bad practice in normal gas extraction. There are examples throughout history of very bad practice in the petrochemical industry. If you imagine you had very good practice and you compared that between natural gas and shale gas, I think it would be fair to say, as much as we can from the evidence to date, that there would be very little difference between the two when you looked at their overall CO2 emissions once combusted—their greenhouse gas effects. Of course at the moment, we do not have that much experience of producing shale gas, so it is likely that good practice will come over time. At least initially, I think there is a much higher risk of these other sets of issues, these fugitive emissions, but these are not things that a stringent regulatory framework could not look to overcome in the medium term.

I had not thought about this before but that would be a very good reason why not to rush ahead with this until you were sure you had the best practice you can envisage now and you had a "learning by doing" while you pursued shale gas in its infancy in this country. Overall, your comment is correct. The shale gas emissions do not, at the moment, appear to be that different from natural gas once combusted.

Q72 Chair: As it happens, are there fugitive emissions from other forms of fossil fuel? I mean this is not a problem that is confined to unconventional gas?

Professor Kevin Anderson: No, there are fugitive emissions from all sorts—if you play around with fossil fuels you will have fugitive emissions.

Jennifer Banks: I agree. That appears to be an issue with gas in general that maybe has not been looked into as much as it could have been.

Q73 Chair: In terms of trying to establish what best practice would be, clearly there has to be some practical experiments to do that.

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes, of course, we have had some practical experiments in the US. What we require, I think, initially would be to learn from history. It seems a reasonable approach to take, yet we have not done that. We have not looked in detail at what has happened in the US. What we know in the US is that some of the states there now have a moratorium on further development pending an inquiry—an independent scientific inquiry. That seems a reasonable route to go down. It is hard, I would suggest, to argue different to that, in the absence of an independent scientific inquiry, we will go ahead. It would seem a strange position to hold. I think that we should at least wait to hear back from the EPA in the US.

As the previous witnesses suggested, shale is not necessarily shale. They vary in their petrochemical properties very significantly. I think you would then also have to say we needed one in the UK that looked at the types of shale we have here and the differences across the shale here, and try to draw lessons from the US study once that is published. All these are very good and sound reasons why a prudent nation would not rush ahead with it.

Q74 Dan Byles: You have referred to the possibility of not rushing ahead in the UK, but it seems that we are on the cusp of making a series of investment decisions that we are going to have to live with for decades, particularly with regards to electricity production. Surely, it makes sense to try to actively switch from coal-fired electricity production to gas-fired electricity production in the medium term?

Jennifer Banks: We would not argue with the fact that, yes, gas does have significantly lower emissions when it is combusted than coal does. One concern that we have is very much that prospects for building new coal-fired power stations in the UK are relatively limited at the moment. It does not appear that coal is going to play a massive part regardless of whether we press ahead with shale or not. The concern is more to what extent gas may displace renewable energy and to what extent meeting our carbon budget and our decarbonisation targets could be threatened if there was another dash for gas or too much investment in new gas generation.

Professor Kevin Anderson: I think there are a lot of issues in what seems like quite a simple question there that, if you want us to unpick, we can do.

Dan Byles: Please do.

Professor Kevin Anderson: Certainly, there is a serious risk if we decide to move down the gas route—if you look at the planning applications for new power stations at the moment, basically, we are building gas and the Chinese are building coal We are not doing any renewables of any significant proportion relative to what we need to be doing, relative to the amount of gas stations. Gas dominates. If we have more available gas here that offers potentially security of supply benefits. That would tend to put even more emphasis on the future of gas. Of course, it is very cheap to build at about £350 a kilowatt, much cheaper than renewables, much cheaper than coal, much much cheaper than nuclear. There are a whole set of incentives there why you might go down that route, which would of course have a significant impact of moving or continuing to hold us on a high carbon future pathway. We need to make that transition to renewables as a matter of some significant urgency. If that is the case, then any mechanism that takes away the incentives to move towards renewables cannot be a good deal.

  To unpick this, this is a Energy and Climate Change Committee. It has to have a view on climate change. I do not know what position you take on this. If you take the position that this is in the spirit and the letter of what the UK has signed up to—that is to keep below 2º centigrade; below 2º C is very different from a 50% to 60% chance of exceeding 2º C—if you want to abide by your own commitments under Low Carbon Transition Plan, the Copenhagen Accord, various EU agreements and so forth, if 2º C is important, then there simply is not the emission space available in the timeframe that we have to utilise shale gas. That is a simple mathematical outcome of the analysis. We could have changed that if we had started responding 20 years ago to climate change, but we did not. We are now in 2011. We have basically used up all of our emission space. By the time you get shale gas out of the ground, start to put it into a power station or elsewhere, it is too late because our emissions need to be down to basically zero.

  If, however, you hold to not meeting our obligations under various international treaties, if you hold to a view that we should have perhaps a 60% chance of exceeding 2º C, which is now fixed in legislation—that is the interim budget from the Committee on Climate Change—so a 60% chance of achieving the things that we claim to be obligated to achieve, then there is a very small emission space available. Even there, though, the Committee on Climate Change, with a 60% chance of exceeding 2º C, 63% chance, has said that the electrical industry would need to be fully decarbonised by 2030. That means there will be no shale gas in it, because you would probably have very little shale gas out there significantly entering the system by 2030. We will have some, but of course we will also have existing gas supplies and gas networks anyway.

  Whether you take the CCC's view of, "Let's significantly breach our international obligations on 2º C," or whether to take the spirit in the letter of, "We must not exceed 2º C," both of those would suggest there is no emission space, no reasonable emission space for shale gas, certainly in electricity. Even if you put it into heat, you start to very significantly erode emission space.

  It all comes from about which position you want to take on this. If you take a stringent 2º C, the maths are absolutely clear. If you take the CCC view of a 60% chance of exceeding it, there is a minor emission space there. Again, as Jenny points out, if you are also then distracting your attention away from renewables, you have a whole set of cascading issues that will move us away from any reasonable targets.

Q75 Dan Byles: You are basically saying that although gas might be a transition fuel towards a low carbon future, there is enough conventional gas globally to manage that envelope in which we will be relying perhaps more on gas than coal before we move forward into effective low carbon technology?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes, but the bit that goes alongside it—I am sorry, all these things become quite complicated—is: are you asking the question about the UK or globally? If we increase our use of gas and reduce our use of coal, if the economists are right and they always tell us they are, then the price of coal worldwide will drop. The price of coal worldwide will drop and there is an energy-hungry world out there. Emissions are probably going back up to a 3% to 4% growth rate. At the moment, increasingly, the global economy is dominated by India and China and some other countries indeed, but with very high coal consumption. If the price of coal drops in an energy-hungry world, I would even, in this case, agree with the economists. You are probably going to see an increase and uptake of coal use elsewhere.

The climate does not care where the CO2 comes from, whether it is from gas, from coal, from the UK or from China. It only sees the total amount that comes out. You cannot see the UK in isolation if you are interested in climate change. From a climate change perspective, we may move from coal to gas. The climate does not care. It will see more CO2. It will be used in addition to the coal around the globe and that is all that matters from a climate change perspective.

Q76 Dan Byles: You both said that in the States there is little evidence that the increased use of shale gas has led to any decrease in coal. Is that right? Why do you think that is? What is the extra shale gas being used for? Is it simply meeting increased demand?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes. I mean, the whole world has had an economic downturn, but what is interesting the economic downturn was nowhere near as great as people thought in terms of the emission drop. It is about 1.3%, as most people were estimating a drop of about 3% or 4%. That was principally because India and China hardly had any dent at all. We are now coming out of that—we are seeing emissions probably this year going up by 3% to 4% per annum. We need to be doing the opposite, going in the opposite direction at probably twice that rate. We are completely going in the wrong direction. The idea now is discussing unconventional fossil fuels. We can discuss those, but we have to completely park the climate change agenda.

Q77 Dan Byles: Do you think a more sensible use of the potential for a world with increased lower priced gas, which seems to be on the cards, will be to try and use that gas in the transport sector, particularly in the freight sector, rather than in electricity production? Would that have a better environmental impact?

Jennifer Banks: I cannot answer that one. I am not sure, but I think that there is a very big question mark over whether gas is going to be cheap in the long term. We are seeing a glut at the moment because there has been over-investment in, for example, liquefied natural gas, but obviously there is a lot of uncertainty in the market and prices may well go up because at the moment investors have been stung. I cannot comment on the bulk of your question, but I would contest the fact that we can rely on long-term cheap gas.

Professor Kevin Anderson: Even if we could, I mean, yes, some of that would no doubt be used for transport. If the price of gas was very cheap, we would be using it all over the place because we can drive cars with it, we can heat our homes.

Q78 Dan Byles: From an environmental point of view, would that be better than using diesel and petrol, for example, if we are looking for better ways to use the gas while at the same time trying to keep our emissions down?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Do you mean from an environmental or climate change perspective?

Dan Byles: Sorry, I mean climate change.

Professor Kevin Anderson: From a climate change perspective, no, I probably think it had very little impact at all because the problem is we all want to use more energy. We all want more energy, we want it easily accessible and we want it now. It would perhaps be a benefit if there was a carbon cap and we knew that we were going to deliberately substitute for other forms of higher carbon energy, but we have no evidence of that. There is no global carbon cap, there are no agreements globally on what we are going to bring emissions down to. As it stands at the moment, it looks like in the US that, with what has happened there, the Republicans will effectively stop any significant shifts in the US introducing any strong climate change legislation, which will affect the world processes in this, whether you bring the Non-Annex 1 countries, India and China, on board.

There is nothing out there at the moment that suggests we are going to have any meaningful global cap in the short to medium term. I hope I am completely wrong about it. I hope we will have a meaningful cap, but it does not appear we will. While we have no meaningful cap, while we have global GDP going back up to the levels, if not higher than it was before, while emissions continue to rise, we will just burn everything we can take out of the ground. The only way to stop this burning is to keep it in the ground. It is an uncomfortable conclusion, but we have put ourselves in this position in 2011 because of our apathy globally to do anything about climate change.

Q79 Albert Owen: I want to develop these arguments. You asked the question, Professor, are we talking about UK or are we talking about internationally and globally? Well, this Committee has a remit to scrutinise the UK Government and its policies. That is why we are having this inquiry on shale gas now in the UK. I hear what you say about the commitments to the international obligations to which we have signed up, but there again there are three strands to what the Government energy policy is. That is obviously low carbon emissions and meeting our target; it is also energy security and energy efficiency. If we take those three broad ones, I think the question my colleague, Dan, was pursuing there is that if we move from coal to gas in the short and medium term, then we are lowering our emissions, but also we are helping the energy security issue as well. That is we are going to be—we have built large refineries in Milford and the Isle of Grain to bring in that gas. There is a potential that we could have shale gas, and it could be another, as you said, a dash for gas within the UK.

I know Friends of the Earth and others are concerned that that will push the renewables investment to one side, but could they not run in tandem? Could you not sort of be cutting emissions by moving from coal to gas in the short term? We do not know. You heard the first evidence session how much shale gas we have, but it could assist us in that short term of keeping energy prices down, which a lot of people want as well, and the research and development could still be done in the renewable area. Maybe the offshore wind might be reduced slightly, but other renewable energies will be found. Is there not a way? You said it is very difficult. I am posing very difficult points, but it is something that the UK Government has to balance.

Professor Kevin Anderson: I am not saying it is difficult. I am saying it is impossible. There is a significant difference in this case between the two. You cannot produce new shale gas as a fossil fuel. You cannot use any additional fossil fuels you may find, maybe including coalbed methanes and meet our 2º C target. Remember these are not my commitments. These are not my suggestions. These are commitments that we have.

Q80 Albert Owen: Can I just pin you down to the UK itself now? What I am saying to you is that a lot of what we are talking about, low carbon, is not going to come onstream until much later than we would all like. That is not going to happen, so I am talking about that interim period. What I am saying is we are not going to have the wind farms that are planned now overnight. We are not going to have new nuclear coming on for low carbon, so we are going to have a period where we are either going to have a very high energy crisis or we are going to have to fill that gap but be more secure in ourselves. Shale gas is one way of looking at that.

Professor Kevin Anderson: First, I do not think you can see the UK in complete isolation because the UK sets policies that are based on global positions. It takes a view of what the global position is, so I do not think you can isolate the UK from the climate change objectives.

I agree with you completely on the security supply issue. If we can have gas, or any energy source that we produce in the UK, of course including lots of renewables, then that improves our security of supply. That is a benefit. In terms of the price, you may have a point there, but it is not that clear. Do any of you know what you are paying roughly at the pump at the moment per barrel? About $300 a barrel is what you pay at the pump. What are you paying for your electricity? 10, 12, 15 pence per kilowatt hour; it does not cost that much to generate. We do not have to worry too much about prices. We are already paying very high prices that are way beyond the production costs of any of these things, and our society survives with them. There are big fuel poverty issues, but these can be dealt with in other ways. All I am simply saying, we are paying very high prices for energy today and it is not necessarily related to the production of that energy or generation of that energy. We have flexibility here to move the prices one way or another. They are not a product of the cost of production.

Security supply is important. Prices, we have other flexibility there. The low carbon agenda, I bring you back to. If we want to meet the obligations that we are committed to and, of course, in that there is no time dimension that people tend to suggest that, if we do not do it today, we can put that off and we can do it tomorrow with some other technologies. That does not work in science. The climate science is absolutely and utterly clear about this. It is about cumulative emissions, and we are so high on the emissions budget now that there is no emission space. If we do not do it now, then in the future we simply will breach the target.

Q81 Albert Owen: You do accept there could be a gap there? There could be a gap where we will have to rely on imported coal and imported gas because the new nuclear and renewable investment is not going to come onstream?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Then nor is the shale gas—I mean the shale gas would take about as long as a lot of the renewables. We choose not to go down these particular routes, but of course we have not looked at energy demand, which is where I would suggest—I mean I would suggest—

Q82 Albert Owen: I did mention it in my opening remarks.

Professor Kevin Anderson: In efficiency, yes, but that is not the same thing as demand. In terms of energy demand, I think we can have very significant changes in the UK, if we wanted to, and that could dwarf all of these benefits that we are talking about here in a much shorter timeframe. Again we choose not to—

Q83 Albert Owen: Believe you me, there is a lot of agreement in what we are all saying. What I am saying is that you are saying that conclusively is shale gas is not an insurmountable problem, in your opinion.

Professor Kevin Anderson: Not in relation to the climate change, no.

Jennifer Banks: Can I just come in there? There are several reports that have been published on the kind of transferability of shale gas to Europe as opposed to the boom in the US recently. Florence Gény of Oxford University and Paul Stevens, who spoke at event on shale gas last night here, have both basically concluded that there are a lot of factors that are different. There are a lot of reasons why what has happened in the US cannot be replicated here. Certainly, neither of them believe that there will be a significant amount of shale gas produced in the UK before 2020, which I think sort of breaks down the bridging argument.

Q84 Dr Whitehead: Assuming for a moment that someone does attempt to extract shale gas and taking into account the points about the overall issue of the advisability of incorporating that into an energy economy, the process, as far as I understand, involves pumping water and some sand into a pipe that has been drilled and then extended horizontally. The rock around the horizontal pipe has been fractured and the sand holds the fractures open and the water forces the sand into the fractures; then the gas is extracted. That sounds quite a benign process, but I understand that there are other chemicals involved in that process, which we are told are found in every household—but I have rat poison in my household.

Jennifer Banks: I think it depends whether you are talking about the US or the UK. In the US, there has been a vast amount of chemicals, which the companies have not been obliged generally to disclose. They have been able to not disclose them on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. Some of those chemicals that have been pumped in—and it is generally between 2% of what they call the "fracing mixture", and it is quite low in Cuadrilla's case, but down to about 0.5%. Some of those chemicals have included benzene, which is a known carcinogen, and in some cases diesel. The list is very long and the Tyndall Centre report has found that a lot of them are classed as harmful to human health. In the UK at the moment, Cuadrilla are not planning to use substances that appear particularly harmful to human health. I think one thing that does need to be pointed out is that there are fluids present in the shale rock itself, formation fluids, which may include naturally occurring radioactive material, benzene, arsenic and mercury, so it is not just the chemicals that you are putting in; it is also that there can be harmful substances within the rock itself.

Professor Kevin Anderson: I agree with that. While the UK, if it had a stringent regulatory framework here that did not permit some of the chemicals that had been used in the US to be used here, and that could be the case, there is still the risk at the moment of mobilising these other sets of chemicals. If we go back to the previous speakers here, they made the point that we do not really understand the different types of shale gas. We need to understand that all those particular areas you go into in some detail to know the porosity, the permeability—all of these things that they said quite clearly that they did not have a handle on. They are site specific. Until you understand the site specific, how can you make a prudent precautionary judgement on issues in mobilising these sorts of chemicals?

There is of course some—I think it would be fair to call it—anecdotal evidence from the States, at least initially, that there could be some issues of mobilisation of chemicals within the shale to surface and groundwaters. That is one of the reasons, of course, that the inquiry in the States by the EPA has been undertaken. Again, it would seem a wise thing to do to investigate that.

Q85 Dr Whitehead: But I mean the water, as I have described the process, is then pumped out and dispersed. The question in my mind is where and how? Assuming these chemicals are, by that point, firmly in the water, what processes are envisaged or might be envisaged to disperse that water in a reasonable manner, assuming it has a number of chemicals found in every household in it?

Jennifer Banks: In the US, it is either put into temporary open storage pits or into tanks. I understand that, in the UK, open storage pits would not be legal, so I think we would be looking to put them in tanks. The waste water, I believe, Cuadrilla are pumping underground into some kind of deep well. In the US, some of the water has been treated by municipal water treatment facilities, and there has been a lot of concern about the fact that they are not equipped to deal with that degree of contaminated water. It is certainly something that needs to be looked into and robust regulation would need to be present.

Q86 Dr Whitehead: Forgive me for not fully understanding this. The drilling in the UK would be likely to be followed simply by the pumping of water into underground storage with no further treatment and that would be it?

Jennifer Banks: I understand that that is what Cuadrilla are doing, but it is not something that I have a huge amount of detail on. I do not know whether you have?

Professor Kevin Anderson: No, but this is the point where really what we need to have, before you proceed with this, is a stringent regulatory framework. I have every confidence that the Environment Agency, if they are given the task of dealing with this, would deal with it appropriately, but that needs to be thought through and not rushed. I trust the relevant authorities and scientists and the Environment Agency to come up with the appropriate legislative framework, but they need to be given the time to think through these sets of issues, to look at what has happened in the US, to learn from the experience there, to look at the EPA study when it comes out in the US and possibly to conduct their own. This is all a time-consuming process which goes back to the same argument as before that, from the environmental perspective, apart from the climate change perspective, we need to delay whilst we carry out and conduct these checks and measures.

Q87 Dr Whitehead: Are you aware of what sort of volumes might be involved?

Jennifer Banks: Of waste water?

Dr Whitehead: When we talk about the fact that the water going into the fracturing process, 98% to 99% of the fluid that is going into the fracturing process is water and a little bit of sand; 1% of a huge volume is rather more than 1% of not very much, so I have no idea what the sort of volume following a drilling process would then be put into an underground storage or processed and what that would involve.

Jennifer Banks: I have seen a lot of different sources for how much water is required. I have some data from Schlumberger Water Services, who are involved with the hydraulic fracturing industry, which estimated about 91,000 m3 of water per well. Now, the Tyndall Centre—

Q88 Dr Whitehead: Is that per well per fracturing or per well in the life of the well?

Jennifer Banks: I think it is per well over the life of the well. The Tyndall Centre's figures were lower and I think that reflects the fact there is a lot of uncertainty and there are a lot of different shale plays with different characteristics. Similarly the amount of water that flows back, which would then need to be dispersed as waste water, seems to vary hugely. 60% is one figure that I have seen but I think that it very much varies. So in terms of 60% that would be around I think 54,000 m3 of water per well.

Professor Kevin Anderson: We have the numbers in our report, which are based on US experience, but again as Jenny says and as the previous witness was saying these are very dependent on the actual petrochemical properties of the shale at the time. But given there is a huge range, the adjective you might apply is "a very large quantity of water". That is what is happening. We are not talking about small quantities of water; we are talking about very significant quantities of water that will have to be treated.

Q89 Dr Lee: I see the Tyndall Centre is quoted saying, "There are a number of documented incidents [of groundwater pollution] in the US with principal causes being improper construction and/or operator error", yet the Geological Society here says there "is no recorded evidence" of contamination and think that it is unlikely in any case. How do you respond to that?

Professor Kevin Anderson: In the US they are saying it?

Q90 Dr Lee: Yes, basically, and I think I am right in quoting our previous witnesses that they do not think there have been any cases of water contamination. What is your response to that?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Well, as you say, the anecdotal evidence is that there is water contamination, sufficiently so that the EPA think it is worth—

Q91 Dr Lee: When you say anecdotal, what do you mean?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Well, in the absence of any scientific investigation at the moment, until we get the EPA study, I would suggest that is probably the first time we will have a real handle on it. Once you get the EPA study then we will know. This is how science works. You observe something, you do a hypothesis and then you go and investigate it and what we have observed at the moment is something that anecdotally, and I think it is important to note that and we probably did not emphasise that sufficiently—

Q92 Dr Lee: What do you mean by that? Is this someone sort of chatting in the bar afterwards?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Well, almost all science starts off with anecdotes. You see observations around you. If an apple falls out of a tree, then another apple falls out of a tree—

Q93 Dr Lee: What I mean is, is somebody actually collecting some water and seeing some more benzene?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes.

Q94 Dr Lee: Is that actually happening?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes, that has been happening in the States. Now, whether of course that links to the actual fracturing processes that are going on nearby is a different issue—whether that is actually causal, and that is the bit that is really important here. That is why I think it is important. I am not saying environmentally that this could not be made an appropriate technology from an environmental perspective as any other petrochemical industry technology, so the same for natural gas. What I am saying is that we need to understand the mechanisms behind these observed events, of which there are many now in the US. It may well be that some of these are just natural processes and some of these perhaps were occurring before anyone even started fracturing or drilling, but maybe that is not the case. In the absence of an inquiry, it would seem wise again, I say, to hold back on that. And it does appear that in the US it has been sufficiently serious, there have been sufficient numbers of anecdotal evidence, that eventually anecdote becomes something which is serious enough to investigate and that is what—

Q95 Dr Lee: I beg to differ on those. Anecdotally, MMR causes autism. The fact that it was nonsense does not seem to have—

Professor Kevin Anderson: How do you know it is nonsense?

Q96 Dr Lee: Because no actual proper, scientific research paper since has ever repeated the initial claim.

Professor Kevin Anderson: That is exactly my point: "no proper".

Q97 Dr Lee: So my point is if you work upon anecdotal evidence or poor science by some chap trying to make a name for himself because it is good copy for the newspapers, it does not necessarily get to an appropriate conclusion. I say that as someone who is of the right politically but is particularly concerned with our impact upon the environment, so I am not sitting here defending big oil.

Professor Kevin Anderson: But I think you are defending—

Q98 Dr Lee: I am just slightly anxious about the use of the word "anecdotal" when it comes to something like this area because, clearly, if shale gas is as big as we all assume it is, this is profoundly important in terms of those of us who want to see action on climate change. If we are going to actually deal with shale gas, I would suggest that we should deal with proper evidence instead of just talking about, maybe, "We have heard a rumour here and there". Along those lines, I note that a previous witness said that they had been drilling in the Appalachians since 1821. Are there any public health reports on increased incidence of particular health conditions in the area where they have been drilling for a long period of time?

Professor Kevin Anderson: I do not know about the second one, so I cannot comment on that. On the first one I think you answered your own question because there was anecdotal evidence that there were issues with the MMR vaccination, and as you said, we then had a scientific inquiry that showed it was rubbish, but the point is that you had a scientific inquiry.

Q99 Dr Lee: The point is in the process a lot of damage was done in that particular area to people's perception of science, people's perception of truth, and whether to trust governments or organisations and that is why I am just a bit anxious about basing it upon anecdotal evidence.

Professor Kevin Anderson: You do not base it on anecdote—I want to make this very clear. What I am saying is that we observe things in the world, and that all observations in science are like this. Of course, when you observe something you do not know it is fact or scientifically caused by this issue over here until you do the investigation but, if you have a build up of anecdote that suggests this may be the cause, you then undertake, as we did with MMR, a scientific investigation. Now it may then show, "Look, there is no link at all." That is perfectly reasonable, but what is important there is that you undertake a scientific investigation. So anecdote and science are bedfellows and they should be bedfellows.

Q100 Dr Lee: But in terms of water contamination, clearly what the general public are worried about and what is driving the debate in America are health implications, yet you are not aware of any specific studies about any health. In the same way, when they set up nuclear power stations, there were suggestions of increased rates of leukaemia and so on in particular areas. Are we saying that there are no studies in place or no studies that have been done about the mapping of particular conditions? For instance, cancer rates can show some really odd localised patterns in this country. All doctors know this. Why is that? I do not know the answer to that question. Does such evidence exist in America where they have been drilling for a period of time on land? Are there pockets of particular cancers? I just suggest that. I am not saying there is, but are there; and if so, is there any ongoing investigation into that?

Jennifer Banks: I cannot answer that question. I think the point would be that, if contaminants are getting into groundwater sources like aquifers and then into people's drinking water and if those contaminants are things like benzene, then I am sure that science knows what the consequences for human health may be. The question is: are they getting into these water sources? ProPublica, which is basically an investigative journalism organisation in the US that has done a particular investigation of shale gas, has found over 1,000 cases of contamination which have been documented by state and local government in just five US states. That has been quoted in quite a few reports. I cannot comment on exactly what methodology they have used to draw together those cases but it would certainly merit some more investigation as to exactly what that is.

Cabot Oil & Gas have just paid out $4 million to 14 families in Dimmock, Pennsylvania, and are also, I believe, replacing their original water with water that is clean. That is quite a well documented case of contamination. I think one of the issues has been that people's drinking water is not tested prior to drilling so it is extremely difficult to prove after drilling, when chemical contaminants or methane are found in the water, exactly what the source of that is because yes, it is true that these are areas which have oil and gas, so it may be that methane or other contaminants were present beforehand—but then again it may not. I think that there have been examples where the gas has been found to be thermogenic.

I would echo Kevin's point really: it is about having more scientific investigation and it is becoming quite polarised at the moment. What we are calling for is independent peer reviewed, scientific investigation on this issue.

Q101 Dr Lee: That is my point. When it becomes polarised then it ends up being fashionable to be anti whatever it is, irrespective of the evidence, and I personally would not want to see that because you never end up with a satisfactory conclusion.

One final thing, and I have seen a report—the Catskill Mountains in New York State environmental report—and on the basis of that report New York State then passed a moratorium that then was overruled by the Governor; I think I am getting the chronology of events right. How is it that they, in that particular agency in New York State, they are pretty concerned about the potential for environmental pollution, be it in terms of gross pollution, in terms of what you see with trucks on the surface, but also the danger to the water source of New York State, which obviously serves New York City, so you are talking about a huge population. How is it they came to those conclusions, published that report and effected a change in the State's legislation at the time, and yet the US EPA 2004 report was, "No worries"? Have you any comments on that? I do not quite understand how—in view of the fact that this drilling has been going on for some time, that onshore oil and gas exploration—the report by the national agency in 2004 said "Clean bill of health," but a State report in 2009 pretty much reads like, "We should not be doing this until we are really, really sure"?

Jennifer Banks: My understanding is that the 2004 report was more desk-based and was relatively limited in scope.

Q102 Dr Lee: So it was not very good?

Jennifer Banks: I would not want to comment on its quality, I have not read it, but that has been a criticism of it and presumably—I mean, the fact that the EPA have now announced another, much more comprehensive investigation would appear to back that up.

Professor Kevin Anderson: And it is also five years in between and there are the issues about the quantity as well, because if there is a risk issue, if you only drill one well at one pad and that is all you ever do then the risks are very small. If you drill six wells, ceteris paribus, you have got six times the risk. In 2001 the shale gas was just about 1% of US gas demand. It is now at 14% I think—that is approximate but something like that—so what you get is a much higher level of extraction now, and obviously the more you extract for the same risk per unit of anything the overall risk goes up. If you have a high population density like you now have in the catchment of the water going to New York then it would seem wise that you would do the inquiry on the basis of the risk there.

Q103 Dr Lee: I guess my point is about trust. I drew the analogy with MMR; essentially trust was eroded because the whole thing was badly handled. It is about representatives of the general public—they want to trust that the agencies doing the work are doing a decent job. Okay, well if one government agency or state agency says this and another one five years, five years is not a long time at all in the scheme of oil and gas exploration, but the reality that things change significantly in that period of time. I would be suspicious about that. It is about trust and the fact that the agencies are independent as you say, Ms Banks. It is that sense of independence, i.e. they are not being influenced in any way. Can we be sure that the report that comes in 2012 is fully independent of any economic or political influence, in the light of that 2004 report?

Professor Kevin Anderson: My understanding and knowledge of the EPA from the past, which is not as great as it is for the EA in the UK, I have as much trust in the EPA as I do in the Environment Agency here—I have no problems with the Environment Agency over here. I trust that the report will be done as well as it can be done within the budget that they have and the constraints and timeframes that they have. Similarly I would trust the authorities over here to do the same thing.

As you say, the MMR was badly handled, and that is not to say that the process by which you go from anecdote to scientific investigation to making and drawing a conclusion is not correct. I think it is correct, but it has to be handled well in this case and as you say, trust is very important. I do not want any of the comments that I am making, or my colleagues who wrote this report, to suggest that we do not trust the appropriate authorities in the UK. We do, but we want them to have the scientific wherewithal to make informed judgments.

Jennifer Banks: The only thing I would add to that is that from what I have read I think there may be a bit of tension. There is political pressure for the EPA report to be concluded as early as possible and I think that possibly the scientists behind it would potentially like longer than may be available.

Q104 Albert Owen: You have just actually repeated what I heard you saying earlier, Professor Anderson. You have trust in the Environment Agency, and surely whenever there is a planning application, whenever there is a licence, then the Environment Agency would be one of the bodies that would be contacted very early on. And again, Ms Banks, you have said with regards to quality of water, surely that would be monitored now in the beginning, when the licence is issued, and there would be continuous monitoring when exploration takes place. If you have confidence in the Environment Agency then really what is the problem? I know we want as much scientific evidence as possible but the Environment Agency has said it previously had come up with some different evidence in different parts of the world. Surely we now have to concentrate on public health as the main issue but we have the confidence in our agencies, which you said you have, to monitor it.

Professor Kevin Anderson: To monitor it, yes, but I do not think you should do something and then monitor it. I think you should think about—

Q105 Albert Owen: You have an impact study in the beginning, you test the quality of water and if obviously it was right and then immediately there is exploration you would have a change. I mean in my area we had an aluminium smelter, there was fluoride issues there. They monitored it from day one and on a regular basis monthly and then yearly data was available. That would be available, would not it?

Professor Kevin Anderson: I would suggest you normally do things in advance and if we are going to improve the Thames Barrier you do not just put up a design and then monitor it to see how it goes then change it. You would think in the first place, "How shall we do this correctly?"

Q106 Albert Owen: I realise that, but what I am saying is, yes, let us wait for the evidence and if it is clear in America that is not to say, "Oh, it is clear in America, let us not monitor it, let us not really be robust, let us put health and safety issues to one side." There will be strong monitoring of that just as there is, as Dr Lee mentioned, of nuclear power stations and things. There is regular monitoring there of clusters and various things, so that will be monitored, that is my point.

Professor Kevin Anderson: I am sure it will be, yes.

Q107 Albert Owen: And you have confidence in the Environment Agency to do that?

Professor Kevin Anderson: To monitor that, yes. I do not have a problem with that once it goes ahead.

Jennifer Banks: The only thing I would add there is that I actually rang up and spoke to someone at the Environment Agency just to try and find out a little bit more about exactly what the regulations would be. They said that shale gas exploration would probably be subject to environmental permitting regulations and I think that reflects the fact that at the moment, because it has not been done, it is not something that they have considered. There needs to be time for there to be proper consideration of the procedure that should be put in place. I would say that also environmental impact assessments need to be mandatory.

Albert Owen: That is very important. Thank you.

Q108 Christopher Pincher: If we can just put aside the health science and the climate change questions for a moment, though not to forget about them of course, one of the biggest issues that one comes across when one tries to implement some sort of infrastructure project is local opposition because of the effect on the local landscape—the local green valley being torn up and concreted over. I just wonder if you can give us an indication of what you think the impact on the landscape is of the development of an onshore shale gas drilling operation.

Professor Kevin Anderson: This is an issue of aesthetics. If you are digging things up, obviously there are biodiversity issues associated with that, but beyond that thinking about the relatively high population density that we have in the UK, there will be aesthetic issues associated with this. Now, the petrochemical industry has a mixed track record on that. There are some very good examples of what can be done to minimise the aesthetic impact and there are some bad examples. If it is done well then, from what we can understand and certainly from the previous evidence of what we have seen in the US, it will be a much more significant impact than the current production at, say, Wytch Farm which was discussed earlier. I do not think it will be, from what we can see in the US, as minor as that. The fracturing operations have to be carried out more regularly and there seems to be more of an ongoing process to maintain the supply of shale gas than there is with, say, Wytch Farm.

It does appear that the aesthetics will be more significant than some of the other petrochemical activities in the UK currently, but some of these are aesthetic issues—although as I say there are some biodiversity ones—which I suppose good practice could mitigate but you cannot eliminate. Then it is an issue of local planning, hopefully with a process whereby the local population can get engaged as to whether they think this is a viable approach to go down or not. We see the issues with wind turbines and other forms of power generation, but I do not think we can just look at Wytch Farm and say, "Well, actually we just took that out as good practice. That is what shale gas is going to look like." I think it is going to look, from what we can understand, more significant than that with more dynamic issues in relation to transport and issues such as that.

Q109 Christopher Pincher: We will come on to that in a moment, if we can, but in terms of the size impact on the landscape we heard from the previous witnesses that you can put down 16 drills in one pad. The question is how big is a pad and is it different from the size of a sizeable wind farm, for example?

Jennifer Banks: I think the Tyndall Report said that a well pad would be between 1.5 and 2 hectares. I think that was based on there being six wells per pad, so if you had 16 then I think probably the pad would be larger. Obviously, wind turbines are spread out over a larger area, whereas a pad is more compact. The Tyndall Report found, I think, that to produce around 10% of the UK's gas supply needs from shale would require about 3,000 wells, which clearly is a lot of wells, so it could impact quite heavily on particular areas where the shale resources are concentrated. There is an issue with the volume of traffic that would create, although I acknowledge that Cuadrilla are, I think, piping water in, which does to some extent reduce the amount of traffic.

Q110 Christopher Pincher: How much concreting needs to go on? When you put down a—[Interruption.]—of concrete to bed it in do you have a similar sort of issue with the drilling?

Professor Kevin Anderson: I do not know the details of that but if you look at the ones in the US generally my experience, having previously worked for quite a long time in the petrochemical industry, you have a 1.5 to 2 hectare site with your wells on that you expect to be concreted or hard core of some sort. That would be your normal expectation. As I said before, for 10% of UK gas, if say there were 2,500 to 3,000 wells, say there were 10 wells per pad, it could be up or could be down from that, then you are talking about 300—these are very approximate figures based on the US experience—about 300 well pads at about 1.5 to 2 hectares per piece. Making the comparison with wind turbines is a useful comparison in some ways, but of course a wind turbine is the fuel source and the generator, whereas in this case this is the fuel source. You still need the power station, you still need the pipelines, the rest of the infrastructure. If you are going to make a comparison you have got to make a fair comparison. The wind comes free and is blowing in the air. In this case the fuel will have to go from here to a gas-fired power station.

Q111 Christopher Pincher: And given where the fuel is, under the ground, as we have heard from previous witnesses, in five or six areas in the country, it presumably requires a fair bit of pipeline to get it to the power stations.

Professor Kevin Anderson: It will do, yes, but the UK is very good at putting in pipelines and the remedial activity afterwards. However, it is costly and it is in the short term pretty destructive in terms of the ecosystems you have to go through, but additionally in terms of things like road infrastructures and so forth. It is something we are well practiced at, though. We have pipelines all over the country already, so I do not see it being any different to any other process. That is not to say it is not without significant impacts.

Q112 Christopher Pincher: What about the road infrastructure you just mentioned? Do you feel that where the gas happens to be—I think the Cambrian base, the Welsh border was an area that was mentioned—is that an area which has particularly good road infrastructure?

Professor Kevin Anderson: I will let you judge that.

Q113 Christopher Pincher: Well, what about water? You mentioned that a lot of water is required to do the fracturing. Do we have enough water in the UK to do that work? Is that going to be a limiting factor given that extraction from rivers is already quite considerable for housing estates and so on?

Professor Kevin Anderson: It is certainly a consideration. I do not think it is necessarily a limiting factor because you have a host of competing demands and you might decide that one of the other ones you are prepared to forgo. But we are aware in the UK that there can be issues. I live in the Peak District and we had a hosepipe ban this year. It is hard to believe that in the Peak District we could ever have a hosepipe ban but we did for quite a long time. We know that, even in wet parts of the world, which is where some of these shales are, there are often issues of water supply throughout the year, and this will be another pressure on that water supply system. So, I do not think it should be ignored. I do not think it is necessarily going to stop you going ahead but it is certainly a consideration, and a serious consideration, as to: are you prepared either to increase the scale of the water supply structure nearby or are you prepared to forgo some other activity to allow you the water necessary for this process? Because there are very large quantities of water involved.

Q114 Chair: Do you think that onshore drilling in the UK is sufficiently regulated?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Of shale gas? We do not know. The other ones—I do not know the regulations sufficiently well for the other work that we have done. Overall I have colleagues who have worked quite closely with some of the petrochemical extraction in the UK, and by and large it has been done relatively well. I had far more concerns when I worked offshore, which I did for quite a number of years. Basically no one can see it out there and people can see it on land, so it is relatively well regulated simply because of that visual pressure, if you like.

Jennifer Banks: Apparently, at the moment our oil and gas regulations do not mention shale drilling, so that is an issue, but I would not comment on conventional regulation. It is not my area.

Q115 Chair: Do the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive apply to fracturing?

Jennifer Banks: With regards to Article 11 3J which was brought to my attention, if we were injecting something that was not water into groundwater then that would be a problem, but the idea of shale drilling is that these substances are not injected into groundwater sources and that the wells are considerably deeper. I have not been able to get a legal opinion on this. I can inquire and get back to the Committee if we envisage there is a problem. It should probably be investigated.

Q116 Chair: The assumption which you just described presumably is the one on which the decision to allow any kind of activity is predicated?

Jennifer Banks: I am presuming so. It does not appear that the EU considers it to be a problem. I do not know whether you have any information?

Professor Kevin Anderson: No, that is my understanding as well. The problem here is that we are talking about a new process and a new process requires standing back and thinking about the legislative framework. I think just relying on existing legislative framework for a new process is not sufficient.

Q117 Albert Owen: I am conscious of the time and also the answers we have already been given. It will be a short question and really only warrants a one-word answer. I think I know the answer to it but, for the record, should there be a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the UK until 2013, when the EPA is likely to have its report out?

Professor Kevin Anderson: Yes, for environmental reasons, and the moratorium should last for probably another few decades for the climate change best perspective.

Jennifer Banks: I largely agree with him.

Chair: Good, thank you very much indeed for coming in.

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