Memorandum submitted by Philip Mitchell |
This submission is an individual comment, although
much of the work has been done as part of a campaign by the Blackpool
and Fylde Green party, it is not an official submission of The
Green Party of England and Wales.
This account offers a case that a fully commercial
consideration of the exploitation of Shale gas reserves would
be unacceptable to the UK, using as an example, an area of Lancashire
that may be a commercial shale gas area, and has already seen
the beginning of a proposed roll-out of the industry in Europe.
It offers an opportunity for the committee to consider alternatives
that will prevent the human and environmental costs, before this
industry becomes entrenched in the UK.
I urge members to carefully consider the limitations
that the timeframe of the committee has placed them under. There
is currently a Moratorium of Shale Gas in US states producing
Shale Gas from the Marcellus Shale Field, these States include
New York State and Pennsylvania. Written Submissions would not
be possible in time to fully consider the findings from these
State Investigations, but I urge members to study carefully the
related documents on the website www.delawareriverwatcher.org
This organisation conducts high quality research into the implications
of the industry in these areas and particularly the Delaware River
Basin. The quality of New York has been compromised as a result
of the Shale Gas Industry.
I would also like to remind the members that the
Oil and Gas industry has very poor reputation for taking into
account the public interest, and that business plans of current
operators in the UK, for example Cuidrilla Resources Limited In
the North West, depend completely on their ability to exploit
UK and European Shale Gas Deposits [Attachments - 1 and 2 Press
release from major shareholder AJ Lucas - operations are only
in UK and Europe].
I also feel very restricted as, although I have given
submissions to the DECC on shale gas, I was not contacted regarding
the Inquiry until one week before close.
I have made the point to the DECC that the SEA to
the 14th Onshore Licensing round seriously downplays the risks
and hazards and I would like to add that the extent of the areas
covered by potential shale gas is misleading in their map provided
as Shalegas productivity test programs are already well advanced
in weeton (Preese Hall) and Singleton (Grange Road) which is South
of the area suggested in their maps [Attachment5]. I suggest the
committee seeks full information on the location of previous drilling
which has shown gas samples in Shale as this would been likely
to have been more extensive than the current production test sites.
A good summary can be viewed at the Delaware River
Keeper website location: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/resources/Factsheets/Drilling_and_Production.pdf
- please submit this complete location. This states that 2 to
9 million gallons of water are needed for each well and that many
harmful chemicals including arsenic and benzene are added to this
water. The fluids used for drilling are also very harmful, and
in great quantities due to multiple horizontal as well as vertical
drilling each of up to one mile. [Attachment3 - extract from above
The extent of the public response to the Shale Gas
Industry in the Eastern United States has been enormous and the
Delaware River keeper organisation had at time of the press release
concerned collected 8000 Letters including submissions from 1700
businesses affected, and has support from the New York Mayor.
In Lancashire it has been reported that the Shale
Gas field potentially reached from Blackpool to Pendle Hill, and
in the DECC map includes the Forest of Bowland and extends to
the West side of the Yorkshire Dales. This itself suggests a field
of approximately 400 square miles, and on a purely commercial
consideration would mean 100 gas wells extracting gas from a well
2 miles apart (the approximate distance of the first three test
wells in the Fylde). THIS IS A TINY PROPORTION OF THE POTENTIAL
FIELD across the UK.
The main risk and source of public outcry in the
US has been the contamination of drinking water. In Lancashire
the aquifers used in drinking cover this likely area of drilling
and in the AJ Lucas press release [Attachments - 1 and 2 Press
release from major shareholder AJ Lucas - Preese Hall, Grange
Hill, Singleton], appears to be in the location of the Aquifer
[Attachment4 - Location of Groundwater Abstractions, including
aquifers ] and Carbonate Rock. Purely commercial Interest would
also mean many of the wells would be in the area of the aquifers.
The committee should also consider the risk of extracting
1 billion gallons of water from the surface water of the potential
gas field in Lancashire.
The routes to pollution are multiple, and include
leakage from the well, spillage from the site and handling of
thousands of gallons of liquid which flows back from the well
after fracking. The control mechanisms cannot be relied upon alone.
I would also urge the committee to seriously consider the long
term risks of deterioration of control mechanisms of the vertical
well linings meant to protect the well from leakage.
When the liquid used for fracking leaks it has natural
gas dissolved in it, this entering the water table has caused
wells to explode and domestic water drawn from the aquifer to
be inflammable and explosive. In 1990 there were still wells in
Lancashire which may be still the main source of water a affected
in this way.
There is a need to dispose of the millions of gallons
of highly toxic liquid flow-back following fracking and the committee
needs to consider the risks of inadequate numbers of treatment
centres to process this waste, for example in Lancashire on the
basis of using up to 1 billion gallons of water for fracking.
Contamination of water supplies and Rivers would be considered
disastrous. This is already a huge problem in New York State and
The risk to locally produced food is serious.
Contamination with the chemicals involved through any of the many
routes of pollution will pose a threat to the farming and local
food retail industry as well as the consumers.
The risk to wildlife and animals is huge. See
attachment 6 - Non-protected wildlife sites in Lancashire (1996).
There is also a risk of a well blowout which in
a reported case spewed out explosive gas and polluting liquid
75 feet into the air and onto the ground for 16 hours. The area
around for one square mile had to be evacuated and flight routes
Experiences in the Fylde of the first three production
test sites (Weeton - Preese Hall, Singleton and Lytham Moss Anna's
Road) Cuadrilla Resources. Cuadrilla Resources Limited gives its
postal address in Lichfield, Leicestershire, UK. AJLucas describe
their activities as only in the UK and Europe and that this has
been the first time they have carried out "true" shale
gas extraction methods (attachments 1 and 2).
At Weeton , Preese Hall, the drilling is through
"Clitheroe Limestone"[Attachment1]whereas the Delaware
River Keeper network wishes to ban drilling through" Karst
Geology and Carbonate Rock"- I urge the committee to question
Geologists on the significance of drilling through the rock quoted
in the AJLucas press release e.g. to contamination of aquifers.
The site is close to residences and also close (approximately
1 mile) to a busy railway line which would be at risk in the event
of a "blowout", previously referred to. [Attachment
13 - map of Preese Hall with respect to Weeton residences and
At Singleton, the current site is flush and adjacent
to a field of brassica crops, of the type used for human consumption,
animal feed or retaining minerals into the soil. The field is
downward sloping, so any of the dangerous chemicals used would
flow down, in the event of a moderate spillage. Arsenic salts
in released fracking fluids or a direct chemical spill, for example
would be taken up and retained in these crops and either consumed
or retained in the soil. Many of the chemicals used in fracking
and drilling are very harmful.
The planning permission for Singleton drilling does
not include specific details of the chemicals used or any risk
assessment, and no suggestion that they could be harmful. Fluids
and storm water runoff from storage sites can run into the road.
[See attachment 14 for written component of Cuadrilla account
The Singleton planning permission states that the
borehole passes through an important aquifer, the Sherwood Sandstone.
The Cuadrilla site at Anna's Road is on Lytham Moss,
near the town of Lytham St Anne's, and is an important ecological
site bordering the Marton Mere wetlands. Swans routinely winter
at the site, Great Crested Newts have been recorded only 220m
from this site and a water body which "comprises potential
great crested newt breeding habitat" is located approximately
220m to the south. Water voles have been recorded in the wider
area. A chemical spill or other polluting event would easily contaminate
the area of where these protected animals live and threaten the
protected wetlands of Marton Mere, which hosts a Wildfowl and
Wetlands Trust Centre. There are also many domestic animals, such
as horses nearby and a popular animal sanctuary.
Extracting groundwater for the fracking would also
threaten these wetland ecologies, and residents of Lytham St Anne's
have questioned the effect of reduced water table on the stability
of their properties. Diversion of water courses is already taking
In the 40 square miles of Lancashire I've considered,
the farming and tourist industry are predominant. Millions of
visitors enjoy the countryside and appreciate the wildlife that
exists there. The Local food industry is important to the many
restaurants and country hotels as well as the Northwest generally.
The farming industry is struggling and a transition
to shale gas a economy will lead to much higher rates of long
term unemployment amongst its workers.
The cost of the processes involved in fracking, disposal
of waste and of infrastructure, including new roads and treatment
centres, will add to energy prices and government expenditure,
placing a burden on the economy. The reduction in land and house
prices, in villages such as Singleton and Elswick in which properties
are sought after and which dot the landscape of the area I've
considered will fall, and I've attached a petition from Singleton
Village residents which shows the very strong feeling against
their local developments in the village. This petition was carried
out over four days, at the start of which very few residents understood
what the development was and was facilitated by networking through
cascading through the village. Please understand that this was
inadequate time to conduct a full petition, and that a proportion
of villagers had an interest in the "Singleton Trust"
land which would have been paid for, for the facilities built.
Petitions (mostly residents and singleton school parents (where
labelled)) are attachments 7 to 12 inclusively. Only a
small part of the parish of Singleton (population 877, 2001
census) is included in the village itself.
The need for Shale gas as an energy resource is overstated
by an industry that relies on this case. These resources are not
renewable and will eventually be depleted leaving behind a highly
Gas resources are likely to be linked across Europe,
and large-scale gas storage in, for example, Morecambe Bay Gas
fields would ensure a constant supply.
The renewable energy industry can be expanded instead
and investing in switching to this, rather than unconventional
hydrocarbon extraction, can provide a large part of our future
energy needs. Scientists made a presentation at the House of Commons
in June 2009 arguing that an electricity "supergrid"
across Europe and North Africa could solve the problem of the
intermittency of wind turbines and solar power. [Ref: "Green"
supergrid could plug Europe into renewable power by 2030, say
The following attachments were included with the
submission but have not been printed:
|1||ASX media release, Cuadrilla Activity Update Report, 7 December 2010
|2||Page 2 of above|
|3||Extract from www.delawareriverkeeper.org/resources/Factsheets/Drilling_and_Production.pdf
|4||Location of Groundwater Abstractions in Lancashire, 1990 [map]
|5||Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources of Britain's Onshore Basins (DECC) [map]
|6||Non-protected wildlife sites in Lancashire (1996) [map]
|7-12||Petitions against shale gas exploration and extraction
|13||Map of Preese Hall
|14||Cuadrilla account of operationsFebruary 2010