Shale Gas - Energy and Climate Change Contents


Memorandum submitted by Philip Mitchell

INTRODUCTION

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.

LIMITATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE

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.

RISKS AND HAZARDS

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 location]

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 Pennsylvania.

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 diverted.

EXPERIENCES IN THE FYLDE

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 railway line]

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 of operations]

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 place.

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

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.

ALTERNATIVES

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 questionable legacy.

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 scientists].

January 2011

The following attachments were included with the submission but have not been printed:

1ASX media release, Cuadrilla Activity Update Report, 7 December 2010
2Page 2 of above
3Extract from www.delawareriverkeeper.org/resources/Factsheets/Drilling_and_Production.pdf
4Location of Groundwater Abstractions in Lancashire, 1990 [map]
5Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources of Britain's Onshore Basins (DECC) [map]
6Non-protected wildlife sites in Lancashire (1996) [map]
7-12Petitions against shale gas exploration and extraction
13Map of Preese Hall
14Cuadrilla account of operations—February 2010




 
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Prepared 23 May 2011