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Week Ending 14th April 2013

Three main UK stories were published this week.


Gas storage plan refused.

The first, which deserved more attention than it received, was the announcement that Halite's plans for a gas storage facility at Preesall had been turned down by the Secretary of State after they had been determined by his office and the Planning Inspectorate and viewed as a project of national importance. Previous applications had been turned down locally, this one was for an underground gas storage facility to hold up to 900 million cubic metres of gas, in 19 mined caverns 220m below ground, and for seven multiple wellhead compounds to crate the caverns and later connect the gas manifolds, plus a gas compressor compound comprising pig launchers and receivers, and slug catchers above ground.

The decision notice recorded that the inspectorate panel had recommended the plan go through, but the Secretary of State, in the form of DECC, turned it down. The only grounds for refusal were that Halite had failed to provide sufficient geological data to justify the integrity project. It is not know whether Halite (who came in relatively lately on the scene but were clearly angry they had spent three years on this and come up against a brick wall) will revamp their plan or abandon it.
In any case it was a victory for the campaigners against the project, who managed to collect over 11,000 signautures objecting to the plans.

New seismicity report.

Causing ripples in the anti-fracking ranks was the publication of a new report on seismicity with chief author Professor Peter Davies of Durham University. This concluded that there was no evidence that fracking itself could cause significant earthquakes and there was a very short list of any which had been felt. Prof Davies made to the press the rather incautious comparison of the force of fracking-induced quakes with a man jumping off a ladder. The anger this provoked, fuelled by the information that Prof Davies had come to academia after years in the oil and gas industry, and that his Durham unit was largely funded by the industry, made the national press, and the Independent carried the professor's rebuttal of the charges that he was a paid industry lackey.

One might wonder why it was felt necessary at all to produce a new report, after fracking's seismic effects had been put under the microscope by a DECC investigation into the Blackpool termors and the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering's reports. This appears, in fact, to be only one part of a project to look at a number of issues with fracking, but this didn't stop protesters from accusing the report of ignoring the wider issues, which, of course, is a perfectly valid and strong point. As many campaigners regard the seismic effects as a relatively minor worry regarding fracking, and Prof Davies himself has said there are more significant issues - he has expressed his concerns about well integrity and water pollution in particular - it was rather a storm in a teacup, in my view.

Having said that, it is inexplicable that the report concentrated on only "felt" quakes, did not discuss the question of quakes warping wells - as happened with Cuadrilla, and even within its remit didn't investigate the probability that the high epicentres of fracking-induced tremors will make a low-mgnitude quake more likely to be felt than as we'd normally expect in the UK, making previous UK data unreliable. These do seem major omissions.

Are Dart's wells leaking?

However, on Sunday, there emerged what may turn out to be the most significant news of the week, that SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) have been called in to investigate leaks of methane from Dart's wells at Cabonbie.
The Scottish Herald claimed the credit for drawing in the agency after it had received reports of leakage incl;uding "bubbling" gas from the ground. Dart has drilled a number of CBM wells in a pilot project in the area and although having permission for fracking does not appear to have fracked yet.
FOES issued a statement saying that if Dart's wells were found to be leaking this should signal the end for the company's unconventional gas ambition.

Other news

Falkirk Council were reported as employing AMEC as consultants. AMEC's work in the oil and gas industry did not inspire confidence in their impartiality. Cairn Energy expressed confidence in a new North Sea oil boom.
Europe looked to move towards a more favourable position towards fracking. In Spain Northern Cantabria announced a fracking ban.
In California a limited victory for objectors as a court found against land leasing, and in Australia there was more reaction to a TV programme critical of CSG.

News As It Came In with hyperlinks to original stories

Monday

Fracking foes in California win in court
More coverage

N Cantabria bans fracking

Tuesday

Major Victory. Fylde gas storage plans defeated

Falkirk Council appoints AMEC as "Independent" consultants

Cairn Energy boost North Sea oil estimates
North Sea oil boom

Wednesday

Durham's Davies denies fracking a major earthquake risk
BUT confirms waste water injection risk AND well integrity concerns

Frack Off dismisses report as industry spin
Professor fights back

The Report

Secretary of State's reasons for Preesall refusal
Greg Barker gets the pleasure of the announcement

More reaction from AU on CSG

Thursday

Cuadrilla leap for joy

EU top adviser gives fracking green light

Friday
Fylde rejoices in gas storage decision

DECC supports CCS projects


Saturday

Bridgend Green Party releases new briefing on fracking

Sunday

Are Dart's wells leaking?
SEPA confirm investigation
FOES Report raises hope of end of Dart's venture into Scotland

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