Week Ending 23rd February 2014

UK news highlights

The news story that the courts had accepted that the >strong>Barton Moss "public highway" conferring vehicle rights was no such thing but a public footpath continued and took a new dimension. For a couple of days the police held off taking any action, meaning the protectors could claim two days more of expensive delay for IGas. But the lull was temporary. The police moved back into action with an aggression that caused comment that the police now saw their law as being above that justified by the courts. They committed a number of acts that were reported as causing severe distress, including one incident of a lady being taken to the ground and arrested while she was having a fit, and left without medical attention, indeed medical intervention being denied her. At the same time IGas cronies, principally major landowners in the north-west Peel Holdings, who have a gas exploration agreement with IGas, moved into action suggesting (although the original document the police relied on was without signed ownership) that they would be taking legal action for trespass against the protection camp. The court postponed a hearing until March 6th, giving breathing space for the defence team.

More reports came in of unacceptable action came with news that a minor had been arrested and detained without provocation. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is noiw involved in one case of complaint against GMP, that of the alleged trumped up charge relating to drink driving.

Meanwhile in Sussex, The Soiuth Downs national Park confirmed that Celtique's application for planning permission might be delayed by months because the Authority had deemed the company's environmental statement unsatisfactory.

Also in Sussex, objections are rising against Cuadrilla's further attempt to acid frack their Balcombe well.

The view that things are not going well for the frackers was further encouraged by the report that analysts regarded fracking as challenged in the UK even under the UK's existing mish-mash of regulation, that recent unprecedented flooding argues against fracking and against its contribution to further climate change and extreme weather events, that in Wales opposition to fracking on the English borders was opposed, and that the north-west, including Bolton and Liverpool, were becoming aware of the challenges that fracking presents.

From the US comes more evidence of validity of fracking opponents' concerns, including the real threat of fracking (be it for shale gas or shale oil) being accident-prone - and the amazing revelation that Chevron think they can buy off a local community which has suffered a fatal fracking accident by giving them a free pizza voucher - and the continuing worries about seismic activity, which just don't seem to go away.

But I have to say in my mind the main story of the week is the news that the Irish Sea off Blackpool is now targetted for offshore shale gas exploration. Anyone who has read my comments on this will be aware for quite some time I have been drawing attention to the fact that the BGS estimates of offshore gas provided maybe ten times the offshore potential. The only thing stopping the exploitation of that resource is that fracking onshore seemed to be a cheaper and easier option for the frackers.

The situation has changed. Now the frackers see huge public opposition to onshore fracking and other unconventional exploartion and exploration the forward-looking guys have turned their sights offshore. Blackpool is now under threat from the seaward side as well as the landward.

The comments in this week's news report are revealing -
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen that the onshore route is probably not the most beneficial route for the UK so two years ago I looked around at what the opportunities were in various parts of the offshore sector,” Cornelius added. “And of course the blocks were open next to the Bowland basin and I applied for them and was awarded them two weeks ago.”

Andrew Aplin, professor of unconventional petroleum at the UK’s Durham University, says the technical challenges of offshore fracking are similar to those proved to work onshore. It’s the economics that will present the bigger challenge.
“Offshore wells are more expensive and since shale gas is currently marginally profitable, this is a key issue,” he tells tce.

What this article overlooks or closes its eyes to is the fact that North Sea gas production is closing down, but there is still the potential for the offshore rigs to be revamped and reused to exploit deeper unconventiona gas reserves.

Let me make a prediction. Onshore fracking is doomed to fail. Offshore fracking is where the next investor money will go, and where the major players may see their interest succeeding. UK opposition to offshore fracking will drop off. We'll lose the nimbys, we'll lose the loony climate change deniers, sadly we'll lose the active protector arm of the movement, who will be unable to camp out in a dinghy and get local support from mermaids. The mainstream green opposition on ideological grounds will still be there - the Green Party, FoE, Greenpeace, and many individuals like myself. The failure of onshore fracking will encourage politicians to take a more cynical view of the industry's promises. But will this be enough to stop offshore fracking?

Any opinions here not quotes from the week's news reports are my own.
Alan Tootill

News As It Came In with links to original stories

The Chemical Engineer - UK could pioneer offshore shale gas fracking - Opposition will be lower, costs could be too high

SDNPA seeks more information on Fernhurst fracking application


Passionate anti-fracking protestors gather in Wisborough Green

Fracking: It could be coming to YOUR back yard...

Early on Tuesday morning, a Chevron-owned natural gas well in Greene County, Pa., burst into flames – and more than 72 hours later, it’s still burning. One contractor for Chevron is missing and presumed dead, and another was injured in the explosion.

Protestors at the Barton Moss fracking site have held off all deliveries to the rig for two days after a judge ruled that the 'road' they were using is actually a footpath.

The battle resumes

Police attack Barton Moss anti-fracking protestors


Kansas Gov. Brownback appoints panel to study recent earthquakes, fracking waste

1,200 sign petition opposing controversial fracking proposals in North Wales

Fracking law will ‘radically interfere with rights’

Fracking Well Blowout Causes Oil And Chemical Wastewater Spill In North Dakota (Updated)

'Only a matter of time' before fracking comes to Bolton, says expert

Chevron apologizes to residents of small town after their fracking well exploded and burned for five days leaving one dead...with a coupon for free PIZZA

GMO’s Grantham: the cracks in the US fracking story

Government committee supports fracking

Fracking in UK could fail because of bureaucracy: report

Anti-fracking group targets disaster zone

Barton Moss fracking protesters face eviction from camp

Can fracking survive the 2015 General Election?

Policing shock

Fracking camp: Salford's shock at Barton Moss policing

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