Digest Index



The False Reasoning Behind the Fast Fracking Madness

Launched today (13th August) together with the announcement that the government is keen to take local decision-making away from local authorities is a joint statement by DECC and the DCLG. DCLG is the Department for Communities and Local Government.


” The Secretaries of State for Energy and Climate Change and for Communities and Local Government wish to set out the Government’s view that there is a national need to explore and develop our shale gas and oil resources in a safe, sustainable and timely way, and the steps it is taking to support this. This statement should be taken into account in planning decisions and plan-making.”

On reading the statement the first thing that struck me was the information that current UK annual gas consumption of around 2.5 tcf. This makes understandable why it has been reported today that shale gas can provide 50 years of UK gas. Previous media reports said 40.


The first point to make is to remind us that it would take tens of thousands of wells to extract the 130 tcf of gas. Let’s be generous and use for the average lifetime output estimate for a well of 3.2 bcf over thirty years, as used by the highly optimistic IoD report, paid for by Cuadrilla, which has become like the 2012 report of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering almost a bible for the government (both of these are quoted again in the August statement).

We would need around 40,600 wells. It is a pipedream, it won’t happen. If we take a lower non-industry estimate for recovery from the US Geological survey, 1.1 bcf per well, we would need to drill an incredible 118,000 wells.

The second interesting fact is that the UK’s gas demand has declined from the figure which has been commonly stated as around or just over 3 tcf per year. Down to 2.5 is quite a difference.

In fact the 2015 Dukes report (DECC’s annual Digest of Digest of UK Energy Statistics) released on 31st July 2015, shows figures for gas use down by nearly 9% ” Overall gas demand decreased by 8.9 per cent. Gas demand for electricity generation increased by 5.9 per cent as gas’s share of the UK’s generation of electricity rose to 30 per cent, from 27 per cent last year. Domestic demand, which is influenced by temperature, was 19 per cent lower than in 2013.”

Dukes 2015

The 2014 DUKES report showed a decrease of gas demand, lower at 1.1%. In fact gas demand has been dropping for the last six years.

The 2015 report is encouraging, showing that renewables are on the up - ” Electricity generated from renewable sources in the UK in 2014 increased by 21 per cent on a year earlier, and accounted for 19.1 per cent of total UK electricity generation, up from 14.8 per cent in 2013. Total renewables, as measured by the 2009 EU Renewables Directive, accounted for 7.0 per cent of energy consumption in 2014, up from 5.6 per cent in 2013.”

The renewables for electricity figure slightly more than nuclear. Coal remains the largest source of electricity generation at 30% (with 42% of imports from Russia, followed by US at 26%).

Surprisingly, given that we are constantly told about the continuing decline of UK gas production, the production of gas was actually UP by 0.2% in 2014. Not staggering increase, but bucking the 15 year downward trend, and with the government encouraging more offshore gas production we might expect this to be a new upward trend. However the forecast is still for the UK to import nearly 3/4 of its gas by 2030.

An interesting factoid as an aside - “The UK though remains a net exporter of petrol with nearly a third of exports shipped to the US.”

Returning to the DECC/DECG statement, the next figure offered in justification of the race for shale - ” National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios (2015) report 8. presents a wide range for potential shale gas production in the UK up to a peak of 32 bcm/year in 2030. This would be around 40% of all the gas we are projected to consume and result in our import dependency falling to 34%, compared to current projections that net imports could reach 75% in 2030.”

32bcm is 1130 bcf, or 1.13 tcf. If this is 40% of projected gas consumption that makes the projection 2.8 tcf. More than the 2014 figure but less than earlier years. It begs the question - where is the necessary extra production of electricity coming from if coal should be out by 2030? In February this year there was a cross-party pledge to phase out coal by then - BBC report

This says plainly - if coal is to be phased out, and gas is projected not to increase, then alternative sources must replace coal. Gas is not in this scenario a bridge fuel at all. It is maintaining the status quo, dependence on fossil fuels.

This warrants a look at the National Grid

This proposes 4 scenarios for electricty generation. The first point is this-
” Sufficient gas supplies are available in all scenarios with significant uncertainty on the source.
¦ In all scenarios there is sufficient gas supply to meet demand, both on an annual and peak basis.”

In other words, the “lights will go out” scare story is a total myth.

One scenario is the “Gone Green” option -

“Gone Green is the only scenario to achieve all renewable and carbon targets on time.
¦ Renewable technologies contribute 34% of electricity supplied by 2020. Wind power
contributes the vast majority of output to achieve the 2020 renewables target, at 18% of total output.
¦ Beyond 2020, low carbon electricity, from a mix of renewables and nuclear, underpins the electrification of heat and transport. Heat pumps and electric vehicles provide an increasing contribution towards meeting the targets over time.
¦ In order to meet the challenges of longterm decarbonisation targets the heat sector requires a move away from gas towards electric heating.
¦ Whilst heat pumps become the largest provider of heat in 2050, there is still an essential role for gas to provide top-up heat.
¦ In the three other scenarios environmental targets are not met on time due to lower prosperity and less green ambition.”

However - the “Consumer Power scenario - ” ¦ Consumer Power sees our highest case for GB production from shale gas, with 32 bcm per year by 2030. This significant growth in shale gas from the mid-2020s reduces the need for gas imports.”

The “Consumer Power” option predicts renewables only accounting for 19% of energy in 2030 against the 30% for the Gone Green scenario. It is also third out of the four scenarios for reduction of GHG emissions.

The point here is simply that in justifying the pursuit of shale gas and quoting the National Grid report, Amber Rudd and her cronies are effectively admitting they are NOT pursuing the only energy policy which will meet emissions and climate change targets.

The Gone Green option uses NO SHALE. Moreover -
"Gone Green is the only scenario showing exports by mid 2030s."

”Shale gas production ranges from zero in Slow Progression and Gone Green to 32 bcm/year in Consumer Power. This requires the development of 100 sites each with 10 vertical wells and 40 lateral wells.”

I am sorry Mr National Grid but this is nonsense. No way will a mere 4000 wells produce a single year’s output of 1.13 tcf. Again the fundamentally-flawed IoD (=Cuadrilla) report has been taken, using its implausible high scenario, which uses an impossible well EUR and ignores the fact of fracking life, well output dives steeply after year one. Half its output is generated over the first five years, then it takes another 25 to get the rest..

The “Consumer Power” scenario is not only failing to meet green targets but implausible.

And once again the DECC/ statement relies on false information produced by and for Cuadrilla.

What amazes me, is that if amateurs like myself can see the Emperor’s New Clothes for what they are, why on earth are the professionals and academics not speaking out. This government is intent not only on trampling over democracy, but on statistics and science.