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« Red, but not green? | Main | More than media »
Monday
Sep142015

Countryfile does shale gas

The BBC's Countryfile programme is not normally somewhere you look for balanced coverage of environmental issues, so it was interesting to see a piece (from 6 mins) on the prospects for unconventional gas development in England that was not exactly balanced, but still a far cry from the corporation's early coverage of the subject.

So we heard it was "controversial", but only once, and fracking fluid was described as "a mixture of water and chemicals", which struck me as rather misleading. You could still have come away from the report thinking that fracking was a new or "untried" technology. But we did get to see what a completed well pad looked like and the focus was more on greenhouse gases than the wilder claims of the environmental movement.

I suppose this must count as progress.

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Reader Comments (37)

The main thing that struck me watching the programme yesterday evening was the typically incompetent council leader. The issue for a council in making a decision is simple and does not need to take more than 16 weeks. The application has to be judged against the council's policies as given in the Local Plan (assuming it is up-to-date, agrees with the National Planning Policy Framework and has been formally adopted). Issues such as safety, transport, impact on heritage assets etc are dealt with or commented on by other bodies, such as the Health and Safety Executive, Historic England, The Highways Agency or Highways Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England etc. The major issues for the council on a fracking application would be straightforward things such as residential amenity (noise, view) and impact on the landscape. It would get recommendations on the impact on heritage assets and the highways etc from the other bodies.

In fact the issues surrounding an application for a wind farm would be far more complex than for a fracking site, since the impacts are more extensive and include NATS, communication companies, the MoD etc and the impact on residential amenity, the landscape and heritage assets are much more extensive due to the physically larger structures of a wind farm.

The vast quantity of paperwork the woman showed is much less than for a wind farm and I suspect most of it consisted of thousands of identical objection letters from greenies around the country. Letters from objectors/supporters are usually ignored by planning officers as the decision should be made purely on how the application measures against the requirements of the Local Plan.

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

But we know from the experience in the US that shale leads to lower CO2 emissions if it is used to replace coal fired power stations.

Following Kyoto, the US was pillorized for not ratifying Kyoto, and yet of all developed nations it has achieved the greatest reduction in CO2 emissions. This is all because of shale. So we know the practical consequences, and the benefit it brings financially (it has reinvigorated the US economy), politically (it has freed the US from dependency on the Middle East, and will eventually lead to less US intervention in the Middle East), and environmental (if one is at all concerned about reducing CO2).

There is no doubt that if the UK has shale reserves that can be effectively exploited, this will reduce CO2 more than would be the case by building more and more wind farms (which do not result in any significant reduction of CO2 because of the intermittent nature of wind and the need for convention fossil fuel back up generation).

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Watching 'Dung' Heap talking about the well-heads and fracking in general was wonderful to behold - as he was choking on the words put in his mouth by the producer (one assumes). And good that we got too see just a well-head so that viewers finally get to see the real scale of the thing (no more scary rigs).

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Also interesting within that same programme, was the clip with a wind farm in the background from ~23:55 - 24:07.

There are approx 9x turbines in view, but only 4x were rotating.

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Slightly off topic but the Met Office are forecasting a cooling Atlantic, leading to cooler (and drier) summers, for the next 10 years, and a harsh winter this year (because of El Nino). Last year Ms. Slingo even suggested that there may not be a resumption to warming before 2030, so it appears that the Met Office are just beginning to appreciate the role of oceans, and their natural cycles, in influencing climate.

Perhaps there is hope for them yet, or am I being too optimistic?.

Whatever, we really could do with all the cheap energy that we can lay our hands on

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Joe Public everyone knows that wind turbines don't all turn at once. We've all seen them.

And if they wanted to show a fully operational windfarm they would have to plan the filming like the wildlife unit waits for Snow Leopards.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:05 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

The controversial BBC now has to decide whether to stay aligned with old/new/old Labour.

The controversial BBC now has to establish whether its anti-fracking stance is still supported by the controversial Greens that persuaded the controversial BBC to adopt a stance that went against the best interests of the public.

The employees of the controversial BBC really ought to establish just how few controversial BBC staff in senior controlling positions, can distort the broadcaster's entire output.

Will the BBC ever be able to admit that fracking, especially in Britain, is bringing cheaper fuel costs for all, and disproportionately favours those on low income?

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Richard Verney:

There is no doubt that if the UK has shale reserves that can be effectively exploited, this will reduce CO2 more than would be the case by building more and more wind farms...
This is an indication of how well we become indoctrinated with the warmist arguments: we sceptics start to talk about reducing CO2 when, in truth, we are really arguing that there is no need to do this. While we put forward our arguments couched in the terms of the warmist agenda then they are winning. We should not parrot the need to reduce CO2 'emissions': we really need them, the warmistas, to show that there is a need to do so, and keep at them to do so.
That said, shale gas is an obvious choice of fuel for many, many reasons, not least that it would rid us of the stupid wind/solar farms that we all pay for..

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

They said it was 'politically controversial'....When in fact the truth is it has multi party support, with only the Greens opposing it (unless Labour has changed its position.)

An energetic cartoon that thinks outside of the box...

https://fenbeagleblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/box-clever-a-cubist-revival/

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterFen Beagle

@Richard Verney

...Slightly off topic but the Met Office are forecasting a cooling Atlantic, leading to cooler (and drier) summers, for the next 10 years, and a harsh winter this year (because of El Nino)...

The BBC website is leading on a projection by the Met Office that the next two years will be the 'hottest ever...'

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Roger Harrabin reported the Met Office forecast thus morning (Today programme on Radio 4- why do I bother to listen?? ) but he said there would be two exceptionally hot years to come, with sea level rise, melting ice and oceans heating up, although as an afterthought, he said N. Europe would be colder and drier than usual.

The only thing he didn't say is "we are all doomed" (although I:m sure he meant it) or make reference to some forthcoming get-together in Paris.....

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Harry: The problem is that, even if we are aware that the climate is not affected by CO2 levels, when it comes to supporting or opposing planning applications, you have to consider the effect on CO2 emissions because all policy is written in that way. If you say CO2 is irrelevant, you will be totally ignored. Until the climate change scam is ended we have to keep on putting forward the argument that wind turbines increase CO2, whilst shale gas instead of coal will reduce CO2. We can fight the climate change scam at the same time as using all means possible to try and get a sensible energy policy which does not include useless ruinables.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:25 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Their report was interesting, none the less. Something going on behind the scenes. Who's behind the change?

Also, like it or not, shale gas reserves is un-proven. Might be a bust. Will not know until the drillers go looking.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterrms

10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenter richard verney

They've made their money and have their pension secured. What do they care what happens after they decide to call it a day?

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Theb again there was this from the Wet Office:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3136780/You-need-wrap-UK-set-plunge-mini-ice-age-Met-Office-warns-one-five-chance-temperatures-drop-leaves-seen-17th-century.html

The guess from me is that they haven't a clue, full stop!

As to the "controversial" gas extraction, anything can be controversial if one chooses it to be!

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Why aren't the likes of Cuadrilla screening these sites? The visual impact is one of the supposed reasons for planning refusal, yet they could resolve that with (portable) replica hedges and trees. Don't laugh; modern versions are almost impossible to distinguish from real ones up close, never mind from any sort of distance. It would shut down the charge of 'industrialising the countryside' at a stroke.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Joe Public only 4 out of 9 windturbines actually turning.

Under EU Working Time Directives, wind turbines can not be expected to work 24 hours a day, only 8.

Therefore if a wind turbine does not turn in 24 hours, it was technically only "not working" for 8. For the other 16 hours it was resting.

At a stroke, the lack of productivity for any 24 hour period is cleverly disguised, and apparent output shoots up. Another triumph for administrators over engineering.

Sick pay for times unfit for work, is already in the bag. Maternity leave and pensions for windturbines, were in the pipeline, but the pipeline was capped off and abandoned, as we don't need pipes anymore.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I've just invented another brilliant App: A virtual windmill for your smart phone. Just hold it up in the air and the wind will recharge your smart phone. You could even walk down the street with it so turning your natural energy into real energy to charge your smart phone - which you can't live without... (You have to be careful with wind direction- you may have to walk backwards...)

I invented another can't-do-without app the other day. What you do is turn on your camera to look forward. That way you can see where the hell you are going as you zombie down the street in your zombie-virtual-world.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

PB
I think there's more scope for local objections than your post seems to be saying. As examples:

In our area there are two solar farms that are creating local annoyance because they have caused glare problems; there was no glare analysis even attempted for the planning objections which Jo Public should have picked up.

In Wales it seems to be an assumption towards planning consent on the grounds that we must meet our 2020 emissions cut target, but since 2012 It has been clear that this would be achieved well before 2020 and as of 2015 has actually been passed. This despite the fact that the TAN8 target was, per capita, 40 % higher than that of England.

In short, Jo Public needs to make sure that the local councillors know their stuff.

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

cheshirered
I spotted this in the Daily Mail sidebar of shame, so I think it will depend on the neighbours whether or not plastic hedges are acceptable.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3232553/X-Factor-judge-Rita-Ora-doesn-t-win-neighbours-votes-thanks-loud-partying-rebuilding-work-PLASTIC-hedge.html

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

That item was awful. Any viewer unfamiliar with the issue would come away with the impression that it was a highly dangerous and untested process. Why would the presenter make out like "we just don't know" when there are hundreds of thousands of shale wells being safely drilled and operated in the US and there are copious studies and reports showing it's completely safe?

Sep 14, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

@ Chilli at 11:17 AM

"That item was awful. Any viewer unfamiliar with the issue would come away with the impression that it was a highly dangerous and untested process."

I disagree.

I suspect most viewers had succumbed to greenwash, and so held relatively negative opinions about fracking prior to watching that prog. Also the Beeb did not re-use their infamously mis-scaled 'diagram' to explain the process, but used a realistic graphic.

IMHO Credit where it's due - it was a step in the right direction.

Sep 14, 2015 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:59 AM | SandyS

Yeah I did see that headline myself last week - but didn't read it. The point stands though. It would remove what is being used as a serious excuse / reason for planning refusal. An easy solution. Anyway it's made now so I'm not labouring the point anymore.

Sep 14, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

@rms

It would be more accurate to say that "in some areas of the UK; we are currently unaware of the amount of shale gas/oil in place". However in the North West Bowland Shale we already know that we have the richest shale deposit so far discovered anywhere in the world.

Sep 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung

One must allow for the fact that Beeboids might be prejudiced, willfully ignorant and manipulative - but on the whole with some notable exceptions they are not utterly stupid.

Any fule can see that the series of contrived hurdles emplaced by activists have not survived comparison to reality even when shored up with massive astrotuf attacks and 'sleb endorsements.

What is more important is the drip, drip, drip of toxic language from the likes of Mr. Heap and his ilk and its effect on those who are just incurious enough not to take an actual look for themselves. I am repeatedly surprised by people who I'd reasonably expect to be informed just a little bit more than a cabbage parroting the BBC fracking mantras....

It was progress of a sort - but the goons are still setting the agenda with the same lies, half truths, misrepresentations and scaremongering that have characterised the debate up to now on their side - they are simply playing a minor game of CYA like the ghastly, slimy Harrabin always does.

Sep 14, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Phillip Bratby 2015 at 9:50 AM

In view of the council exceeding there mandate would that not be good grounds for a planning appeal ? I believe they also went against their own planning department and the legal advice. I know it could be expensive for Cuadrilla but I am surprised they have not appealed.

Sep 14, 2015 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Ross Lea: Yes I'm sure they have good grounds for an appeal. Applicants have 6 months in which to lodge an appeal, so I expect Cuadrilla are getting their case together. In my opoinion it is likely that for these fracking appeals the SoS would call in the appeal, and if an Inspector dismissed the appeal (unlikely in the Cuadrilla cases because permission was refused by the planning committee against the planning officer's advice based on Lancashire's Local Plan), the SoS would allow the application.

Sep 14, 2015 at 4:00 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"Roger Harrabin reported the Met Office forecast thus morning (Today programme on Radio 4- why do I bother to listen?? ) but he said there would be two exceptionally hot years to come, with sea level rise, melting ice and oceans heating up, although as an afterthought, he said N. Europe would be colder and drier than usual.
...

Sep 14, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger"

Yikes!!

Well, the prediction comes at an auspicious time of the year. You should be able to buy snow blowers cheap now, so at least you'll be ready when the snow and cold hits. Putting in a little extra sidewalk salt might be a good idea too.
Maybe you can earn extra cash by charging the horrible harridan Harrabin 500 or so pounds sterling for clearing his walkway.

Sep 14, 2015 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

That Heap of merde just make me sick. His patronising voice and glib crap is just what the arrogant toadies at the BBC love.

Sep 14, 2015 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

@rms

It would be more accurate to say that "in some areas of the UK; we are currently unaware of the amount of shale gas/oil in place". However in the North West Bowland Shale we already know that we have the richest shale deposit so far discovered anywhere in the world.

Sep 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM Dung


I believe ENI have just announced the biggest ever find of gas and oil. I think it was around the med. ENI are italian

Sep 14, 2015 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

However in the North West Bowland Shale we already know that we have the richest shale deposit so far discovered anywhere in the world.

Sep 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM Dung


I believe ENI have just announced the biggest ever find of gas and oil. I think it was around the med. ENI are italian

Stephen, when people talk about "shale" gas or oil, they generally mean tight shales of the sort that have recently been exploited by "fracking".

Sorry, naughty me: "the controversial process known as ..."

The ENI find is close to the big Israel and Cyprus gas fields, in quite deep water.
Without checking, I think it's around 1800m.

Also without checking, is it "biggest ever" or "biggest in recent years"?

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Harry Passfield - that's just a well head after drilling is completed. But don't forget that for a viable production field there will have to be some hundreds of them and they have to be re-fracked about every eighteen months.

rms - well said: we have no idea how viable our shale is until the drillers and testers have done their work.

Dung - still you go on about the wonders of our shale without a shred of physical evidence. Its not the shale that's in doubt its the deliverability of it. In Poland, San Leon Energy had vast shale resources but walked away after the first well was tested. If its such a great game, how come the Shell's, BP's etc aren't rushing to play?

Sep 15, 2015 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

Vernon E
Whilst there will be more than one well head needed to extract the gas or oil these are easily screened by hedges or trees. The gas and oil produced is used to generate electricity reliably, predictably and at a reasonable cost. Recent developments mean that a single well head can be exploited by drilling horizontally in all directions. Initial drilling and refracking whilst causing some disruption is short lived. Where as the wind turbines that blight our once lovely countryside and coastline are very expensive with heavy subsidies that are a bourdon to the poorest in our society. The nature of wind power is that it is unpredictable and often not available when most needed. It is destabilising to the National Grid and requires pylons all across the countryside. If you are concerned about reducing the emissions of CO2 you must be aware that the USA has made significant reductions in it’s CO2 emissions not by useless windmill and solar panels but by using shale gas in place of coal. So if you really care about the emissions of CO2 you should embrace hydraulic fracturing as a stop gap until safe nuclear comes on stream (Thorium Based).

Sep 15, 2015 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

there will have to be some hundreds of them

Not true at all, unless the boom is massive - which you're saying it won't be. Herringbone multilaterals are typical of modern shale wells.


The barriers to starting in onshore shale are far lower and thus suit small companies with lower overheads than the giants.

One thing holding investment back is this:
http://www.theweek.co.uk/fracking/56818/fast-track-fracking-tories-accused-of-anti-democratic-move#

I.e official tolerance of criminal obstruction.

Sep 15, 2015 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

@kellydown

that last sentence I think should read official connivance and conspiracy to defraud.

As far as I'm aware very little at the drill site changed - the much the same practical operational rules - just more clipboard wielding box ticking idjits in pristine hi-viz / plastic hats plus a load more fat oafs far away appointing their chums to committees.... and sucking public funds and ransoming the process where they can.

The bloated EA have been loving it - loads of meetings, Powerpoints, "extra jobs" and so forth - mannah from heaven for the Sir Humphreys and their minions.

There is a way to undermine all this - an independent local community fund on a production percentage .... a charity beyond the reach of the bureaucrats and most of the pols.

Sep 15, 2015 at 7:39 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I was recently talking to a colleague who had visited relatives in Pennsylvania/Ohio. They had been struggling but were now doing well and all debts paid due to mineral rights received for drilling on their land.

People there are fighting to get the frackers in, not keep them out.

As all drillers know, fracking is just one part of a process and nobody who knew anything about it would have expected the anti-hydrocarbon crowd to pick on that part above all others.

But the fact that so few people knew anything about it proved a golden opportunity for the anti-everything activists to take ownership of the term, and disgracefully, a compliant spoonfed media has just regurgitated their propaganda.

To the point where bureaucrats and local councils seem to think they're doing right by blocking shale enterprises.

Sep 15, 2015 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Kelly Down
Ross Lea

Wake up at the back there - where have you been all these years?

To recap - I am totally in favour of fracking in principle and think that ALL forms of renewables (barring hydro) are nonsense and economically suicidal - personally I would go all out for coal. But I question the practicality of shale exploitation in the UK for the reasons I have enumerated till everyone is tired of me. UNTIL a well has been drilled, fracked and tested - which should be done with NO further delay, even if the taxpayer subsidises it - we just don't know. If, in the absence of any facts whatsoever, we take it that a UK shale well will produce similar typical flows as Marcellus shale, it will deliver 400 - 600 MCFD and over 400 wells will be needed to produce about ten per cent of UK usage. The whole topic of well configuration, multi-laterals etc (somebody even stated that a well can be directed to progressive levels - I suspect this nonsense) is pure conjecture. Until that testing is complete and the developer(s) make firm proposals for exploitation of a prospect the REAL debate can't even start.

Sep 16, 2015 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

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