Gas fracking in the UK - The Fownhope CRAG response

My hunch is that Fracking will play some role in our future energy needs - but lets please for our futures sake not take any risks in a rush to what some see as a silver bullet - it simply is not, just a part of the energy mix and not in the immediate future.  And no it is not going to bring prices down - and whilst on that theme, many have identified that renewables are cheaper, in addition they are here today, proven and beyond all else -SAFE, both now and for future generations.  So why invest in the technology and fuel sources of the past, as as a ''world leading nation'' we should be championing the future energy sources not the past.

Following on from the last few weeks of local and Uk coverage on the fracking debate - Here is the local response from our villages own CRAG group


Fownhope, has been identified as a potential site for Fracking. You can read the story as it appeared in the Hereford Times here.    

Inevitably this has given rise to considerable local opposition but there is also a ground swell of opinion which suggests that even if it was safe - which we don't think it is - or likely to solve any of our energy problems - which we don't think it will - it still isn't financially viable anyway. It may be that this will be the argument which ultimately stops fracking being an issue in Herefordshire, but this is no reason to be complacent. There are clear issues of concern, some of which CRAG member Frank Hemming discusses below -

Regarding gas prices, there is little evidence gas will be cheaper for us in Britain as a result of fracking for gas. Low prices of gas in the US are due to a temporary glut in a local market. US producers intend to export gas via Liquified Natural Gas terminals, particularly to China. Their prices, which are already rising, will then rise much further. Oil is traded on a world market, with prices over $100 a barrel. Fracking for oil in the US has not brought down world oil prices.

Fracked shale gas fields decline quickly. Arthur Berman, a sceptical Houston geologist, says: “Unconventional gas has at least twice as fast a decline rate as conventional resources. About 85 per cent of the value of shale wells in the Barnett (US shale field) will be produced in the first 10 years.” Rapid decline of shale fields which are fracked leads to a process of continuous drilling, with severe damage to roads due to intense use by heavy lorries.

Press reports of vast supplies can be misleading. As an example Arthur Berman estimates that out of 1329Tcf  (trillion cubic feet) most likely gas in place for the Bowland Shale (North West England), 42Tcf would be commercially producible, which would hardly change the energy future of the UK, yet would take about 30,000 wells to fully develop.  

Fracking on a large scale is new. Although the industry will say that fracking techniques have been used for 60 years, what's new is the volume of fluids used. 50 to 100 times more according to Louis Allstadt, a retired vice president of Mobil oil company, and campaigner against fracking in New York State. Louis also reports cases where methane has crept up to the surface into aquifers and into the atmosphere. (Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term.) After wells are plugged gas can migrate to the surface through rock fissures. At least one study has shown that 100% of plugs in abandoned wells fail within 100 years, many sooner. This release of methane together with “fugitive” releases might more than cancel out the advantage of burning gas compared to burning coal, even though gas produces less carbon dioxide than coal for equivalent heat output.

Britain ceased to be an exporter of gas and oil by 2005, and according to Tim Morgan even if energy demand does continue to fall, we could be in a supply squeeze by the winter of 2014-15. He also states that there are media rumours that plans already exist to cut back on gas supplies to industry in order to prevent shortfalls in the home. Although fracking for gas wouldn’t change this picture it would at least give the impression that something was being done.

We need to get used to using less fossil fuel as fossil fuels become less available. Shale gas is a short term fix which does nothing to lessen fossil fuel dependency and is likely to divert resources away from energy conservation and renewables. Meanwhile Energinet of Denmark are planning to use surplus electricity from renewables to generate gas via electrolysis of water. 
There is a lot of information on fracking on the website.
Other sources easily found with an internet search are:
The Financial Times (some articles freely available)
Tim Morgan
Art Berman
Louis Allstadt
David Hughes geologist
Tom Whipple (Post Carbon Institute)
Also some useful information on Caplor's Renewable Energy Blog 
Thanks to Frank Hemming for this article.