Advanced search

Shale watching

Britain isn’t fulfilling its potential, at least not when it comes to developing its energy resources.

Specifically, we’re lacking – and lagging behind – in developing shale gas and oil resources, a point reiterated last week by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

They note that the Environment Agency has not received or approved any application for the permits necessary for exploratory drilling, despite the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) being lifted two years ago.

This, they say, is an unacceptable state of affairs given the projected volumes of shale oil and gas that could help lessen energy imports, create new jobs, retain and develop energy intensive and petrochemical industries, and provide the Exchequer with a steady income.

‘The benefits cannot be quantified however until exploratory drilling and appraisal establishes the UK’s economically recoverable reserves of shale gas and paves the way for development,’ they say

In their report, the Committee urges ‘a simplified and clear regulatory regime to encourage development of shale and reassure communities that risks of harm to the environment or human health are low. The Committee express concern that complex regulation may be causing unnecessary delays.’

‘Our report shows that unnecessary duplication and diffusion of authority are still rife throughout the regulatory process,’ commented Committee chairman Lord MacGregor. ‘The government must do more to simplify regulation to ensure that exploratory drilling and development can go ahead. Regulation around shale should be robust, but should move quickly and be easy to understand.’

The European perspective on shale gas regulation is up for discussion this week at the European Shale Gas Regulation and Supply Chain Summit in London today, whilst in Birmingham, conference delegates at Shale Gas World UK (May 13/14) will ask, amongst other things, whether shale is, in fact, a significant element in Britain’s energy future.

City & Financial’s Summit aims to unite UK and Polish government ministers with representatives from industry to discuss how the industry in Europe should be regulated, with particular attention focussed on national and EU-level policies.

One keynote at the multi-faceted conference in Birmingham – encompassing technical and local community roundtables, technical insight presentations, plus a look at regulatory and technical hurdles – will consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of shale commercialisation, and how the UK can maximise its opportunities. Speakers include Dan Byles MP, who sits on the parliamentary energy and clime change committee; Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace; John McGoldrick, CEO of Dart Energy Europe; plus Andrew Quarles, exploration director at Cuadrilla Resources.

To many, Cuadrilla Resources is the most prominent name in this burgeoning industry and yesterday the Daily Telegraph reported that it was hoping to fuel British homes with shale gas by the end of 2015. According to the report, Cuadrilla will submit planning applications by the end of the month to drill near the Lancashire villages of Roseacre and Little Plumpton by the end of 2014.

Reported barriers to this development? Planning permission, multiple permits from the Environment Agency, and the likelihood of legal challenges from environmental campaigners.

Whilst discussions continue over shale, another burgeoning source of energy - tidal – is on its way to proving its worth with Nautricity set to produce commercially viable electricity following the deployment of its Contra Rotating Marine Turbine (CoRMaT) devices in Scotland.


CoRMaT, which as the name suggests uses a contra-rotating rotor system to harness tidal energy, is tethered to the seabed and held in tension by a sub-surface float. Over the past 18 months, Nautricity has built its first commercial scale device which has a rotor span of 10m.

Strathclyde University spinout Nautricity say the turbines (pictured left) can be deployed in water depths of up to 500m and, because their closely spaced, contra-rotating rotors moving in opposite directions, they remain steady in the face of strong tidal flows, ‘allowing the device to “fly” from a simple tensioned mooring’. This allows the device to maintain optimum alignment into the tidal flow as it varies its direction for maximum energy capture.

Cameron Johnstone, Nautricity’s co-founder and CEO stated that multi-megawatt arrays will be built once CoRMaT has demonstrated its ability to provide affordable electricity that can compete with other forms of energy generation.










Readers' comments (14)

  • Quote: "The Summit aims to unite UK and Polish government ministers"

    What does the polish government have to do with it?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Because its an Anglo-Polish focussed event, with input from Poland's governmental administration, trade organisations, companies and research groups.

  • You could add that Poland was also promised that shale gas would ride in on a white horse to save the country's energy system, only to discover that it wasn't going to be that easy.

    As the Financial Times reported last August:

    "in Poland, some US companies have withdrawn their interest in exploring for shale gas after early drilling disappointment".

    In another FT story last year, I read:

    "The US Energy Information Administration set off Poland's shale frenzy in 2011 when it estimated that it had possible reserves of 5.3tn cubic metres, the biggest in Europe. More recent estimates by the Polish Geological Institute have been more conservative, saying the country may have 346bn to 768bn cubic metres of shale gas."

    If the UK wants to talk shale to anyone, I'd rather it were Poland than the cowboys in the USA who, with their dreadful environmental performance and hopeless regulatory regime, are doing their best to make the technology unsellable in Europe.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Shale gas and coal bed methane extraction is potentially lethal.
    look at the health information coming out of hte countries who have had fracking for years, breast cancer, childhood luekimia all higher than average and rising not falling. water pollution.
    The red tape is there to try to regulate the industry.
    If you look at who was on the Lords panel who put forward the report, most of them have interests in the industry or a linked to it in some way.
    Wrexham council took the bold step of refusing an exploritory drilling request following concerns for potential gas pockets. A week later there is an explosion in America because they hit a gas pocket while test drilling.
    This type of energy extraction should not be used near popullated areas. And the UK is too small to accommodate the 70,000 wells that the fracking companies need to fulfil the promises they are making to their share holders.

    Come on people, see sense.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Interesting that a Lords committee says that the UK is dragging its feet on shale and expresses concern that "complex regulation may be causing unnecessary delays"

    But aren't we also being assured by UK shale proponents that the environmental and health impacts so evident in the USA will never happen here because the UK regulatory regime is so much better? Seems a contradiction to me.

    Although, given this government's record on downsizing the EA for example weakening resources available to deal with flood management, how can we be sure that the UK would actually be any better than the US at controlling the risks from shale gas extraction?

    And what is the rush? The UK has moth-balled gas-fired power stations because global prices for coal are so low. If we had a solid intention to cut GHG emissions from the power sector, coal would be off-line by now.

    UK shale gas, if it ever appears in volume, will not displace coal-power in the short term because it will be too expensive. The heat market may be different, but since shale gas GHG performance is worse than 'natural' gas, where is the climate benefit?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Fools Rush Angels Cease Killing Inherited Natural Ground .
    The first thing to get in place is a compensation fund for the damage that cannot be repaired.
    Cheap energy? Let some other European country do it, France is not having any of this stupidity.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Rather than make any guesses about the impact of shale gas extraction on public health, I thought that I would check what the experts have to say. I am sure that some will brand Public Health England as ‘lackeys of big business’, but I found it very interesting:

    Dr John Harrison, Director of PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said:
    The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.
    Where potential risks have been identified in other countries, the reported problems are typically due to operational failure.
    Good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects of exploratory drilling, gas capture as well as the use and storage of fracking fluid is essential to minimise the risks to the environment and health.
    Most evidence from other countries suggests that any contamination of groundwater, if it occurs, is likely to be caused by leakage through the vertical borehole. Therefore good well construction and maintenance is essential to reduce the risks of ground water contamination.
    Contamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself is unlikely because of the depth at which it occurs.
    Dr Harrison said:
    PHE will work with regulators to ensure appropriate assessment of risk from all aspects of shale gas extraction.
    Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer at PHE, said:
    The report makes a number of recommendations, including the need for environmental monitoring to provide a baseline ahead of shale gas extraction, so that any risks from the operation can be appropriately assessed.
    Effective environmental monitoring in the vicinity of the extraction sites is also required during the development, production and post-production of shale gas wells.
    In due course it will also be important to assess the broader public health impacts such as increased traffic, the impact of new infrastructure on the community and the effect of workers moving to fracking areas.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The real issue is environmental damage as British Coal reports show that water from mid Scotland travels as far south as Kent. This water surfaces at numerous locations around the UK and is essentially 3 dimensional.

    Considering the simple facts then drilling and fracking anywhere can lead to the majority of the countries water being polluted. This raises the question of "if BC knew of these underground water runs decades ago then why is fracking ever being allowed.

    We already know the country can run on sea water so why is this technology being suppressed? of course its profit. Gas is more expensive with a much higher profit margin.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any chance of references to the more outrageous claims lobbed in here.

    I read that "British Coal reports show that water from mid Scotland travels as far south as Kent".

    British Coal has been a busted flush on research in decades. And since when was it expert in the whole of the UK's hydrogeology?

    The water companies are more knowledgeable and have more to lose if fracking fouls their "raw material". The water industry's lobby group, Water UK, has said:

    "Water UK and its members do not support or oppose the exploitation of shale gas. As with any activity of this nature there are inherent risks."

    "Evidence suggests that these risks can be mitigated given proper enforcement of regulations, primarily by environmental and health and safety regulators."

    A slightly more credible source than a disgruntled retire miner muttering into his beer at a working man's club.

    Don't take my word for it, read the statements yourself:

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "We already know the country can run on sea water so why is this technology being suppressed?"

    Oh no we don't. We are pouring money into it. Try the Catapult for Offshore Renewable Energy, Glasgow. Hardly the sort of body to try to suppress good news. So there's another conspiracy theory blown out of the water.

    I apologise for continuing to insist on evidence over anecdote, but we are among engineers after all.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Michael Kenward, please stop misquoting what I have stated, I never said the words "I read" anywhere.

    What I did do was manage the project when British Coal traced underground water flows around the UK at mining level. Therefore I am not basing anything on assumption, hearsay, or anything other then fact and actual evidence.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page

Have your say


Related images

My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article