back to article Shale gas: If we've got it, flaunt it

The shale gas revolution was given a guarded welcome by Parliament yesterday, with the economic and security benefits to the UK judged to outweigh environmental reservations. Exploration consortium Cuadrilla reckons that the UK could be self-sufficient for 15 years using cheap gas extracted from the Bowland shale alone - and …


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  1. Richard Wharram
    Thumb Up


    Common sense at last ?

    Lowering carbon does not necessarily mean renewa-fucking-bles !

    Now scrap the ROCs.

    1. NomNomNom

      This doesn't lower carbon, it increases it.

      This is adding a new source of carbon to the pile of carbon we will burn.

      1. Richard Wharram

        If it replaces coal-sourced leccy then it reduces CO2 emissions. Windmill-sourced leccy is still a piss in the, well, wind.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Perhaps her electric car had broken down"

    They're very reliable - more likely she'd run out of juice

  3. Alan Bourke

    So, fracking.

    Is there any sane, impartial evidence as to environmental hazards one way or the other?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      From wiki:

      "Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well) is a rhetorical device where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience"

    2. FuzzyTheBear


      The series of earthquakes they got is very hard to explain.Quite a few in the last few days.

      They have developed shale gas and seem to be having earthquakes a plenty ever since.

      Coincidence ? maybe . but then again .. what do you expect happens when we blow up the planet and pollute it's underground ? It will be an interresting story to follow .. just as much as those concerning flaming water and gas coming out the faucets of well water using homes ..

      Who knows .. but it really dont feel like it's a simple coincidence.

    3. Dict80r

      Check the documentary called Gasland. Scary stuff

      1. Tom 38
        Thumb Down


        Check out the criticism of the documentary called 'Gasland'. Misleading stuff. The director of Gasland is the worst kind of documentary film maker, pre-judging his content before starting filming, and instead of moving on to the next project, spends his time promoting and profiting from his fear story.

        This rebuttal is from the 'industry' so obviously you should take it with a pinch of salt, however if you take the biased view of one side, it's worth seeing it from the (also biased) other side as well.

        1. Tom 13

          Forget it. He's not worth the electrons.

          Anybody still hawking the Gasland Kool-Aid when the most dramatic participant from the movie has repeatedly admitted that he was showing people his "burning water" years before the first fracking well went in isn't naive, he's willfully obstinate; sort of like the Inquisition when they set upon Galileo.

    4. Ru

      "any sane, impartial evidence?"


      You must be new here. And by 'here' I mean "The Earth".

      Given that ad hominem attacks and erring on the side of 'shrill' have proven to be such an effective means of politicking, why would anyone choose anything different? Science is *hard* and no-one care about the results it generates.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      here (also posted last fracking shale story comments)

      "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing"

      Osborn, Vengosh, Warner, Jackson


      Directional drilling and hydraulic-fracturing technologies are dramatically increasing natural-gas extraction. In aquifers overlying the Marcellus and Utica shale formations of northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, we document systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale-gas extraction. In active gas-extraction areas (one or more gas wells within 1 km), average and maximum methane concentrations in drinking-water wells increased with proximity to the nearest gas well and were 19.2 and 64 mg CH4 L-1 (n = 26), a potential explosion hazard; in contrast, dissolved methane samples in neighboring nonextraction sites (no gas wells within 1 km) within similar geologic formations and hydrogeologic regimes averaged only 1.1 mg L-1 (P < 0.05; n = 34). Average δ13C-CH4 values of dissolved methane in shallow groundwater were significantly less negative for active than for nonactive sites (-37 ± 7‰ and -54 ± 11‰, respectively; P < 0.0001). These δ13C-CH4 data, coupled with the ratios of methane-to-higher-chain hydrocarbons, and δ2H-CH4 values, are consistent with deeper thermogenic methane sources such as the Marcellus and Utica shales at the active sites and matched gas geochemistry from gas wells nearby. In contrast, lower-concentration samples from shallow groundwater at nonactive sites had isotopic signatures reflecting a more biogenic or mixed biogenic/thermogenic methane source. We found no evidence for contamination of drinking-water samples with deep saline brines or fracturing fluids. We conclude that greater stewardship, data, and—possibly—regulation are needed to ensure the sustainable future of shale-gas extraction and to improve public confidence in its use.

      1. ChilliKwok

        This paper has been widely discredited. Criticisms include:

        1) Thermogenic methane occurs naturally in 85% of water wells across the entire region. Gas migration has been a problem in Pennsylvania for decades, well before the first Marcellus well was drilled in 2005.

        2) The study has no baseline data for the selected wells so there's no way of knowing if the naturally occuring levels have been increased by fracking.

        3) Rather than being a random sample, the 'wells near fracking sites' were specially chosen to be in areas with a high natural thermogenic methane content. And the control wells away from fracking sites were in low natural methane level areas. Creating a false picture that the drilling caused the methane - when in fact the methane caused the drilling.

        4) The authors use the lefty slogan "sustainable future" in their conclusion. This indicates they believe poor people should suffer higher energy bills in the present, so theoretical future generations can have an easier life - despite the fact those future generations will have infinitely more wealth, technology, a higher standard of living and a longer life expectancy than those expected to make sacrifices today.

  4. Tom7

    Not sure grammar nazi is the right choice here

    "reduce its independence on imports from Russia"

    Full marks there.

    Just how cheap are we talking?

    1. Steve Crook

      Don't get your hopes up.

      Any reduction in the price of gas will almost certainly be eaten away by a corresponding increase in taxes levied. I'm old enough to remember the promises of riches that were going to come from the development of north sea oil was discovered, and we all know how that worked out. Some countries built up large sovereign wealth funds, others didn't...

      1. Tom7

        More curious about what the likely p/kWhr wholesale cost is likely to be. Is it going to be cheaper than importing from Norway?

    2. Citizen Kaned

      thats what i was thinking...

      whats the bet we dont see any price decrease? more money to the gas suppliers?!

  5. Refugee from Windows

    It's only Lancashire after all

    This of course is not the Home Counties, it's well north of Watford Gap and as far as Parliament is concerned it could be a different planet.

    Some may complain if Blackpool is turned to a pile of rubble by all the earthquakes, they may have to change the odd conference venue.

    1. Tom7

      Now, if only we could find shale gas under Leeds...

      1. Refugee from Windows

        Under Leeds

        Wouldn't do that much damage really, it's not as if London realises we're here anyway. It'd be the newer buildings that would fall down, one less shopping centre would be no loss.

        Best solution if they did find such is to declare independence for the Northern Alliance, then sell it to the southerners at a price that'll make them squeal.

        1. John Hawkins
          Thumb Up

          Yes indeed; I'd second that. If them southerners get uppity we of the diaspora will dust off our ceremonial caps, braces and black puddings, and come to our ancestral homeland's defence.

    2. Ru

      So what you're saying is, that not only will this keep fuel prices sane, but it will also significantly increase the value of land in Blackpool?

      Sounds like a plan with no drawbacks. Trebles all round!

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    The WORST thing that could have happened.

    It's like an alcoholic discovering there's an extra bottle at the back ...

    So now, any incentive on (a) making energy usage more efficient, and (b) investigating alternatives will be dropped like a hot potato ... and we'll bequeath the whole mess to our descendants.

    God loves a joke, doesn't he ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Need to use the time wisely

      @JimmyPage: "It's like an alcoholic discovering there's an extra bottle at the back "

      Or perhaps like a journey through the desert with only enough water to survive for 5 days, but still 7 days away from safety, and discovering another 3 days supply.

      Frankly, I don't see a workable plan for renewable resource (yet). What we're rolling out now is costing a small fortune, but not solving several fundamental problems. Shale gas has the potential to carry us through the time it takes to develop workable solutions to those problem. Whether there is the political will to keep spending on R&D is another question though. I understand the concerns, but steaming ahead on renewables without a full roadmap seems worse to me.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Actually I agree

        but I predict that the amount of effort - political and finiancial - that goes into developing alternative energy will fall in proportion to the amount of effort put into getting shale gas out of the ground.

    2. Sean Baggaley 1


      The demand for energy is on a rising, not falling, trend. (The population of this planet ain't getting any smaller!) Do you seriously the British to suddenly switch overnight to solar photovoltaic and heating panels, and giant concrete windmills striding majestically across the landscape?

      That was never going to happen, regardless of what some anti-energy fanatics would have you believe. Short of building a lot more nuclear power stations, there really isn't a lot of choice: it's fossil fuels or bugger all. It's impossible to run a service-based economy so heavily reliant on electronics on sunshine and winds alone: neither source can provide a guaranteed baseline level of electricity without massive ecological damage. (I.e. holding lakes.)

      Complex problems tend to have complex solutions. There is no magic wand.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        As I said

        above, I'm not saying renewables were a magic bullet. But we really need to address our appitite for energy - finding more energy for "free" isn't going to encourage that.

        1. Steve Crook

          Out of ammunition

          @jimmypage Wasn't suggesting you were a renewables nutter, just that we will need the gas if we go down the renewables route and want to avoid being completely at the mercy of Russia. If you factor in a proposed switch to electric vehicles, demand for leccy is set to rise significantly. I don't see that there are economies we can make in other areas that will offset it in any significant fashion.

          I'm sure the gubermint will address the issue of cost by raising taxes to keep the price at a suitably high level, I don't forsee any significant drop in price. What it can give us is some degree of energy security, I worry about the idea of it being extracted and sold on the world market and not used by us, and therefore being depleted quicker. This stuff is precious, and we should be reserving it for our own use. Again, I do not trust a gubermint to manage it in the best long term interests of the nation.

    3. Steve Crook

      God doesn't exist.

      Actually, if the renewable nutters have their way and we don't build nuclear power stations and try to generate a significant portion of our leccy from renewables we're going to need this gas to provide the backup for when the wind isn't blowing. It will be that or being prepared to bend over for the Russians. I know which one I'd prefer.

  7. Helena Handcart

    Energy Minster Charles Hendry gave it a guarded welcome. "The government are committed..."

    I think Energy Minster Charles Hendry needs to go back to school and learn what a collective noun is.

  8. Dexter
    IT Angle


    There's a good, fairly balanced article in the latest Scientific American.

    It's not the fracking itself which causes problems - the wells can leak (causing methane or nasty chemicals to get into water supplies), and the tanks which are used to store the waste fluid can overflow or leak, contaminating water supplies.

    It's probably no worse than mining for the environment; but mining doesn't have a great record.

  9. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    And here come the green loonies

    If you go back and look at each and every scare the eco-loons have promoted over time, you will discover that pretty much all of them were either exaggerated scaremongering, beyond our control, or just plain wrong. The current obsession with limiting output of carbon dioxide, for instance, is basically utter gibberish as the latest research clearly demonstrates (global temperature is tracked by atmospheric carbon dioxide, with the CO2 lagging about 200 years behind the temperature).

    Neither the USA nor China will have anything to do with CO2 limitation treaties, mostly because both are heavily dependent on fossil fuel industry for their economic well-being and rightly view limitations as limitations on their economies. So, without the big two emitters in the scheme, why should we beggar ourselves to achieve nothing at all?

    A more sensible approach in these economic conditions would be to attempt to strengthen our industrial and economic systems by decreasing the cost of energy by whatever means possible; this would include shale gas and nuclear power. It would also be very sensible to start researching how to break down toxic long half-life radionucleotides into much shorter half-life ones; the major problem with disposal of these toxins is building a storage facility which will endure long enough to let them all decay to harmlessness, and shortening this period is a very useful way to achieve this.

    Fast-neutron reactors are one method, and particle accelerator bombardment is another. Both want researching heavily, because if we get one working effectively, we will then have a unique UK industry that nobody else will even want to get involved with, let alone be able to do. Similarly disposal of plutonium is another possible UK industry (disposal by using in power generation) which would make the world a safer place by reducing the amount of fissile bomb-making material in the world.

    On the other hand, we could all follow Mr Huhne's example, stick up useless windmills and wonder why we're all freezing and dying of starvation...

    1. dwieske

      no research needed

      dude, build some S-PRIMS from GE (IFR based reactors able to run on nuclear waste, reducing it to shortlived isotopes in the process)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Fast-neutron reactors are one method, and particle accelerator bombardment is another. Both want researching heavily, because if we get one working effectively, we will then have a unique UK industry that nobody else will even want to get involved with, let alone be able to do."

      Hello? Wasn't this the whole business plan of BNFL? Next up: schoolboy tells teacher that he needs more time to do his homework because it turns out he was out playing football every night this week.

      "On the other hand, we could all follow Mr Huhne's example, stick up useless windmills and wonder why we're all freezing and dying of starvation..."

      It seems to me that you and the article's author should spend less time stuffing words into the mouth of the political scapegoat of the day and focus on providing the specifics - good *and* bad (not "free unicorns for everyone!") - of whichever thing it is that is supposed to pull the nation out of its nosedive.

      More supposedly cheap gas runs the risk of making people and infrastructure even more resistant to change (Britain is far too dependent on gas as it is), undermining investments in other technologies (contrary to those pushing an agenda, solar technology isn't standing still), and turning out not to be that cheap after all.

      (And it'd be interesting to know the connection between Yeo and Cuadrilla. Is he a director or something? A nice supply of natural gas would certainly be beneficial to AFC Energy, of which he is a non-executive director, apparently.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with the "they're all loonies approach"...

      naysayers only need to be right about us being f*cked once for that to be the case.

      You need to be right every single time. Dismissive grouping of any counter expansion argument as "looney" or "gibberish" just increases the chances of missing that one occasion; and inherently implies that there'll never be a point where industrialization could screw things up.

      "How to break down toxic long half-life radionucleotides " That's a convoluted way of saying "fission" , "Doctor". Also, "toxin" only applies to organically generated poisons. Fuck, I love it when scientists comment on shit that isn't in their field, like people who ain't statisticians commenting on the significance of medical tests; it's just comical.

  10. paulc


    there was a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in Oklahoma this weekend... an American state not normally associated with earthquakes... the stand out feature, fracking is taking place in Oklahoma near the epicenter...

  11. Perpetual Cyclist

    Shale gas is not cheap natural gas. The production decline rates are very high on most wells, requiring the well to be regularly re-fractured to sustain economic flow rates. The true volume of economically recoverable shale is unknown, and any figure reported by a shale gas drilling company needs to be treated as pie in the sky. It will require drilling of thousands of on-shore wells, which will be at least as disruptive and more polluting and noisy than a large scale wind farm in the same area. There is widespread hysteria about the fracturing process itself, this has been widely used in the industry for decades already, and the dangers are well understood. The earth tremors recently caused were extremely small, but there is need for careful control and clean-up regulations to avoid serious environmental impacts.

    It is a fossil fuel. It is a lot less polluting than coal, which is the fuel it will replace in our power stations. It will not, however, prevent us being a net importer of natural gas because we cannot drill wells fast enough to offset North Sea decline. It will make the coming energy crisis sllightly less painful, but we are still facing fossil fuel powerdown in the next twenty years, We cannot burn what is not there.

  12. Pete Rowley

    Low carbon?

    Since when was shale gas low carbon? It has exactly the same carbon footprint as other fossil fuels - i.e. you're bringing new carbon into the carboncycle from deep geological storage.

    1. Chemist

      "Since when was shale gas low carbon?"

      Most of the energy comes from burning the hydrogen in methane.

      A mole of carbon (12g) burning to CO2 (22.4L )emits ~350 kJ

      A mole of methane (16g) burns to CO2 (22.4L) + 2H2O and gives ~900kJ

  13. dwieske

    burden of proof

    I think its silly that they claim proof is needed that shale does damage before they stop you can't reverse fracking it seems logical to me that they should prove it's safe....or else they'll put a "german" on us when things go wrong (we did'nt know!!!)...

    The fact that the 1st and BESt option for decarbonising is building new nuke plants (preferably of the IFR variety so they can run on nuclear waste of current plants) is COMPLETELY ignored is nothing short of criminal, the fact that criminal organisations like greenpeace continue to be allowed to spread misinformation on the subject is also a mistake we will pay in general "environmental" partie and organisations ADD to the environmental issues in stead of solving them as they systematically ignore data when it contradicte their ideology

  14. Tom 38

    Government are/Government is

    It depends whether you see 'government' as a singular or plural. For instance, until the end of the US Civil war, it was common to hear "The United States are ..", where as after, when the federal system was born, it was much more common to hear "The United States is .."

  15. dwieske

    also this :

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bottom line: If it's taken out of the ground it will be burnt.

    Unless you can guarantee that all the carbon (and whatever other shit comes out) is going to be 'captured', you should leave this shit where it is.

    We should just build lots of new nuclear power stations.

  17. Paolo Marini


    what's a tristate then?

    1. Yag

      Probably a component with a high im-pedant-ce state.

  18. Mips

    Whats a few earthquakes between friends.

    Lets be honest. Fracking does not cause earthquakes, it just releases tension which was already there. In fact the early release probably forestalls later larger, possibly damaging, earthquakes. So fracking is actually doing us a favour.

    If you were able to offer the earthquake prone areas of this world the opportunity of a weekly 2 scale instead of a 7 or 8 scale event every 20 years, what would they say?

  19. Mips

    "deadly CO2 compound"

    Now let me see if I have this right. If I breathe on you you will drop dead? OK so it smells a bit but will is actually kill you? Yes I know you feel like you want to die, but WILL IT ACTUALLY KILL YOU?

    No? Thought not.

    1. Chemist

      "but will is actually kill you"

      Yes at concentrations of ~5-10% in air

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear is not an answer

    Don't even bother looking to uranium for your energy salvation. Like everything else it's a finite resource.

    The World's current known resources of uranium that are economically recoverable are enough to last for about a century at current consumption rates.

    To put that in perspective, if you were to replace all fossil fuel power stations with nuclear tomorrow, the remaining uranium would last about 15 years.

  21. Ascylto
    Big Brother


    So British Gas are REDUCING tariff prices due to cheaper shale gas.

    What do you mean they're not ...?

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