back to article Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza 'bigger than North Sea oil'

The government has given the go-ahead for further exploration of the UK's shale gas reserves. Independent surveys suggest these reserves may yield more energy for the nation than North Sea oil. The shale gas will be collected using induced hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking", which splits rocks thousands of feet below …


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  1. 0laf Silver badge


    Don't worry ecoloonies the UK Gov and the EU have ensured that through carbon taxes we'll all continue to pay over the odds for gas and the population can continue to shiver and starve in the name of Gaia.

    1. ian 22
      Thumb Down

      "Continue to shiver and starve"?

      Where do you live mate? Iran?

      No shivery starvation here.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ground water

      Be sure to have all ground water in any area suggested for fracking tested for all possible elements before testing. Here in NA as ground water has become contaminated the fracking companies like to see proof that the ground water didn't have these issues before they started their work. I don't know what the rules are in the UK/EU but here they don't have to reveal the chemicals they use, industrial secret. Governments here, at all levels, are making it hard for citizens to get compensation as their ground water is poisoned.

  2. Pete 2

    Get it right next time

    Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation, and focussing on the positives for a second.

    One of the side-effects of all the North Sea oil and gas was that the UK basically held a party for itself, with several years of lowered taxes to win elections coupled with lots of spending of the oil revenues on popular programmes. All this was essentially "free" to the taxpayer as the oil companies paid huge amounts for the privilege of sucking oil and gas out of the sea bed.

    Now this time it would be nice, assuming the windfall is repeated, if some of those revenues were INVESTED in our future, instead. So how about spending the money on improving transport, making teaching attractive to the talented (instead of just the enthusiastic), becoming a world leader in something other than complaining about the weather and maybe, just maybe building up our manufacturing base, so that this "bonanza" leaves something tangible as it's legacy - apart from millions of falling-down houses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get it right next time

      Not helped by the fact the EU handed Norway a large portion of our gas and oil fields, years ago!

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: Get it right next time

      Long-term benevolent thinking from self-interested and partisan short-term politicians?

      What new madness is this?

    3. Greg J Preece

      Re: Get it right next time

      Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation

      Hysterical much?

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Get it right next time

        Hysteria or sarcasm?

      2. Pete 2

        Re: Get it right next time

        Putting aside the possibility that fracking will cause massive earth tremors that will destroy all our homes, infrastructure and civilisation

        Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

        1. Greg J Preece

          Re: Get it right next time

          Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

          Twice in two days; if you're going to do satire, don't do crap satire.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Get it right next time

          > Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

          Because the water table is irrelevant, right?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Get it right next time

            "> Hysterical much? Satirical mucher.

            Because the water table is irrelevant, right?


            The water table isn't irrelevant but those burning tap water videos are bollocks. The methane is coming from a biological source not from fracking. It was possible to do this before the fracking even started. I'm sure you won't let the facts get in the way of your FUD though...

    4. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Get it right next time

      Spot on! Also, just because there's 15 years of reserves (and possibly up to 60), doesn't mean it makes sense to over-develop, and hoover it all up and burn it as quickly as possible to get teh maximum immediate profit. It makes much more sense to invest in enough plant to get a steady stream* that can be usefully used for 50-100 years. Otherwise you'll be spending billions on industrial machinery that will only be used for 20-30 years and then become useless, AND extracting as much as possible as quickly as possible will drive prices down.

      Also, makes sesne to re-invest some of teh bonanza into renewable energy for when the bonanza is over.

      *in this respect it's probably better to have a very low safety threshold to start with. Once there's a few year's experience of how things are working, they can push the limit up. If you start with a higher limit, good luck with ever wanting to get that limit down.

      1. Steve Crook

        Re: Get it right next time

        At the moment, no-one actually knows what the reserves are. We know from the currently explored areas that there's up to 60 years of exploitable (current tech, current cost) shale. When exploration is complete, there may be two or three times that available to us.

        I'm old enough to remember all the hype that surrounded North Sea Oil and how it was going to transform our lives. I'm still waiting. Truth is that most of the money was pissed away by successive governments. So I'm not holding my breath and expecting things to be different this time.

        If we spend billions on machinery that's only used for 30 years, that'll be reflected in the price of the gas and mean that it'll either be economic or not, it won't just be extracted for the sake of it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Re: Get it right next time

          "If we spend billions on machinery that's only used for 30 years"

          Most M&E plant has a maximum asset life of 25 years, often considerably less, so I don't think you need worry too much about that.

          But the idea of spending some hoped for shale gas windfall on "investments in infrastructure" ignores the unfortunate reality that the money has already been spent on crap by this and the last government. Before the enthusiasts start planning how to spend the next bonus, they may care to consider the slight problemette that we have a national debt of £1.1 trillion quid, and that is currently increasing by around £14 million pounds an hour. So much for all the pathetic whining about austerity.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Get it right next time

          "Truth is that most of the money was pissed away by successive governments. So I'm not holding my breath and expecting things to be different this time."

          Ditto that! But what's the odds on a fair portion of that revenue being wasted on those wind turbines that Brussels tell us we must build? You know those over costly ones that focus on a wholly unreliable energy source, demonstrate severe storage issues and require a similarly expensive 90-100 % backup.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Get it right next time

          North Sea Oil was very good quality so we sold it for top dollar and then bought the cheap shit to make our petrol out of.

          I believe that, combined with selling off state industries allowed the Tories to keep taxes low in the 80s.

          But now there's nothing much to sell off and not much oil, so we're stuffed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Get it right next time@James MiCallef

        just because there's 15 years of reserves (and possibly up to 60), doesn't mean it makes sense to over-develop, and hoover it all up and burn it as quickly as possible to get teh maximum immediate profit.

        This is the Bowland shales we're talking about. There's other shale gas reserves in the UK, but it would seem likely that there's probably plenty of shale gas under the North Sea that has previously been ignored because it wasn't economic to extract. Offshore shale gas is (AFAIK) not commercially exploited anywhere at the moment, but neither was onshore shale gas a few short years back.

        And if we really want energy, there's plenty of cheap coal. Best to import that, but if need be we have about 3 giga tonnes of UK coal reserves, with probably three to four times that under the North Sea. As with offshore shale gas price and technology mitigate against using it now, but that might not alway be the case.

      3. The Axe


        Definition of reserves is the amount of stuff that we know about and know how to get out of the ground. It does not include all the stuff that we don't know about though we might expect there to be some, nor stuff that we can't extract. So reserves can grow as more fields are found or as technology means that more can be extracted. In fact reserves have grown because of fracking in the oil industry which allowed more oil to be extracted from what looked to be dry wells.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reserves@The Axe

          "Definition of reserves is ..."

          You are correct, but I wasn't trying to use oil industry approved terminology, merely everyday English. A few years back you wouldn't have counted shale gas as reserves - didn't mean that it wasn't there, and to likewise dismiss other reserves that currently aren't economic or technically feasible doesn't mean that we should overlook them.

          1. Fibbles

            Re: Reserves@The Axe @ Ledswinger

            I understand your point that these shale gas and undersea coal deposits should be considered for our future energy needs but they're not reserves. It's not 'oil industry approved terminology', they're just simply not reserves even in standard English. By your definition Titan is a natural gas reserve because it may possibly one day be economic and technically feasible to collect methane there.

      4. bitwise

        Re: Get it right next time

        This sounds much like what norway did with their oil

        Still, I doubt we could actually be sensible - when there are fatcats that need feeding.

    5. Chris007

      Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

      I'm going to have to stop reading the El Reg comments.

      There are just far too many sensible suggestions coming out - I don't think I can take it anymore. I simply didn't expect this from what is, essentially, a geek site.

      I want more comments about how Apple are saying they have a patent on Fracking as they've been doing it to their customers for years.

      I want comments about how people would love to Frack Paris.

      I want comments about how how Lewis will spin this into his Climate change articles and say it will lower temperatures

      Gonna have to lie down now.

      1. Some Beggar
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

        Apple have a patent on Lewis spinning everything into an argument against climate change.

      2. micheal

        Re: Get it right next time @ Pete 2

        Chris, I salute you :)

    6. mrfill
      Thumb Down

      Re: Get it right next time

      "....coupled with lots of spending of the oil revenues on popular programmes."

      I never realised that funding >3m unemployed was a popular programme.

      1. itzman

        Re: Get it right next time

        it was amongst the 3m + unemployed.

    7. Matt Bucknall

      Re: Get it right next time

      How do you make teaching attractive to the talented? Those who are talented in a particular field want to get on with exploring it and pushing boundaries, because they can. Would money really be enough to compensate people of that mindset for the dying inside that they would experience, regurgitating the same old shit, year in year out?

    8. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: Get it right next time

      Nope, this time Govt will once again dump the tax windfall onto popular programmes.

      So wah-hay, The extra cash washing around UK PLC means we can then have another property booooooom!

  3. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Here's a mad, crazy idea.

    How about the government use the 15 years worth of breathing space - and some of the revenues - that fracking offers to develop and build a sensible and effective renewables infrastructure, so that the lights won't once again go out when another of our limited resources is all used up?

    1. Sean O'Connor 1
      Thumb Down

      Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

      Because even with all the money they could tax from shale it won't be enough to stop the sun from dipping below the horizon every evening or the wind to sometimes not blow anywhere in the UK (like yesterday).

      1. ginglymus

        Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

        But nor would all that money let you have limitless gas. It's a good stopgap till we find something sustainable, renewable or not.

        1. Benjol

          Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

          We've got something sustainable. It's just not very popular.

          <-- Because it's guilty by association

      2. Some Beggar

        Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

        It isn't raining and yet there's still water coming out of my tap.

        It's almost as if the word "infrastructure" implies something that maintains a supply even when the raw source isn't currently and directly available.

        1. Brangdon

          Re: there's still water coming out of my tap

          Water is relatively easy to store. There's no good way to store electricity in bulk. The best is probably to pump water up a hill and let it flow down again later, but even that needs a supply of hills that you don't mind ruining with the big reservoir.

        2. peter_dtm

          Some Beggar Posted Friday 14th December 2012 11:49 GMT

          read this

          then weep

          1. Some Beggar

            Re: Some Beggar Posted Friday 14th December 2012 11:49 GMT


            read this ...

            An unpublished blog by somebody I've never heard of who seems inordinately proud of having an ordinary degree? No thanks. I'm sure it's terribly thrilling but I doubt it has any bearing on anything I've written here or anywhere else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

      There are two types of energy production, controllable and uncontrollable.

      Wind power, hydro power, solar power are uncontrollable. You don't know the weather and in the winter the solar power isn't much use.

      Coal, gas and nuclear are controllable. You can bring generators online and offline as required and control output.

      This basic fact is overlooked when being critical of coal, gas and nuclear. We can't store mains power easily, recent methods have appeared by nothing is 100% efficient.

      If we fitted low voltage DC wiring to our homes and used more DC equipment directly then we could charge up reserve batteries when power is available and use the battery as a reserve.

      But this is all sounding very Soylent Green, using a bicycle to charge up the lighting.

      Renewables can only give us a certain percentage of required power.

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

        Renewables can only give us a certain percentage of required power.
        The day is going to come, eventually, when renewables will be the only source of energy there is.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

          What complete and utter bollocks. How much uranium or thorium is there ready to exploit? What really needs to be done is increase the efforts to make fusion power generation work more efficiently and reliably. That will put an end to our concerns for power generation...

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

          Really? You're saying that, within our lifetime, we'll use up all the useable supplies of uranium and thorium and still fail to come up with a way to sustainably fuse hydrogen (BTW, "renewables" are actually non-renewable, too, since the Sun is a fusion reactor).

          1. A J Stiles

            Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

            Not necessarily within our lifetime, but certainly within the lifetime of our descendants.

    3. A J Stiles

      Re: Here's a mad, crazy idea.

      Don't be silly! Britons hate infrastructure -- it keeps reminding us that everything does not work by magic and pixies.

      The money from fracking will be spunked on tax cuts for the rich, MPs' vanity projects, and suchlike; and when the shale gas runs out (as non-renewables have a nasty habit of doing), we'll be left with a serious environmental mess and another energy shortage on our hands.

  4. AdamT

    A sudden outbreak of common sense?

    First the green light to build some nuclear plants and now this? What's happening?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

      What's happening is that "the lights going out" is now (possibly) an event falling within the next five years and is therefore within the politicians' event horizon for the first time. In particular, Conservative ministers are hoping they will win the next election out-right and are therefore rather concerned at the prospect of the biowaste hitting the windmill half-way through their term of office.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

      What's happening?

      I work for one of the big six energy companies, and we actually invested several hundred million in developing our nuclear options.

      What happened was that we found unsurprisingly that nuclear power plants cost five times or more as much as a similar output CCGT, additionally have far more construction risk, plus the long tail of decommissoning costs. The government tried to, but couldn't rig the electricity market sufficiently to come up with the vast subsidies to pay for nuclear, so we, along with most other players pulled out. It already smells like the proposed new Hinkley Point reactor will be deferred (this was the most advanced scheme). And because of botched government intervention to thrust money at crap renewables there's no headroom or cash left to pay for nukes.

      By way of comparison, it would cost around about £6b for a 1.5MW reactor. The government have ensured that some £20bn has already been invested in wind, for fuck all benefit, with probably a similar amount to follow in the next seven years. If DECC weren't such arseholes, that £40bn could have bought seven nuke plants, and added almost 11 GW of reliable capacity to the generation fleet (current peak capacity for reference, is about 80 GW). As noted, that would have been vastly more expensive than gas CCGT, but at least we'd have somthing to show for it. Instead all we will have to show is a lot of spoiled landscapes, and now we need to build the gas plant anyway.

      Not much you can do about this now, other than to campaign for every member of staff at DECC (and every DECC pensioner) to be hurled into the fuel shute of a large coal fired power station.

      1. The Axe

        Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

        It's not lack of nuclear subsidies that has kept nuclear back. It's the excessive costs which are all due to huge amounts of regulatory controls all put in place by governments who are scared shitless about a nuclear accident. Nuclear is actually very safe but the high costs makes it uneconomic - until the lights go out because we've decommissioned all the gas plants and put up windmills everywhere.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?@The Axe

          "It's not lack of nuclear subsidies that has kept nuclear back."

          Industry AC speaks again: You're wrong with that assertion. There's various factors, but from the industry perspective it really does come down to whether the government will compel the customer to pay sufficient (like more than double current electricity wholesale prices) to the nuclear operator.

          Industry needed (ideally) around £140/MWh, government didn't want to go that far and was prepared to concede around £100 (almost double current wholesale price), but that made the projects uneconomic. If you can't get a return on investment that has an entry price for a single reactor of £6bn, and an asset life of fifty years then it doesn't happen, and it didn't. Government's bizarre incompetence in all matters of energy policy didn't help, because that increases the risk, and means you need bigger incentives in order to borrow the money to build the things.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

      Yes, but French nuclear plants? Sure, it's an advanced design, even though they have put all their diesel backups in the one location and all below ground (I'd have split the backups into two locations and each of those ranged over two levels, plus had a steam driven water circulation pump just to be sure!)

      We could be researching Thorium plants and other designs...

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

        "We could be researching Thorium plants and other designs..."

        Fun little fact from the world of weird metals.

        Someone, somewhere out there, is willing to purchase thorium from miners. You often get it as a by product of all sorts of mining. And it's a right bugger to get shot of. Because the global market is near spit in size (literally. I once did a $30,000 deal in the metal and that was the sole and single reported transaction in the US that year).

        And yet if someone is now willing to purchase material, someone, somewhere, must have a use for it. And those reactor experiments are the only ones that make any sense.

        I dunno who it is or how far along their work is but given that someone is now purchasing thorium I'd assume that someone is indeed looking at those reactors.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

          __I dunno who it is or how far along their work is but given that someone is now purchasing thorium I'd assume that someone is indeed looking at those reactors.__

          China is expecting to have a LFTR test reactor running sometime in 2013.

        2. JohnMurray

          Re: A sudden outbreak of common sense?

          It's used for lots of things...alloying with magnesium, an addition to tungsten welding electodes etc..

  5. Ragarath

    I am glad...

    ...This has got the go ahead. We need power to allow us to develop cleaner power. Yes this will even help the more green inclined (I like the idea of the green solution but the cost is too high) by reducing the cost of researching and developing the green methods of energy production.

    With gas being less polluting than coal this is a step in the right direction, nuclear is also I think at this time the right direction. Everybody seems to think we are going to get this panacea situation if we go all green but the tech is not efficient enough yet for large scale and at the moment costs too much.

    Having this gas also has an upside of reducing our bills at home helping millions that are struggling with the recession today.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am glad...

      Having this gas also has an upside of reducing our bills at home helping millions that are struggling with the recession today

      Have you been paying attention? DECC have already been spouting that new CCGT will cause bills to go up because of the "carbon taxes" that they've got coming in.

      Not only does the UK have to contend with a depreciating currency that makes wholesale energy prices rise (because government won't balance their books, our currency is worth less, and wholesale energy costs are set by global demand), year on year the government diktat elements of your energy bill have doubled, and will continue to increase - "social" obligations, renewables subsidies, carbon taxes etc.

      I think you are looking at double digit price increases for electricity for the next five to ten years, and the only possible and very remote hope for lower prices is for China to go into recession, causing energy and commodity prices to collapse. That might have some downsides.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: I am glad...

        And why are we paying this silly tax? Because of the EU.

        The EU is good in some ways and totally silly in others. Pull out and manage our tax ourselves and stop crippling the country with wholly unnecessary taxes.

        If wind etc. is viable then someone will be making money off it and eventually fossil will become to expensive. Doing this artificially early is not needed and is just the cutting the nose off to spite the face.

        I am fed up with being taxed to the hilt so rich people make themselves richer and getting nothing back. Where are my affordable panels for the roof? No where to be seen, but the rich have them to make them richer. Perhaps I can go geothermal, nope only the rich can afford that, perhaps wind? Nope does not blow when needed / storage problems. Normal everyday people need energy affordable today not just affordable (and getting them money back / saving them money) for the rich.

        In my opinion the green options have had there chance, we have been subsidising them for years yet there are still no viable options. All it is doing is making my tax bill go up and up and my quality of life go down and down.

        I want my children to live in a world that is cleaner than today but I believe we will get there via other technologies and the wind, geo, wave, whatever will play a role but cannot fill the void.

        Sorry rant over.

        1. Aitor 1

          Re: I am glad...

          Your affordable panels are on sale right now.

          Solar panels cost, right now, 0,99€ /W.

          1. Ragarath

            Re: I am glad...

            Okay, you get someone to come and fit them for me, at an affordable price, for me and that I benefit from them for a long time to come.

            I bet you can't.

            And mentioning the cost per W does not mean I can afford the installation needed and infrastructure. Cost per W only relates to the manufacturing costs (you have no sources so I assume manufacturing) and not the extra costs from the channel or the final retail and fitting.

  6. Mike Laverick
    Big Brother

    When Journalist become flamers...

    I found this article rather disappointing. It seems angled to just in flame the "debate" and drive more traffic El Reg.

    Let's deconstruct this piece of prose shall we. Let's start with "powerful renewables lobby". Mmm, you mean the mean the Oil/Gas are powerful lobby? They certainly seem to have more resources than the enviro-mentals...

    "more energy for the nation than North Sea oil." Sadly, when North-sea oil was discovered the UK's manufactuering/enginnering industry was on its last legs. The lions share of the contracts were signed over to more experience US companies. Whilst the Norweigens explioted the oil reservers in a controlled way (largely isolating them from the fluctuations in the market, and making them energy self-sufficent) ours went the way of servicing our national debt. I imagine the same situation will repeat itself with this fracking exercise.

    "estimated the UK has enough gas to make it self-sufficient for 15 years at current consumption rates - but this may be underestimated by a factor of four." - let hedge our betters there shall we. Incidentally, 15 years does not equal energy security give the time it take to build say a nuclear reactor and make it operational...

    I'd probably more supporting of fracking if I felt our govt was doing more to create a wholistic energy policy - one that recognised the need for range of technologies to meet our energy needs. Like successive administrations since the 1940's they keep on looking for silver bullet that will solve all the problems.

    Incidentally. I'm not a hippy. Don't have beard - only wear sandals in summer (sans socks.).

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: When Journalist become flamers...

      So you're not really disputing anything of substance, you just want "a more "wholistic energy policy".

      I'm not sure what your idea of "a range of technologies" means, but whatever is in that range has to be cost effective. Presumably it doesn't include hamsters on treadmills.

      1. itzman

        Re: When Journalist become flamers...

        its more diversity for diversities sake..

        read, and weep..

    2. Geoff Campbell

      Re: When Journalist become flamers...

      You're new here, aren't you?


    3. ginglymus

      Re: When Journalist become flamers...

      To supplement this: whilst the article mentions the 15 years (which I think is about 60 trillion cubic feet), the BGS estimate 4.7 trillion feet. The number of years you get from this is based on 100% extraction too, which is highly unrealistic. Good balanced writing here, as ever.

      Don't have beard, but I do wear socks with sandals.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When Journalist become flamers...

      > Let's start with "powerful renewables lobby".

      WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam* are multinational charities each of whose incomes is in the 100s of millions and all spend a significant amount of that income on lobbying government. Unlike oil/gas, they are regularly present at the House of Commons influencing the politicians.

      Aside from that you have the big fish like Lord Deben, the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change whose links with many renewable industries has been widely documented all the way down to the little fish like Bernie Bulkin, Chair of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment at DECC who is a director of a "green" investment company.

      If there was even a hint of oil/gas having this much influence the hue and cry raised by the green lobby would be deafening.

      *I know Oxfam is supposed to be a relief organisation but since the government relaxed restrictions on charities using their funds to lobby government they have spent increasing amount lobbying the government.

      1. Alex King

        Re: When Journalist become flamers...

        "WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam* are multinational charities each of whose incomes is in the 100s of millions and all spend a significant amount of that income on lobbying government."

        Oooh, that's a lot of money, until you compare it to the income of oil companies.

        Incidentally, I'm OK with fracking, as long as the gas used goes to replace coal-fired generation. I'd lump the fracking nimbys in with the wind turbine ones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When Journalist become flamers...

          > Oooh, that's a lot of money, until you compare it to the income of oil companies.

          But we are not talking about income, we are talking about available cash. For WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth nearly all of their income is available for them to spend on lobbying. For any oil company, nearly all of their income is spent on extracting the oil, exploration and research. There is very little left (less than your average multinational charity) to spend on lobbying. It is still in the millions, but it is nothing compared to what WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc have to spend.

      2. LeReg

        Re: When Journalist become flamers...

        Greenpeace international :

        60 million euros spent on campaigns in 2011


        Total :

        12 billion euros profit in 2011


        => Total gets in raw cash 200 times the money spent by Greenpeace...

    5. Irongut Silver badge

      Re: When Journalist become flamers...

      "Incidentally, 15 years does not equal energy security give the time it take to build say a nuclear reactor and make it operational..."

      You're assuming the only gas we have will come from fracking. I can assure you there is more than 15 years worth of gas in the North Sea gas basin. Most of it is even in large fields which are easy to exploit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When Journalist become flamers...

        "Incidentally, 15 years does not equal energy security give the time it take to build say a nuclear reactor and make it operational..."

        And it doesn't take 15 years to put up a reactor if your really want one. It could be done, start to finish in about five years if you stop all the planning bollocks and endless legal appeals by hippies and nimbies. Westinghouse reckon that from first concrete pouring to loading the fuel rods could be done in three years, but I've allowed a couple of extra years for site clearance and preparation, and completion works.

  7. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

    The biggest problem for fracking in the UK is not the pollution, environment, etc - it is the building style driven by what building societies and banks agree to give a mortgage for. If anyone wanted to make a building deliberately earhquake unsafe they would have found no better way to do so than taking the UK standard building practices.

    An average UK building built after the 1960-es has two sets of walls with _NO_ vertical structural elements, no horizontal structural elements held together by 2mm metal wires. Its stability to any earth movement is zero. Zilch. Nil. Even the gentlest shake and the wires will get ripped leading to outer or inner wall collapsing on the heads of the occupants.

    As a matter of fact we got lucky so far - the Quadrilla quakes were in areas which have seen little recent development so the buildings hit were pre-1950es solid double-brick wall tied by a garden or flemish bond. That style can take a local 3-4 richter scale tremor without any problems. In fact the older ones have taken them on a regular basis during the times when such tremors were induced by mining on a near-daily basis. With these -at the very worst you will get a damaged chimney somewhere. Even those will happen only because the genius who did them initially laid them with non-fireproof mortar out of non-fireproof brick. So they are a hazard anyway and should have been redone long ago.

    The yanks do not have that problem - their buildings are built out of wooden panels bolted to a frame so they flex a bit, shake a bit and still stand. The rest of Europe does not have that problem either because they do not have a band of idiots in banks and building societies which have declared reinforced concrete an "item preventing the issuing of a mortgage". Their building code specifies and mandates that the inner construction has reinforced concrete pillars in key places. So their buildings may get a few fractures in the outer wall here and there. The wall is not structural (the pillars are) and, you slap a few trhowels of fresh mortar and plaster on it, it still stands, move along. And most importantly - they have proper foundations - the foundation are poured as a solid plate so the whole building moves instead of being put only under the walls (and crack).

    So in the long term if UK is to frak (or mine again) it needs the banking and building societies to understand the difference between a fully encased concrete pillar which is inside the house (and will not rust) and badly done "pre-baked" happy-soc concrete panels reinforced with easily rusting high carbon steel (which did rust all over the UK). These are not the same things. The builders will also need to learn a practice which European builders are well familiar with - retrofitting structural columns into an existing building. The same style as in the UK was quite common around south-eastern europe in the 50-es and outfitting it with columns before overbuilding additional floors on top is by now a standard well developed procedure. It is not that expensive either. Granted - it never gives the same stability as a proper new building but should be enough all the way to 4-5 local quake.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

      "An average UK building built after the 1960-es has two sets of walls with _NO_ vertical structural elements, no horizontal structural elements held together by 2mm metal wires. Its stability to any earth movement is zero. Zilch. Nil. "

      I guess that's because we don't live in an earthquake zone, and the cost of the earthquake-proofing would far, far outweigh insurance payments in the event of one. Frankly, as someone who can't afford even a so called 'crap' house as you claim: I don't want to pay for earthquake-proofing either.

      ...Because I don't live anywhere where there are earthquakes.

      Or didn't yesterday, anyway.

      Amusingly - if fracking really does cause an increase in quakes liable to do any damage - this does strikes me as a wholly new and original way to get F'ed in the A some more by the the oil companies: If it does increase quakes, then they get their cheap gas, while we have to buy more expensive houses!

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

        Quote: "while we have to buy more expensive houses!"

        Not really. There is very little cost difference between laying down foundations in a ring for walls only and just pouring a nice earthquake-resistant plate at once. In fact the latter is probably cheaper. The cost of putting columns at regular intervals at the outline of the current inner wall may actually lower the overall cost of the house, not increase it because you no longer have to stick the odd concrete brick here and there and can do the whole internal wall out of foam in an afternoon. Concrete is _CHEAP_. Cheaper than brick + bricklayer labor.

        Same for going American and building out of prefabricated wooden panels. That is cheap too. As a matter of fact, besides being total sh*t on earthquake resistance the current UK building style is also perversely expensive. If you use the continental methods you can build a house on the same footprint, same insulation levels, better earthquake and subsistence resistance etc for ~ 60% of the price. I looked at that having my house extension 4 years ago prefab-ed in Eu and shipped and built on site and nearly did it. End of the day I decided that wasting two years of my life to fight planning (the useless external decorative brick) and building control is not worth it and got it done according to custom. It cost me 50% more. By the way, this is not just my observation - there was an episode of grand ideas where they built a house "the German way" and it cost them half of what the local builder quoted. They had to spend half a year fighting building control too.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

          "Same for going American and building out of prefabricated wooden panels. That is cheap too."

          And...sh1t, to my mind. I've never been impressed with US houses. Seems odd to build wood-framed houses that aren't going to last more than a hundred years in areas plagued by yearly tornadoes. I'm not really convinced that a couple of layers of wood and insulation holds heat better than a couple of layers of brick and insulation, either.

          1. John 62

            Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

            brick houses won't necessarily survive a tornado, particularly when there are trees falling. So better to build with a material that's cheaper and quicker to repair.

        2. mrfill

          Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

          There's nothing building societies and banks love more than properties in areas which suffer from recurring 'natural' problems such as flooding. That is why these properties are so easy to insure. Ask the people were daft enough to buy houses built on flood plains. Now add to the equation the possibility of regular earth tremors/earthquakes and, irrespective of how they are constructed, the lenders and insurers will just say no.

          So it doesnt really matter how cheap the alternative methods are, unless you can buy the house outright and live with no insurance, you won't get a house.

          If people can't buy, then people can't sell so the values will be reduced.

          Also, fracking is short term - an area is ripped up for 3-4 years and then they move on leaving the place looking like the Somme - somewhat similar to open cast mining. The Pennines (an area rich in shale gas) will be a good place to start. Who needs it? Tourists can go somewhere else and the locals can move to Manchester.

          Never mind any potential water pollution or other disputed problems, once house prices start getting affected, there will be a backlash..

          The brave souls with a nice pot of spare cash can make a killing and the Daily Mail will suddenly change its tune from 'let's copy the Yanks and frack the hell out the country' to 'ban this awful fracking which is lowering house prices'

        3. John 62

          Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem


          I've long wondered why the UK has such antiquated, expensive and time-consuming house-building practices.

          I think the only argument in favour of brick is that you can quickly make and/or block up holes in it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

        Seems that you do live in an earthquake zone after all -

      3. Dagg

        Re: Who cares about f*** gaya, it is the building style which is the problem

        Building an earthquake proof building does not cause any major increase in cost. It just means you need to build it differently. Wood and/or steel framing with a non structural brick cladding works very nicely.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Solid foundations

      This: "And most importantly - they have proper foundations"

      FFS houses in Holland have stronger foundations. Before building a block they spend months* driving piles through the soggy marshland they call home till they hit solid rock. Then they lay foundation on the piles. Some of the older houses (built on wooden piles) are a bit crooked to be honest, but that mostly adds to the charm :)

      *I've had the headaches form a nearby construction site to prove it

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Solid foundations

        In a fit of irony, it may actually be the newest houses that survive, then. Mine was built in 2006 near an area prone to flooding that contains sufficiently loud nimbys to insist on expensive works to mitigate the downstream risk of flooding. Part of that mitigation included raising the development by 1m and installing piles under each house (which the neighbours then regretted insisting on as they initially used drivers rather than augurs to install them). The upshot is, I wouldn't be surprised if all the building on floodplains has a reasonably high percentage of houses on piles, rather than free floating.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Solid foundations

        At least you're able to get to bedrock. I know a major construction project that found they couldn't do that...because they were building on top of sand not hundreds but THOUSANDS of feet deep. They had to go as deep as they could into the sand and hope for the best.

  8. Dilbert1969

    If we're going to frack can we at least follow Norway's lead and think about the future rather than immediate gains?

  9. Dom 3

    I'd rather have lots of little earthquakes than one big one.

  10. annodomini2

    Same shit, different decade

    Governments have been betting on Fusion working by now and not investing in the power generation infras

    No Fission plants were built because of this and the focus returns to (accountant) cheap gas plants.

    You can only hope Fusion will be working before then, but expect further ridiculous energy price rises to come!

    'Renewables' other than maybe the tidal barrage in the Severn are not cost effective (imo) and only serve to exacerbate the situation!

    The only guarantee in this is that us plebs at the bottom will end up paying for the eventual and total fuck up, by any Government in charge of this nation.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Same shit, different decade

      "Governments have been betting on Fusion working by now and not investing in the power generation infras"

      No they haven't. If they wanted fusion to work, they'd have piled more money into researching it a bit better.

      Truth is, it's a problem that everyone just hopes will go away and that we'll magically discover a cheap way out, or we'll keep finding more fossil fuels, so can continue to utterly rely on them.

      Any problem more than one election away isn't worth taking too seriously to governments.

      1. t20racerman

        Re: Same shit, different decade

        Actually, this ius rubbish. it isn't a 'money-needed-from-goverment' problem - it is a huge, and possibly insurmountable Physics problem. Stephen Hawking described fusion power (in 1997) as being "the fuel of the future - and it probably always will be".

        We all know E=mc^2 tells us that matter is stored energy (and in HUGE amounts) but it isn't easy to find a way to harness this energy. It is NOT politics, or enviromentalism, or Greens, or petro-chemical lobbies that is preventing fusion from working in power stations - it is Physics and technology requirements that possibly can't ever be met at a reasonable cost.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Same shit, different decade

          "Actually, this ius rubbish. it isn't a 'money-needed-from-goverment' problem - it is a huge, and possibly insurmountable Physics problem."

          No, it's not.

          We have fusion research going on, but it's not going on particularly quickly. Throw ten or a hundred times more money at it (say the amount spent in [insert pointless war here] this year and it'll happen faster assuming it's not impossible (and if we assume that then what's the point in trying!).

          Fusion is a side-project to humanity, where as cheap limitless energy should really be in out top 5 of stuff to do (right below feeding everyone and above getting rid of Simon Cowell). Less is probably spent on it than an average oil company spends on R&D and exploration in a year.

      2. annodomini2
        Thumb Down

        Re: Same shit, different decade

        Money isn't the problem, it's the path they've taken.

        They are spending Billions on ITER!

        Tokamak's inability to produce a net fusion gain has been proven with JET, not to mention once it does produce a net fusion gain, there will still need to be a 5x energy gain to make the plant financially viable.

        The money needs to be put into other areas of fusion research and so as the analogy goes "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!"

  11. Swoop

    Ludicrously low safety threshold

    0.5 is equivalent to the energy released by a large hand grenade

    If the 0.5 rule were to be applied to the mining industry per se there would be no more blasting and therefore not a lot of mining going on.

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: Ludicrously low safety threshold

      It does seem low but if you go to the industry and ask them what to expect and they say it won't be as much as 0.5 then setting the safety limit there is a logical move - if the industry comes back and says, "Hang on, that will cause us unnecessary problems" then you have to wonder if they were being entirely accurate with their initial estimates.

  12. NomNomNom

    The idea that shale gas adoption is a CO2 emission reduction strategy is fantastical folly.

    As a species are still on course to burn through the finite supplies of recoverable coal and oil in the world. The only difference now is that we are planning to burn through all the shale gas as well. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this represents a substantial increase in total longterm CO2 emissions, not a decrease.

    Shale gas adoption will certainly reduce the CO2 emissions of the countries who adopt it for at least a short-while. But that "unused" coal and oil is just going to be taken up by another country. Under the current global energy "strategy" all the recoverable hydrocarbons are scheduled to be burnt into the atmosphere.

    The resort to frakking is actually a sign at how desperate the world is to widen the supply. We see oil companies moving into the Arctic and I expect in time Antarctic Treaties banning mineral exploitation will be overturned to allow mining companies in.

    China is just the beginning of developing country industrialization. Once China becomes developed and emissions stabilize manufacturing will just shift to other countries like Vietnam who then in turn sharply ramp up their fossil fuel emissions. There is no end in sight for demand. Increasing the supply of hydrocarbons only results in a higher eventual peak CO2 level in the atmosphere.

    1. P_0

      There is no end in sight for demand. Increasing the supply of hydrocarbons only results in a higher eventual peak CO2 level in the atmosphere.

      I think you fail to realize, the paradigm shift that is happening. The general public and belatedly their elected governments no longer see CO2 as a big problem. IIRC, before the recent US election, climate change was way down the list of most people's issues.

      The entire ACC (anthro climate change) movement reached it's peak in the absurd Copenhagen Conference. Since then it has been slowly becoming less important. For instance, the massive Solar projects bubble that swept parts of the EU and America is now popping. Subsidies are drying up (whether this is to do with the economic crisis is irrelevant, the money isn't there). Same with wind, or at least it will be soon.

      Three or four years ago I met a few people who wre involved in the CC movement, and others who liked to blabber about it at work/parties/pub. These days I just don't think the interest is there. The recent Dubai conference didn't even register on the front pages of most newspapers (Guardian aside).

      Fracking will not solve our energy problems, but it will help to once the absurdities of putting our hopes on wind power have been revealed. I'm all for it. And yes, that includes fracking near my hometown. Probably boost the economy, which is sorely needed.

      1. NomNomNom

        "I think you fail to realize, the paradigm shift that is happening. The general public and belatedly their elected governments no longer see CO2 as a big problem."

        They don't see it because they are short-sighted. Maybe they'll be lucky. If not, their attention will re-emerge suddenly at some point and then the "why didn't anyone warn us" fingerpointing will begin. It'll be like how the general public in the US didn't see terrorism as a big problem prior to 9/11.

        1. A J Stiles

          Kids and sweetie jars

          It's like a group of kids and a big jar of sweeties. Day one, there are 20 kids. The greediest ones shove some of the others out of their way, trying to grab half a dozen or more sweets each. Teacher applies ruler to knuckles. Complaints. Greedy kids get own way, some kids get none.

          Day two, there are 21 kids. The greedy ones again try to get the lion's share of the sweets; the teacher with the ruler holds off. Everyone else lucky to get at most one sweet.

          Day three, 22 kids. Similar pattern repeats every day. Sooner or later, the number of sweeties in the jar drops below halfway.

          The greediest kids begin bullying the most timid, in order to steal their sweeties. Teacher tries to intervene, but is told to butt out.

          Eventually, there are not even enough sweeties left even for just the greediest kids to have one each.

          Teacher: "Well, that's that, then. The jar is finally empty. Looks like there will be no more sweeties for anyone, now, and because a few greedy kids took more than their fair share!"

          Greediest kid of them all: "But Miss, why didn't you do something earlier?"

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Yep, that's right. Ideally, the situation would be that the energy now being generated from coal will be substituted by energy generated from gas, resulting in less CO2 emmitted. This is how the whoel thing is being marketed / presented.

      In practice, energy now being generated from coal will be supplemented by energy generated from gas, resulting in more CO2 emmitted.

      Ideally short-term use of more gas and less coal will at least slow down the acceleration of CO2 emmissions and that the revenue from the gas will be used to fund nuclear and renewables, allowing us to increase energy production while leaving coal in the ground. But experience tells me this isn't much more than a hope.

      1. James Smith 3

        Re: @NomNomNom

        In practice, energy now being generated from coal will be replaced by energy generated from gas, resulting in less CO2 emitted, which has already happened in the US.

        Fixed for you..... did you read the article?

        1. A J Stiles

          @ James Smith 3

          In practice, energy now being generated from coal will be replaced by energy generated from gas, resulting in exactly the same amount of CO2 emitted.

          Fixed that for you.

          One mole of C combining with one mole of O2 to give one mole of CO2 always liberates the same amount of energy every time, whether the carbon is obtained from coal or gas. Unless the efficiency of the process for converting heat to KE has improved dramatically in recent years (KE to electricity hit maximum efficiency long ago) then the amount of CO2 produced per kWh will not change simply by using a different fuel.

          1. James Smith 3

            Re: @ James Smith 3

            However, the real world involves burning the fuel in a power plant, and gas fired power plants have been shown to produce half of the CO2 of their coal fired counterparts.


            "The CO2 emissions from Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants are reduced relative to those produced by burning coal given the same power output because of the higher heat content of natural gas, the lower carbon intensity of gas relative to coal, and the higher overall efficiency of the NGCC plant relative to a coal-fired plant.(1)"

            “The average emissions rates in the United States from natural gas-fired generation are: 1135 lbs/MWh (Mega Watt hours) of carbon dioxide, 0.1 lbs/MWh of sulfur dioxide, and 1.7 lbs/MWh of nitrogen oxides. Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulphur oxides at the power plant.(2)"

      2. itzman

        Re: @NomNomNom

        Renewables are only apolitical solutin to a political problem.

        No study has ever been done to actually demonstrate they have a negative impact on overall electricity-derived CO2 emissions at all.

  13. Ian Yates

    Is it just me...

    "more energy for the nation than North Sea oil"

    I took this to be a surreptitious nod to Scotland that we weren't worried about their potential independance. Although, I could just be growing overly cynical.

    1. Idocrase

      Re: Is it just me...

      Scotland has a large chunk of the shale gas talked about. Currently the UK goverment is trying to sell it all to foreign investors before Independence like they already did with most of the North Sea.

  14. gbru2606

    Combi-boilers r' Us

    I'm from Blackpool and keep hearing about tight regulation. Sorry, there's so much untreated shit on my beach that the council are about to erect signs warning the 13 million visitors annually that the beach is a threat to their health! Regulation UK? Fail!

    There will be no checks and balances. Once this show gets on the road it'll be a gold rush feeding frenzy of c*&^% from the neanderthal fossil fuel burning tribes descending on the county.

    And another thing, much of the North Sea Oil was stolen from Scotland by the way.

    I'm wondering if evolution actually exists anymore. Or did it stop a while back?

    1. P_0

      Re: Combi-boilers r' Us

      ... neanderthal fossil fuel burning tribes descending on the county.

      Do you even know where your energy comes from? Unless you are some eco-hippy loon, what you said is utterly ignorant.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Combi-boilers r' Us@gbru2606

      I'm wondering if evolution actually exists anymore.

      Not in Blackpool, to judge by that contribution.

  15. Crisp

    Just heard the embargo on fracking has been lifted.

    Just wondering about the status of all other euphemisms now...

    1. Swoop

      Re: Just heard the embargo on fracking has been lifted.

      I hear the crew of Battlestar Galactica are celebrating.

  16. localzuk
    Thumb Down


    People worried about earthquakes and contaminated drinking water are hippies? Interesting.

    Seems that Mr Orlowski has bought into the Daily Mail school of thought here - focus on a few environmentalist groups, rather than those people living where this is happening...

    Things such as the water supply for the fracking are being brushed over - we already have a limited water supply, yet fracking requires a significant amount of water, which becomes contaminated. The chemicals in the fracking fluid are unknown, but samples that have been taken at problem sites in the past had massive numbers of chemicals which were significantly detrimental to health.

    So, the issues aren't all environmental - they're direct problems that can affect the population of Lancashire. It isn't like in the USA or Canada where the vast areas are mostly devoid of population, we have cities nearby!

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Hippies?

      "People worried about earthquakes and contaminated drinking water are hippies? Interesting."

      Not quite.

      "People worried about earthquakes and contaminated drinking water are largely irrational and poorly informed."

      Fixed it for you.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Hippies?

        "People worried about earthquakes are largely irrational and poorly informed." - correct

        "People worried about contaminated drinking water are largely irrational and poorly informed." sophistry at best, because the water argument isn't just about contamination. Even if there can be an ironclad guarantee* that the contaminated water used in the process will stay underground and not contaminate the water table, fracking uses vast quantities of water. That will put fracking in competition with irrigation, drinking and other industrial uses for a limited water resource.

        As I recall from an earlier article, it might have been yourself promoting reverse osmosis to increase water availability, but without that, fresh water is too scarce and precious to be filling it with chemicals and pumping it underground.

        *there cannot

      2. Psyx

        Re: Hippies?

        "Fixed it for you."

        That's odd Andrew, because it's still undergoing investigation. You don't actually know.

        And condemning the other side of your opinion as irrational isn't exactly impressive and enlightened, either. As a journalist, you're supposed to be informing us rather than doing a hatchet job.

        Fracking provides us with more gas, at unknown risks. It could be great and something that gives us time to get rid of our fossil fuel obsession*. Just because you support it, it doesn't make that unknown risk go away, no matter how loud you shout your opinion, or how childishly you attempt to sweep away opposing opinions by pathetically posting Dr. Who villains in your pieces of alleged journalism.

        *Which it won't: It'll just mean another X years of increasing reliance further while hoping the problem goes away.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: Hippies?

        You're right, let's trust corporations, they never lie when it is about safety.

        "Another 2011 study identified 632 chemicals used in natural gas operations. Only 353 of these are well-described in the scientific literature; and of these, more than 75% could affect skin, eyes, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; roughly 40-50% could affect the brain and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% were carcinogens and mutagens. The study indicated possible long-term health effects that might not appear immediately."

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Reginald Gerard

      Re: Hippies? Chemicals unknow?

      Maybe to those of you in the UK, others have that information....

      Chemicals Used in the Hydraulic Fracturing Process in Pennsylvania

      Prepared by the Department of Environmental Protection

      Bureau of Oil and Gas Management

      Compiled from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) obtained from Industry

      or < this explains why they use it.

      A lot of this is carcinogenic and I wouldn't want this leaching into my ground water, which can and does happen:

      Water contamination caused by fracking is well-documented. In December 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft findings that link water contamination to hydraulic fracturing which have since been confirmed by later investigating and testing:

      It's not only the poisoned water in the ground, the millions of liters of water that lorries have to haul into each 'play' (driving through your towns and neighbourhoods, destroying your roads and lanes, polluting your air) for every frack, that then get pumped up after a frack are saltier than sea water, contain substantial amounts of radioactive isotopes and are either stored in open pits (that have leaked), pumped back into the ground in spent wells or trucked out with lorries again and disposed of who knows where. In the USA they have been dumping this into rivers and creeks or 'legally' into sewage treatment plants (that have no technology to deal with either the salt content nor the radioactive elements) which ends up killing the bio cultures in those treatment plants and results in ALL the sewage and fracking water ending up in someones river/creek/canal in an untreated state.

      You also have no idea of how many of these wells are needed. It's not just one in the vicinity of your back yard, there will be scores of them all over the county, being serviced by thousands of trucks and it will turn your pristine English countryside into this:

      There won't be any point in singing 'Jerusalem' the next time you are at the Last Night of the Proms after the oil companies have wasted your land and drinking water.

      Oh and while I'm at it, natural gas might be cleaner than coal but not fracked gas. You need to calculate the end to end cost which includes the thousands of truck/lorry trips back and forth to all the sites and the millions of cubic feet of Methane that is lost to the atmosphere due to current sloppy recovery and prevention practices in the industry, which is worse for the climate than CO2.

      The enthusiasm for fracking by the apparent majority of readers on this site is appalling and disappointing. I would have expected that the above average intelligence gathered here would have spent some time on the web to read about these issues instead of displaying the levels of ignorant bliss currently on show. Start here to get some proper insight into what is really going on:

      You might also question why the recovery period is 15-60 years. It seems that the fracking industry has also discovered a new income source with the licensing and sales of drilling rights. There has been a lot of 'pump and dump' with regards to hyping up possible reserves then selling the licenses for a huge profit to let some other subcontractor sucker frack a site only to find that it runs out of gas in a very short time, forcing them to either drill more wells in that area and frack more often.

      A lot of the operations are running at a loss since the gas price has plummeted and quite a few have already gone broke as a result.

      With parts of the world going to war over water in the future ( how can anyone in their right mind think that fracking is an acceptable risk to their drinking water?


      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Hippies? Chemicals unknow?

        Reginald, nicely put. Thanks for posting the links.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "US gas prices have fallen by two thirds, the country is now self-sufficient on gas"

    What are the chances of the UK's much-raised gas prices following suit? Knowing the UK, it's much more likely that more local gas will result in considerably higher profits for the oil companies, more tax for the government, and consumer prices staying exactly the same, with ministers taking credit for freezing prices for the next few years.

    Then they'll go up again!

    "the UK sits on one of the richest deposits of shale gas in the world"

    Yes, particularly around the Westminster area.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Bit Fiddler

      I read the prices wont go down much because of the way gas is sold in europe to the highest bidder. As we have seen with wind/solar farms and the huge manipulation required by gov to funnel our money into it, it is easy to increase energy prices. However when we have our own easy to access supply of fuel it may not translate to lower prices.

      I think this demonstrates the destructive power of the MMCC lobby and the paralysis of the gov's to be effective.

    2. veti Silver badge

      I noticed that. There's a weird superstition grown up in America, which the author seems to buy into, that 'energy self-sufficiency' has some relation to 'cheap fuel'.

      Newsflash: gas, like oil, is a global market. If world prices double, what makes you imagine that people who produce it in the USA will continue to sell it there at depressed prices, when they could easily multiply their profits by exporting it?

      And yes, of course the oil companies will continue to make obscene profits. How else could they continue to buy off their own investigators? To say nothing of the press.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I noticed most of the gas reserves are in England, maybe Scotland will get independance in a round about way when England file for independance from rest of UK now that they've finally got a resource to keep them going other than the London banking system thats currently doing so well for us right now.

  19. JaitcH

    Three questions:

    Given that the Old Bag Woman Thatcher squandered the wealth from the North Sea by putting the money in the General Revenues, and that there is potential danger in poisoning water and land:

    (1) Where are the millions of gallons required for Fracking coming from given that the UK regularly suffers water shortages;

    (2) Where the the millions of gallons of waste water generated by Fracking going to be dumped;

    (3) What is going happen to the windfall revenue generated from Fracking licences?

    Of course this ignores Osborne's proposal to reduce taxes for Frackers and other benefits he and Cameron propose.

    Comparing the UK future to that of the US is flawed; the Tories, especially Yeo the guy with the Pink Laptop, have chosen to ignore all the bad things associated with Fracking. The effects will be greater in the UK as the pupulation density is way higher.

    The cost associated with this gas source should be tightly accounted for AND tightly tied to the retail price. After all, all that Fracking gas is the property of every UK citizen.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Three questions:

      "(1) Where are the millions of gallons required for Fracking coming from given that the UK regularly suffers water shortages;"

      You mean the untreated, basic water sucked from any local water source (like the sea) and then (possibly) recaptured if necessary because a bit of dirt won't stop it being useful, as compared to the filtered, tested, sanitised, flouridated, pressurised water you pay to come through your tap over a copper pipe from miles away? Only one ever has a shortage, and only for domestic supplies, and only temporary, no matter what you might believe.

      There's PLENTY of water around. It's just not all tappable for drinking water. If you don't believe me, fill your garden with water butts this winter with no tap on them. I guarantee you will run out of water butts and space before you run out of water after just a month or so (one night of rain = enough to fill all those butts no matter how many you put out there). It's just what you do with it that matters, and what we have a shortage of is *TREATED* water that's safe to drink. We don't need to shove Evian down there.

      "(2) Where the the millions of gallons of waste water generated by Fracking going to be dumped;"

      It's water. It will drain away, or collect in underground voids, or more likely just find its way back to the ocean. It will be "contaminated" with rocks and dirt and a bit of gas, maybe. Nothing that it wouldn't contain anyway. Or you can collect it and reuse it if it's really a problem (very doubtful, though). And it's quite a long way down that you're firing this stuff so the chances of you doing anything to it (including collecting it, or noticing that the hole that was filled with natural gas is now filled with a lot less water) is virtually zero

      "(3) What is going happen to the windfall revenue generated from Fracking licences?"

      It'll go into the UK monetary system like everything else. But only if you reduce the taxes enough to encourage the industry to grow so that when there are 50 fracking plants, you can raise the tax and get money from them all to pay you back. Just because the government make 50p more this year doesn't mean you'll get 50p cheaper tax, or products, or anything else. To suggest so means you SERIOUSLY misunderstand both economics and politics. If that's the answer you're after, you should really just give up now - IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN, no matter how much you bold your text.

      You can wrap a political message (having to mention Thatcher, really? I was born the same year she got into power and that was LONG time ago now) in all the hyperbole you want, you still come off as the local nutter here by just not thinking things through properly.

      1. Reginald Gerard

        Re: Three questions: @Lee Dowling

        You Sir, or at least your answer to "(2) just validates my comments above in the "Re: Hippies? Chemicals unknow? " reply.

        Just google this:

        produced water disposal

        and get informed.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Three questions:

      Where are the millions of gallons of water going to come from?

      Easy, we'll take whatever extra water is melted from the ice sheets and stop the much anticipated sea-level rise, killing two birds with one stone

    3. Elmer Phud

      Re: Three questions:

      Ah, at last we find a comment that gets close to the matter in hand.

      Not energy but short-term cash input for HM.Gov.

      Everything will end up in the hands of of the usual energy players, nothing U.K. there.

      More licenses for sale. Tax? - think back to the Olympic 'providers' (non-UK) and others who get 'incentives'.

      We will also have the usual crap about a fictional amount of 'local jobs' though whether they end up with local people is another matter.

      It's very handy for folks to be at each others throats, divide and rule.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Three questions:

      1: AFAIK, when fracturing in the North Sea, operators try to use the local seawater whenever possible - it's cheaper than shipping in fresh water. (Yes, shock horror, conventional oil and gas fields get fractured all the time and it's been going on for decades - it's not just a new thing for shale gas.). When using freshwater, a significant amount of salt (usually 2-5% by weight) is added anyway to help buffer the pH.

      2: Let's just say that the environmental regulation for this is _significantly_ more stringent in the UK than the US. American operators have an exemption from the Clean Water Act for frac fluids allowing them to get away with all sorts. Don't think that will wash in the UK, and even if we wanted to give an exception EU regs would get in the way.

      3: Well the government will squander it of course.

      Source: I work for a lab which supports oil exploration/development, and testing potential frac fluid recipes is a large portion of what we do.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adding the disclaimer "largely" doesn't really fix anything. It just makes it a workaround.

    So there are some rational people, even using your criteria, who are rational and still have concerns.

  21. Steve 149

    Backup plan?

    Wind turbines can be taken down, nuclear reactors de-commissioned, etc. IF the use of fracking breaks into the water table/water course what technology will they use to seal off the water table and remove the pollution from the water? Surely if they are allowed to use such methods they must have a plan for when things go wrong? De-salination plants to replaced the lost 'fresh' water could be powered by the gas they've recovered.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Backup plan?

      Wind turbines deliver next to no useful output when you need it, and without ultra flexible conventional plant (or some as yet mythical energy storage system) they don't even save much fossil fuel at the margin.

      Nukes - well, ignoring the cost, what if they have a radioactive accident? Low probability, but a bugger to clear up, which you don't seem to mind (or the hundred years NDA want to decommission the site whent he reactor closes). So what's the point in "if" arguments about fracking?

      As the Bowland shales are 4,000 feet underground, the chances of fracking affecting the water table at about 200 feet deep are small, and the most compelling evidence for groundwater contamination is not beyond reproach, being US EPA stuff on methane traces in groundwater. Given the fact that methane percolation already occurs in locations where coal mining or even un-mined coal seams pass through acquifers, and we've not had any problems, I think the issue is wildly over-dramatised.

      And even if you needed to scrub methane or fracking lubricants from groundwater for consumption, it would be no more problematic than removing the shite present in river water which is the source for many major cities, or putting in the nitrate removal plant in response to pointless EU directives on nitrates in ground water (or arsenic removal, maganese removal, or any of the other things that locally exceed EU drinking water regulations).

  22. markw:

    Leave it underground

    Since the world's hydrocarbon reserves are a finite resource, our national interest would be best served by buying other peoples resources, until they run out. Then we can use our own. Although this sort of 'national interest' argument always makes me uneasy. It also involves long-term thinking on a scale that would be impossible for any UK politician - or citizen for that matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Leave it underground@markw

      A good idea in some respects, but our balance of trade is so far in deficit that we need to produce our own fuel where possible. At present we're paying for imported fuel (and other products) with IOU's, and that makes the cost of imported stuff go up steadily as we print the necessary money to pay.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "powerful renewables lobby"

    Is it really that powerful compared to Oil/Gas companies ? Or even Cuadrilla themselves ?

    All that money these people spend on "PR" has to go somewhere doesn't it ?

    1. itzman

      Re: Lobbying

      The renewables lobby is part of the oil and gas lobby.

      Renewables mean higher prices for all energy, and continued use of coal and gas to provide reliable baseload that renewables cannot offer.

      Don't be misled by claims that renewables can 'replace' coal or gas., At best they can augment them and make the fossil fuel go a little further - at enormous costs which disguise the profits being made from conventional fuel

    2. bitwise

      Re: Lobbying

      "powerful renewables lobby" does sound like a joke - Shell or BP probably spends more on renewables in their greenwash effort than this "powerful lobby" could dream of.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Lobbying

        I for one am glad that Shell and BP are spending money on renewables, both from an environmental perspective and as someone who wants those companies, as pillars of the economy, to have a future.

        Like when IBM branched out from making manual typewriters into computers - it makes perfect sense that they should research the next generation of technology, even while they're still making money from today's.

        In 30-40 years' time, I like to think, neither of those companies will still be considered an 'oil' company. They'll have reinvented themselves as 'energy' companies, and will be household names as purveyors of solar panels and wind turbines and inverters and batteries and all that jazz. And that's a good thing, and we should applaud it.

  24. Why Not?

    doubt it will be a tax bonanza

    I imagine the costs of using the trademarks 'Fracking-Shale' from Luxembourg and the purchasing of water at the same price as Evian from a tax haven in the Sahara will mean these companies won't make a profit.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. H P

    15 years of gas?

    'Cuadrilla initially estimated the UK has enough gas to make it self-sufficient for 15 years at current consumption rates - but this may be underestimated by a factor of four'

    If as part of this coming online is to continue to replace coal power stations with gas ones, then won't the time it lasts be that much shorter? Especially so as the increased supply lowers the wholesale price of gas, those power stations will appear that much more lucrative for investors.

    By all means continue the trials in a controlled manner, but would be better to see how they fare over a longer term and how it develops in the US before starting to roll something like this out. If the water table is contaiminated, like other commentators have already pointed out, there isn't an easy way to fix that.

  27. Zot

    Money comes first... last. And the chancellor is considering giving them tax breaks.

    I did some research on the fracking sites a while back and the one in Cumbria is five miles from a nuclear dumping ground!

  28. TRT Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    +100 points

    For using old school Silurians to illustrate the article.

    1. Rukario

      Re: +100 points

      Meanwhile Silurians have evolved...

  29. Sutton Stourmead

    For Frack's sake

    I can just see the headlines in the Sun the day after this goes wrong...

    "Frack backers face sack after crack"

    Anyway, Isnt this Fracking in the Morecambe bay area just really down the road FROM THE SITE OF ENGLAND'S SUPERVOLCANO?

    Just sayin'

  30. pisquee
    IT Angle


  31. Ian 5

    Am I the only one to recall the 1980's experiments with Fraking? Caused me no end of late nights round at my mate's house, then cycling home with no lights down pitch-black muddy dirt tracks.

    Happy days:

  32. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Always take early figures with a Cheshire Basin of salt

    'Cuadrilla initially estimated the UK has enough gas to make it self-sufficient for 15 years at current consumption rates - but this may be underestimated by a factor of four.'

    Cuardrilla drilled two wells which is far too few to make a reasonable prediction of reserves in a basin as heterogeneous as the Bowland Shale. The figures that were issued were extraordinary - they were claiming approximately fifteen times the amount of gas in the well-understood, and much larger North Sea Basin. It would mean the Bowland was more productive than most American gas bearing shales. It's not impossible, it's just not very likely.

    Last year's BGS survey, which is the best we have right now, (but is likely to be upped) is 150 billion cubic metres - about 18 months worth at current consumption. But the biggest number that we need, and which we don't have is how rapidly that gas can be extracted. Shale gas is hard to get out - even with fracking - and wells don't last very long before flows fall dramatically.

  33. Mike Richards Silver badge

    US prices

    'The consequences for the energy market have been dramatic. US gas prices have fallen by two thirds, the country is now self-sufficient on gas - and the United States enjoyed the largest fall in CO2 emissions of any major country as its power generators switched from coal to gas.'

    US prices are probably not sustainable. There's a huge bubble in the industry and its bringing enormous quantities of gas to market and depressing prices below the cost of production. Prices will have to rise otherwise the gas companies will all go broke:

    There's a nice article here about how even in the US, where the geology is simpler, better understood and has been drilled for longer than here in the UK, there are big questions about the life and productivity of wells:

  34. Potemkine Silver badge

    List of additives for hydraulic fracturing


    Doesn't it sound like a good idea to massively inject these products into our soils? It won't have any effect for sure, no problemo, let's go! There's money to make!

    "The 2011 US House of Representatives investigative report on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing states that out of 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products, "more than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants". The report also shows that between 2005 and 2009, 279 products had at least one component listed as "proprietary" or "trade secret" on their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required material safety data sheet (MSDS). The MSDS is a list of chemical components in the products of chemical manufacturers, and according to OSHA, a manufacturer may withhold information designated as "proprietary" from this sheet. When asked to reveal the proprietary components, most companies participating in the investigation were unable to do so, leading the committee to surmise these "companies are injecting fluids containing unknown chemicals about which they may have limited understanding of the potential risks posed to human health and the environment"

    Isn't that wonderful?

    1. Sutton Stourmead

      Re: List of additives for hydraulic fracturing

      So basically its a mix of pre-crushed Mento's, and Diet Coke?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: List of additives for hydraulic fracturing

        I thought that you wanted the Mentos whole.

  35. Idocrase

    The fracking itself, not a problem really. Small earthquakes happen all the time, most too small to be noticed.

    What worries me (and most people) is the potential for groundwater pollution. Many of the areas highlighted for exploitation are old mining areas - makes sense, that's where the resources are going to be after all - but unlike some parts of the world where this technology has been used, the UK is riddled with old mines.

    Pump enough water into the ground around here, and it starts pouring back out of rabbit holes, forgotten tunnels in woodlands, and the occasional garage floor. Pump in a load of silt and toxic chemicals too?

    Yeah, forget doing any organic farming in that area for a while.

    In addition to that is the leakage of methane into the groundwater. Not really a problem in areas supplied by reservoirs but not everywhere IS, and you only have to do a quick youtube search to see what happens when methane is dissolved into your drinking water. Still, the couple pence per unit that gas companies will save will be worth it right? I mean, WE the consumer will save loads of money right? Won't we? Right?

    Keep believing that.

    Fuck this renewable nonsense, fuck gas and coal, get building nuclear reactors and leave whats in the ground alone. We are past the point of needing it, and we only need one generation of nuclear reactors. Fusion is right around the corner!

    1. itzman

      the problem with that - and I heartily agree with the sentiment - is that the regulatory and planning process means we wont be able to do a crash program of new nuclear inside of 20-30 years even if we started now.

      with old coal getting past its sell by date and much running limited hours due to the LCP directive, that leaves a one to two decade shortfall, which fracked gas neatly fills.

      It being accepted that renewable energy isn't worth spending a bent halfpenny on.

  36. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    0.5 on the Richter scale?!

    Even the mole-men won't notice that. I realize that Britain has a huge amount of masonary-based construction, but even 3.0 quakes won't dent anything but the most decrepit brick buildings.

    1. haloburn

      Re: 0.5 on the Richter scale?!

      And the UK shale deposits are much deeper (more than a mile) compared to the USA. I'd dig deep to start and frack low down that way it wouldn't be detected at the surface. Do that until the full financial benifits of domestic gas exclude any option of a reversal of policy. Everyone's a winner and pensioners everywhere can keep warm in winter.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: 0.5 on the Richter scale?!

        Well, let's hope that pragmatism trumps ideology. Fuel poverty is a serious business, even if it probably shows up as reduced carbon emissions in the IPCC's calculations.

  37. SilverWave

    OMG I agreed with a Orlowski post?!

    Bloody hell - sign of the apocalypse?

    Seriously though...

    If you want do do something about poverty... then cheap energy is a great idea.

    Unless you have an underlying hatred of... people and possibly yourself.


  38. pcsupport

    For god sake, don't let Alex Salmond find out about this otherwise he'll try to claim that all shale belongs to Scotland and will be used as yet another argument for our so called 'independance'

  39. None-of-the-Above

    Who will take her place?

    Where is the new Joe Grant? We need someone attractive to distract our once and future Silurian overlords.

    1. Rukario

      Re: Who will take her place?

      She's now an environmental campaigner called Jo Jones, probably campaigning against fracking with her grandson Santiago.

  40. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Note the wording.

    15 years at current consumption.

    Consumption of everything is rising. It's a better measure to look at the percentage rise in consumption to make a prediction of how long a resource might last. That possible 60 year figure might be severely reduced.

    A report came out in the USA some years ago stating that "at current rates of consumption" the known coal reserves would last 500 years. With the increasing demand for electricity, a case can be made that the same pile of coal may only last another 35 years or less.

    I am not a fan of fracking mostly due to the probability of ground water contamination with a load of nasty chemicals. One link above shows a company that seems to have a fluid recipe that doesn't include the carcinogens and mutagens that the US firms favor.

  41. neurosine

    Immediate harm, future deniable plausibility

    So, if the fracking causes earthquakes 5 years from now, after all the profit has been made...and anyone there to be held responsible can't rebuild a grasshopper once it's been is this advantageous for anyone but shareholders?

  42. Doug Elliot

    0.5 Richter?

    There are dozens of low level tremors in the UK every year. With a 0.5 Richter limit the operators better tiptoe around the seismograph!

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