David Burley from Frack Free South Yorkshire gives his views on fracking in the UK
What's the current status with applications to test in South Yorkshire, have any of the companies started drilling or extracting (fracking)?
There are several licences to the north, east and south of Doncaster, but no planning applications for unconventional gas have been made yet.
The licenses are predominantly owned by
- Alkane Energy or
- A consortium comprising Total (French company that has bought into UK licences because fracking is banned in France), IGas (who drilled at Barton Moss, Manchester), Egdon Resources (who have just bought Alkane Energy’s shale gas assets), and Ecorp.
One license, PEDL139, owned by the consortium, covers an area from New Rossington and Finningley in South Yorkshire down to villages in North East Bassetlaw. The consortium has stated that it will conduct an exploratory vertical drill in 2014. They have carried out 3D Seismic testing already.
We expect an imminent planning application.
In July 2014 our government will be opening up the 14th round of onshore oil and gas licensing. 67% of the UK is available to companies, including the whole of South Yorkshire.
If companies get the green light to frack in areas of South Yorkshire, what can residents expect?
A well pad about 5 acres in size serviced by many HGV movements during exploration. When they enter the production phase hundreds of truck movements will bring clean water to and take contaminated water out of the site. Millions of gallons of water will require treatment.
It will be necessary to drill large numbers of wells at regular intervals. To produce as much gas as a conventional gas field with a dozen or so wells, would require hundreds or thousands of shale gas wells.
Because of the much more intense nature of the shale gas extraction process it is associated with much more negative impacts than conventional drilling. These include leaking methane, water contamination, air pollution, radioactive contamination, massive industrialisation of the landscape, worsening climate change and earthquakes. Severe health effects in people and animals are beginning to mount areas where shale gas extraction is widespread. Shale gas extraction also leaks large amounts of methane (a very strong greenhouse gas) and makes available fossil fuels that would not otherwise be burnt, both significantly worsening climate change.
The only frack in the UK so far caused two seismic shocks. Although these were relatively small in magnitude, far greater ones have been experienced in the USA. The US state of Oklahoma has seen an increase in earthquakes, of magnitude 3.0 or greater, from zero in 2000 (before fracking) to over 200 in the first 6 months of 2014.
How do the local community benefit?
The companies have signed a Shale Community Engagement Charter.
If a company explores for gas in shale, it will pay £100,000 to the local community. This will be in the form of donations to local causes and projects. In a typical community of, say, 20,000 people, this equates to around £5 per person.
If a company then extracts gas from shale the company will pay 1% of the revenue to residents who live nearby. The Department of Energy and Climate Change sponsored report from AMEC in December 2013 stated that this could be £2.4 to £4.8 million per site. Sadly one third will go to the straight to the county council leaving only two thirds to residents. In a community of 20,000 residents this would be only £80 to £160 each.
Unfortunately there has been no indication of how nearby residents have to be to the fracking to qualify. And if gas is found in rock that is not shale, we get nothing.
How will it affect house prices?
Evidence from USA shows that house prices all. The University of Denver carried out a study which revealed 5% to 15% drops in house prices near fracking sites.
Also, the UK insurance industry is still to decide on house insurances. But Blackfriars Group Insurance said in August 2013 that in an insurer is concerned about the potential threat from fracking then they will use postcode data to either:
- not offering insurance in those areas
- increase insurance rates to deter any policyholder
Are there associated health risks?
A United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a list of chemicals used. It listed many chemicals hazardous air pollutants, carcinogenic and even toxic in USA’s Safe Drinking Water Act.
A recent court case in USA found that a family’s health had been harmed by nearby fracking. The family was awarded $2.9m.
Finally, what sustainable alternatives are there to fracking?
There are many. In the UK we have hydroelectric power in mountainous regions already. As we are a windy island there is great potential for much more solar, wind (onshore an offshore), tidal and wave power and biomass. The technology already exists to store this energy.
We note that energy from renewables is 43% up on 2013. Investment in renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels.