I complain the mainstream press don't take me seriously so I shouldn't gripe when out of the blue I get invited on BBC2 Newsnight, to have a discussion on Blackpool shale gas. For those outside the UK, some cultural awareness on the eminence of interviewer Jeremy Paxman would come in handy to understand the context. The discussion went fine actuallly, but the story itself! It was awful, especially in light of the recent positive news flow on shale worldwide. A very poor story.  

But despite anyone who has read this site laughing, the story was watched by a key audience of the UK movers and shakers. And right from the start that's what they wanted to talk about. No one mentioned the quakes of course in any kind of context of their size or comparison to damaging quakes.

Two minutes in the show, not rating expertise such as Daniel Yergin'sor the head of the IEA or that American guy Barack somebody, they introduced Mike Hill, an (unpaid) adviser to Fylde Borough Council.  Mr Hill's objection was not to fracking but to regulation,  saying he couldn't trust the HSE to inspect the wells because they were poorly staffed. Does that sound like call the whole thing off to you?  As I pointed out, we can afford lots of HSE staff, along with teachers, nurses and doctors with all the tax revenue we could generate.

The second objection was even more tenuous. He thought the well casings would be cracked by the seismic activity. One word answer to that: California.This from the New York State Environmental Impact study section on seismicity, page 6-326:

Wells are designed to withstand deformation from seismic activity. The steel casings used in modern wells are flexible and are designed to deform to prevent rupture. The casings can withstand distortions much larger than those caused by earthquakes, except for those very close to an earthquake epicenter. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake event in 1983 that occurred in Coalinga, California, damaged only 14 of the 1,725 nearby active oilfield wells, and the energy released by this event was thousands of times greater than the microseismic events resulting from hydraulic fracturing. Earthquake-damaged wells can often be re-completed. 

Induced seismicity from hydraulic fracturing is of such small magnitude that it is not expected to have any effect on wellbore integrity. 

Another old chestnut the show dragged up was the British Geological Survey estimate of 150 BCM from shale or 18 months. That figures comes from the pre-modern shale era and is being  updated this year. From last year the BBC could have found this 

The U.K. could have more shale gas the previously thought, Stephenson said. The British Geological Survey is reviewing its estimates for U.K. onshore shale gas resources. The survey originally estimated that there is about 150 billion cubic meters of shale gas onshore, compared with about 300 billion cubic meters of conventional gas resources.

“There is much more shale than we thought under Blackpool,” the British Geological Survey’s Stephenson said at the briefing,

Finally what is it with UK shale objections and people that own trailer parks?  First the Vale Says No Louise Evans,  and now someone who wants to protect the spring that feeds her caravan park. They could be filled up with frack crews from Texas 24/7/365 which has got to beat the current demographic. Words fail me on that, as did the final music signalling a despoiling of England's green and pleasant land. That explains my shell shocked look when introduced by Jeremy P:  I couldn't believe this show was so poor.

An interesting aside on the public acceptance issue. Readers here know all about the Gasland flaming faucet scene and how it's been debunked. But Jeremy Paxman had evidently never seen it before, he was visibly surprised and impressed by the scene when we were watching it in the studio. That shows how we mustn't assume that the public is informed, especially after watching that clip.  
If the clip was the first thing a mass audience saw about fracking the industry would have real troubles. Glad to have injected a little reality into the discussion,  just sorry we weren't given more time. Ill try and put up link to the show here, since iPlayer isn't available outside of the UK.

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  • Mike Hill

    Mike Hill

    Sorry - meant to add I am unpaid at my own request. I want to remain indpendant and entirely above any accusations that I am being paid by one side or another. So I refused any payment and offered my services ( Iam a consulting Chartered Engineer) for free. I live in the Fracking Zone and having ben involved in hydraulic fractruing myself, i do have an idea of the risks that are associated with it if it is not regulated. My independant study over the last 12 months into regualtion of hydraulic fracturing on shore in thr UK has revealed that there is little to no regulation at all. This has to change. Mark Miller recognises this and has stated so, Tim Yeo M.P. recognise this and has stated so and I recognise it and have stated so. We just need the goverment and the HSE to recognise this and we will be in a much better position.<br /><br />By the way as for tax revenues, without ring fencing you are just spouting hot air. I have proposed a levy on the industry (with the backing of the industry) to pay for regualtion. By this I mean similar to that which is now being impleneted in the USA. 10/15 visits to the well as it is being drilled in first 3 months. Cement inspections, CBLs, FITs, annular pressures, verification of quantity of flowback etc. Simple but crucial to safe extraction.

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  • Asmilwho

    "since iPlayer isn't available outside of the UK."<br /><br />Actually a limited subscription-based service is available in W. Europe, although only some programs are available.<br /><br />For example, here in Germany Dr Who and Top Gear make the cut, but Newsnight doesn't.

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  • benjamin

    What really surprises me on the fracking issue is that no one has so far publicly lobbied for the use of gas gel instead of millions of gallons of water -- a process used to frack shale in parts of Canada. It may be a little more expensive but the benefits are many: no dams with polluted water to be cleaned; no risk of such dams leaking into the water table; and 94% or more of the gel turns to gas and can be recycled and used again.; no huge numbers of water trucks trundling across the land, and so on.

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  • John Page


    That's because many of the people raising technical issues don't *want* a solution to be available.

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  • I really hope fracking doesn't go the way of GM in the public consciousness. It's still early days for the technology, and if its going to improve to meet its potential we need projects to get up and running. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be tight regulation though.

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  • Those raising detailed issues are usually (not always) against shale extraction in principle.<br /><br />The economic benefits seem to me undeniable. So the basic question should be: how can we make this work, drawing on the lessons from *recent* experience in the US using *current* technology?<br /><br />I always want to know someone's starting point. If they dive straight into detailed technicalities, I always wonder about their stance on this basic issue.

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  • Yep. There's a certain parallel with 9/11 conspiracists. I've met people who start of by saying things like 'there's no way that the building should have fallen because of such and such". Not one is an engineer.

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  • That BBC Newsnight interview was removed from their BBC website<br />but here is another source of that short interview, and note the oiley<br />remarks from Carloine "Ms Green " Lucas MP for Brighton Pavillion.<br /><br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoFvtjQ0HAw&rel=0

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  • Cliff Laine

    Hello. Have you got some links to where the claims in Gasland are debunked? <br /><br />Thanks<br /><br />Cliff

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  • vernony

    What a load of tripe Mike Hill. You seem to know a lot about boreholes but very little about commonsense or emerging facts. Fact 2,000,000 wells are said to have been fracced worldwide and no nobody isbeing poisoned , nor are there any more earth tremors than there used to be. Indeed fraccing has been going on for years. I see that you are also an expert on debates, even though you were not present, which leads one to think that you must include clairvoyance in amongst the other attributes which you claim for yourself. The truth is due entirely to fraccing in the USA you and Greenpeace members and FOI members are paying some 25% less to fill up their cars over here (today) In the economy we have touched zero inflation. Now, of course, if you do not agree to having to pay less to fill your car along with Greenpeace and FOI and the other scatty studenty organisations, then you could reach an accommodation to remimberse the oil companies by monthly direct debit ! ? Sad though that you are so gifted to be an expert on everything, must be a pretty boring existence !

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