Fracking: Osborne’s latest 18th century-style ‘folly’

It’s a safe bet that Osborne’s Autumn Statement this Wednesday will hail a fracking revolution as the start of a new energy cornucopia for Britain.   Like everything else politicians say 5 months before an election, it needs to be taken with a piece of salt.   Only one shale well has been fracked in Britain – Cuadrilla’s PH1 at Preese Hall near Blackpool – and that had to be suspended when in 2011 when it caused minor earth tremors.   Another attempt was made by Cuadrilla to set up a fracking operation, thistime on the mainland at Balcombe in the Sussex Weald, but that had to be called off as a result of determined opposition by the Tory rural brolly brigade, a resistance group that has now established a widespread network across the country pledged to fight fracking wherever it rears its head.

The Blackpool saga is revealing.   Cuadrilla now wants, egged on by the government, to get permission to bore 8 further wells in Lancashire within the next 6 months.   The county council is taking its time to consider this and is looking at the history of PH1, as well they might.   It is a textbook case of how pathetic is the regulation of fracking:  the Environment Agency and Health & Safety Executive visit drilling operations only very rarely, relying instead on the drillers’ own weekly reports and letting them make their own appraisal.

In March this year, 3 years after work at PH1 had been halted and 2 years after an expert report gave an assurance that nothing was wrong except some tremor-induced distortion to well piping deep below the surface, Cuadrilla told HSE it was measuring a build-up of annular pressure (AP) in the well near ground level, caused by seepage of either gas or fluids coming up from the well.   What happened then is instructive.   Since AP should be prevented by cement that the drillers pump down into cavities between the pipes and side-walls in a well, HSE demanded to see the cement bond log (CBL), only to be told that it had previously informed Cuadrilla that it didn’t need to make one.   So now neither Cuadrilla nor HSE knows whether the well has leaked below the surface.

The whole issue over fracking in Britain is now a shambles, not only in terms of the politics and regulation of it, but also crucially in the economics of fracking operations now that the price of oil has dipped below $70 a barrel of Brent crude, and given the structural dynamics surrounding the price (the OPEC refusal to cut output, the global economic stagnation, and the glut in supply) it could even fall to around $50.   So fracking could well turn out another white elephant of the Osborne Mad Hatter.

3 thoughts on “Fracking: Osborne’s latest 18th century-style ‘folly’

  1. i only hope that they dont i want my grand children to have fresh water not contaminated water without the earthquakes but then whose going to pay out on those cracked buil;dings or worst still demolished house by this process the insurance companies wont but sadly this lot have sold us down the river and only by just gooling fracking and poisened one see how manys have been affected by this it isnt worth the risk but then cams and co like nero fiddling all away jeff3

  2. Jeffrey: It’s not just water pollution and earthquakes, but there’s also natural occurring radiation underground that could be released, as well as methane and other toxins that can make people permanently very ill and cause birth defects in livestock. Do watch the film on the link in my first comment, above.

    Here’s a link to the organisation where towns and villages can sign up to declare themselves “toxin Free” :

    Quote: “A Toxin Free Community declaration works in two ways – both as a deterrent to industries that aren’t welcome, and as a beacon to those looking for healthy places to live. It shows we value our communities and landscapes, and care about our families’ health and that of our neighbours. ”

    That’s the way to stop them!

  3. Well said Michael Meacher

    Shale extraction is a big money earner for the people in powerful positions, but very little is seen for the vast majority of people in Britain who will see nothing, only damage to their environment.

    As for the set up of wealth funds to BENEFIT local communities. This is all well and good talking about, but how will it happen? Saying the people would benefit from such a scheme to me is just the lure to entice the public to go along with what the government wants.

    Noise, air pollution, breathing problems, skins problems to people living near a frack site, damage to roads, accidents from heavy machinery and traffic, Flaring, potential water contamination, industrialisation, upsetting the natural geological subsurface formations with no remedy in place of an unforeseen accident. Earthquakes.

    Say NO to This crazy idea of the Tories.

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