The Guardian struck it rich in their ongoing opposition to fracking on Wednesday when geologist Chris Cornelius, one of the founders of Cuadrilla’s shale operation in the North West, threw shade at the chances of the industry re-opening.
The geology in Lancashire isn’t conducive, he said. It’s too expensive, investors won’t fund it, it won’t lead to “a meaningful supply of new gas”, the regulatory environment is oppressive, and there’s no social license for it.
It’s true the anti-frackers have polluted the environment with fake-news stories of “flaming faucets” and being “thrown out of bed” by earth tremors 2.9 on Richter (a level that is barely discernible on the surface). The clean-up of the information environment will take decades.
Chris Cornelius may or may not be right in his various assessments, though they are all out of his area of expertise. The industry has advanced since his time, the regulatory environment can be changed, the law against illegal protest behaviour can be tightened, provision for national pricing might be introduced. Time will tell.
The certainties that he – and most anti-frackers – express are no better than opinions (“A dangerous fantasy . . . cheaper than renewables . . . do nothing to cut bills” – Ed Miliband.)
In the matter of investment there is a pipeline of cash ready to flow, not least from Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS.
Cornelius’ one area of expertise is undermined by Francis Egan, current CEO of Cuadrilla, who wrote to the Guardian rebutting his geological assertions:
“Mr Cornelius left Cuadrilla more than a decade ago and has not been involved in the coring, fracking or flow testing of recent wells by Cuadrilla and other industry players, and does not have the most recently available data. His knowledge base is more than a little dated and we completely disagree with the conclusions he consequently draws.”
The Guardian declined to publish the letter…
Earlier this week, Guido reminded BEIS they still hadn’t actually confirmed to energy firm Cuadrilla that they will call off plans to permanently seal off the only two viable shale gas wells in England. The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the Commons on Wednesday that “it did not necessarily make any sense to concrete over the wells”. So why hasn’t Kwasi given the order to call off the concreting over yet? As Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan pointed out, this was pretty crucial for his firm, given they’re scheduled to begin pouring concrete down the wells next week. Unless Kwasi gives him a call, “nothing has changed” as far as Egan is concerned…
Two days have passed and still nothing has changed. BEIS are running down the clock. Last night Egan put out another fraught statement imploring the government to get their act together and let Cuadrilla call off the cement mixers and turn the trucks around:
“The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has set us a deadline of 30th June for filling our shale gas wells with concrete. Plugging and abandoning these two wells takes 2-3 months, which is why work’s starting next week. That means we have a rig contracted, waiting to travel to our site in Lancashire, costing dearly for every day it waits idle.
“I urgently request the Business Department and the OGA to formally withdraw its instruction to plug the wells. They should also put sensible protections in place to ensure that companies like Cuadrilla and others aren’t forced to suffer the risk and financial uncertainty of operating in a position where a Government can keep changing its mind and require wells to be cemented whilst they are still useful.
“30th June is still the legal deadline to cement these wells and delay in engaging with us effectively trumps what’s said in the House of Commons. Every minute counts and costs…”
The OGA’s deadline is the 30th June, consequently the concrete starts flowing next week unless Egan is officially told otherwise. It’s all very good for Kwasi to stand in the Commons and claim the government “supports shale gas exploration if it’s done safely”, it can’t be done at all if the well is cemented over...
Despite reports that Downing Street is considering a U-turn on plans to concrete up England’s two viable shale gas wells in Lancashire – and a No.10 spokesperson this morning claiming “all options” are on the table, including fracking – it looks like those plans still haven’t actually reached the desk of the man instructed to pour the concrete. According to Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources, the government has kept him in the dark on whether they’ve reversed the mandate. As far as he’s concerned, the wells are still set to be blocked off next week…
In a statement released this afternoon, Egan said:
“We note with interest the reports that the Prime Minister wants ministers to step in to stop the UK’s only two viable shale gas wells being filled with concrete in the middle of an energy crisis. It’s clear that the UK must do everything it can to secure domestic gas supply and not tolerate Putin’s vice-like grip over our energy costs. I await contact from the Business Department to confirm these reports.
Cuadrilla’s plans to plug the Lancashire shale wells under Government mandate are very advanced and the rig will still be arriving on site next week. British consumers, whose energy bills are soaring, will wonder what on earth this Government’s priorities are. We remain open to any other proposals or ideas the Government may have, but as things stand nothing has changed.”
Sounds like someone in BEIS needs to get on the phone to Egan quickly. Hurry the frack up…