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Shale firm issues government with seismicity ultimatum

Chairman of energy firm Ineos has called for the government to end “unworkable” shale policy or end shale and not to use politically expedient, slippery back door manoeuvres to end shale.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has urged government to increase the shale seismicity limit from an unworkable 0.5 to a more sensible level on the Richter scale.

Ineos has said that the UK limit of 0.5 is significantly lower that the 4.0 level typically found in the US where over 1M shale wells have been constructed.

According to the firm, the government’s current policy will do irreparable damage to the UK’s manufacturing base.

Ratcliffe described the government’s position as “unworkable, unhelpful and playing politics with the country’s future”.

In a statement, Ineos said: “British companies have been working in good faith to develop an onshore gas industry in the UK. There are indications that there may be enough gas to make the UK self-sufficient in energy for a generation and stimulate huge investment in manufacturing as has been the case in the US.”

Ineos also slammed the planning process for shale gas operations and called UK policies “, glacially slow, inordinately expensive and virtually unworkable”.

Ratcliffe said: “The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) seems to lack a basic understanding of the Richter Scale. It is a logarithmic scale. The limit within the United States is typically set at 4.0 – a level that the US Environmental Protection Agency feels is safe and will not lead to any damage to land, property or people. To put that into perspective, magnitude 4.0 is 3,162 times higher than 0.5 and 177,827 times stronger in terms of energy release.”

Ineos said that shale development has transformed the US economy over the last decade but said that the UK, by contrast, has no coherent energy policy. The firm claimed that government “is shutting down shale by the backdoor and is betting the future of our manufacturing industry on windmills and imported gas from countries which are potentially unstable”.

Ratcliffe added: “The government’s position is unworkable and unhelpful. They are playing politics with the future of the country. We have a non-existent energy strategy and are heading towards an energy crisis that will do long term and irreparable damage to the economy and the government needs to decide whether they are finally going to put the country first and develop a workable UK onshore gas industry.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Not viable for UK. Only 800 Bcm gas over ~25 years @ ~32 Bcm pa. i.e. 60% Nord Stream 2 p/l. Uncertain start, earliest 2021? Environmental risks huge. With full investment ramp-up only ~35% (in 2030) of UK needs, up to 55% by 2050. No! No! https://bit.ly/2PYpqND
    The seismic risk is almost negligible, but the fact remains that onshore hydraulic fracturing of shale formations in Britain will only ever be a partial solution, in terms of volumes of natural gas extracted. Unfortunately "fracking" is not likely ever to be fully viable in UK. Only 800 Bcm (Billion cubic metres) of gas is likely to be able to be extracted over ~25 years (@ ~32 Bcm pa. i.e. ~60% of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic pipeline. The start date for commercial extraction is also uncertain, at the earliest 2021. Environmental risks are well definable but present. Even with a full investment ramp up, only ~35% (in 2030) of UK reducing gas needs could be provided, up to maybe 55% by 2050 https://bit.ly/2PYpqND
    The whole affair should be completely depoliticised and a rational decision made on what to do, based upon real numerical predictions.

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