Today (28th July 2014) the Department for Energy and Climate Change has launched the 14th onshore licensing round for unconventional oil and gas with the headlines saying that fracking will not be allowed in national parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty other than in exceptional circumstances – to be decided by the Minister for Communities.
The National picture is shown here, click to enlarge:
The situation in the Chew Valley and Somerset is that the previously relinquished areas are back in the pot:
- PEDL 227 remains with UK Methane – shown in red
- the entire area, with the exception of PEDL 227, is again on offer to exploration companies – shown in pink
- the entire area, with the exception of PEDL 227, is again on offer to exploration companies by the Coal Authority for exploration for coalbed methane
- permission may not be granted, except in exceptional circumstances, for drilling in the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB), although this could be overturned by the Minister for Communities
- drilling is “likely to be prohibited” within water source protection zones – which relate to ground water aquifers but not surface water drainage such as the Chew Valley Lake
- additional planning guidance will be provided relating to World Heritage Sites – for example Bath Spa
What does this mean for the Chew Valley and surrounding area?
- Parts of the valley may be protected by the AONB
- Parts of the valley should be protected through the water source protection zones but this is patchy
- PEDL 227 around Ston Easton remains. This area is neither within the AONB or water source protection zones. UK Methane’s licence contains a firm commitment to “obtain 19km of 2D seismic data on Block ST65” (the upper portion), “obtain 1.5km of 2D seismic data on Block ST64”, “drill one well to a depth of 800m”.
- Parts of the Chew Valley are neither within the AONB or the water source protection zones which only cover ground water aquifers. Having been both evaluated and relinquished at least twice these areas are again been offered to gas companies for exploration in the full knowledge of previous evaluations.
The new Energy Minister Matthew Hancock adds:
Rather than “one of the cleanest fossil fuels” the Minister presumably means “one of the least dirty”. His view of unconventional gas as a bridging fuel is not shared by DECC’s outgoing Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor David MacKay of Cambridge University, who recently advised DECC that in the absence of a globally binding agreement to control carbon dioxide emissions that any new fossil fuel would lead to increased cumulative greenhouse gas emissions leading to further global warming. Ministers have collective amnesia when it comes to this inconvenient truth.
MacKay and Stone, DECC 2013, said:
“The view of the authors is that without global climate policies (of the sort already advocated by the UK) new fossil fuel exploitation is likely to lead to an increase in cumulative carbon emissions and the risk of climate change. We would strongly encourage continued efforts from the UK and internationally to address this issue, proportionate to the emissions involved.”
In response to Cuadrilla’s position FFCV says: Why Cuadrilla is Wrong About Shale Gas Carbon Emissions
On the same subject Professor Kenvin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research says: