Plans to frack for shale gas in the UK are currently on hold in spite of the pro-fracking Conservative Party securing a majority in the country’s Parliament in May’s General Election. The main company pioneering efforts to develop a shale gas industry in the UK, Cuadrilla Resources, has faced one obstacle after another in its attempt to explore for shale gas at two locations in Lancashire, England.
The latest stumbling block is Lancashire County Council’s refusal to allow Cuadrilla to explore for some of the 2,281 trillion cubic feet of shale gas that the British Geological Survey estimates could be contained within the Bowland Basin in northwest England.
Recently, Rigzone caught up with Ken Cronin – chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) – to find out how he thinks things will play out now.
First of all, Cronin is dismissive of the idea that the resistance to fracking by the environmental lobby, certain sections of the public and, now, Lancashire County councillors means that the industry is dead before it has even really begun in the UK – as some commentators in the UK media have been suggesting recently.
“The reality is that 12 years ago my opposite number in the wind industry was shouting from the rooftops that planning was the problem … and [the wind industry] would never get planning for onshore windfarms through, etc. Ten years before that we had a nuclear power station that went through a seven-year planning cycle. So adverse planning decisions are not just something that’s unique to this [the shale gas] industry,” Cronin told Rigzone.
“It’s an issue that onshore energy production has. You have national policies and local decision-making, and those two are always going to rub.”
In fact, Cronin thinks that those interested in seeing the development of a shale gas industry in the UK should look at the positives from Lancashire County Council’s recent decisions.
“We had a planning officer’s recommendation after a very detailed and elongated process in which basically he said: ‘All of the above, including the local issues, I’ve looked at and I give a recommendation to approve.’ That was backed up by legal advice, it’s backed up by advice from third-party consultants for noise and transport, and the reality is that the councillors rejected it on the basis of very local decisions: noise and landscape.
“So, I think there are a lot of positives to look at. Is one adverse planning decision going to stop the industry? No. There are a number of applications in the pipeline across the country and we shall see those coming through towards the end of the year. When will we see the first frack? We are at the vagaries of planning decisions but I’m hoping to see activity next year.”