Conservative MP calls for "national debate" on fracking

Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh

Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh

First published in News
Last updated

THE North Yorkshire MP tasked with looking into fracking has expressed concerns about the controversial method – saying the country need a national debate on its future energy supplies.

This week the government opened its bidding process for shale companies seeking licences to explore oil and gas reserves.

But Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, Anne McIntosh, said today said there are too many unknowns when it comes to the potential damage to the environment, what will happen to the waste water resulting from the extraction and the impact on drilling on such an intensely populated island as the UK.

Ms McIntosh is chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs parliamentary committee, which is currently looking at Defra’s responsibility for fracking. In September it will begin taking evidence on the controversial method of gas extraction.

Ms McIntosh was deselected from her seat earlier this year by Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association, who are replacing her with estate agent boss Kevin Hollinrake.

Speaking at today’s Ryedale Show, Ms McIntosh said: “We need to know there’s no environmental disadvantage in the long-term, that the countryside won’t be damaged.

“Shale gas is still a fossil fuel. You have to ask why France has banned fracking; there must be something there?

“What is unknown is what will be the damage to a small island like ours? They don’t know – we don’t have the landmass of America and Australia where fracking takes place.”

She said the committee is looking at proposals to create power from landfill waste, which she feels is a viable option as many landfill sites are reaching full capacity. She said this included incineration and other methods of extracting energy from waste.

"I think about how we dispose of our municipal waste," said Ms McIntosh. "I think we need to be looking at using municipal waste as a resource, providing heat and power.”

The MP said Yorwaste currently shipped landfill waste to Holland, where it was used to create energy for Dutch use and profit.

“I think what’s lacking is the public debate

“I think we should have a really important, national debate about our energy supplies going forward.”

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

3:41pm Wed 30 Jul 14

RealLivin says...

Fracking or Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of high pressure pumpimg of water, sand and other chemcicals (some highly toxic) in the ground to fracture rock to release gases for use as fuel. We cannot predict earthquakes as we cannot "see" what is going on underground, and as far as any information I have found states we cannot "see" how this rock will fracture so it can fracture in any number of places and in any direction and to any depth. This leads to escaping gases into the ground, local water supplies and into atmosphere. Google searches have shown areas in the US where house prices have plummeted, numerous illness have plague residents and towns have become ghost towns, successful areas are all far away from any populations. It would appear all the government can see here is another successful industry it created, a revenue from licences and presumable y carbon taxes on this fuel. Surely it would be much cheaper more effective to subsidise home owners to install solar panels to reduce their own consumption thereby allowing our existing (foreign owned) power stations to cope with the demand. Are we going green or not, apparently only if its profitable to do so.
Fracking or Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of high pressure pumpimg of water, sand and other chemcicals (some highly toxic) in the ground to fracture rock to release gases for use as fuel. We cannot predict earthquakes as we cannot "see" what is going on underground, and as far as any information I have found states we cannot "see" how this rock will fracture so it can fracture in any number of places and in any direction and to any depth. This leads to escaping gases into the ground, local water supplies and into atmosphere. Google searches have shown areas in the US where house prices have plummeted, numerous illness have plague residents and towns have become ghost towns, successful areas are all far away from any populations. It would appear all the government can see here is another successful industry it created, a revenue from licences and presumable y carbon taxes on this fuel. Surely it would be much cheaper more effective to subsidise home owners to install solar panels to reduce their own consumption thereby allowing our existing (foreign owned) power stations to cope with the demand. Are we going green or not, apparently only if its profitable to do so. RealLivin
  • Score: -1

10:08am Thu 31 Jul 14

SarahAL says...

There is a silly amount of scare stories about this, but most of them are nonsense - nothing more than greens trying to scare people because the companies that fund them don't want anything to compete with the taxpayer giving them loads of cash for renewables.

The chemicals are sand and a couple of things you get in shampoo (with higher concentration in shampoo) and that are added to public swimming pools. All chemicals can be looked up on the internet and all are public. Even educated environmentalists admit this and say the worry is that they might use something else in the future, but then you could say that about any industry. The reality is that you don't need to add nasty chemicals, it is just that in the US they have tried lots of things before settling on what is used now. There is even a fracking fluid composed entirely out of foodstuffs.

Industrialisation of the landscape is another good one, and one the MP might have fallen for. A rig can drill a lateral well out to 5 miles, 7 perhaps and some can handle 10 miles. Taking the lower figure means a well pad the size of a football field hidden behind trees and the next one about 10 miles away. It is silly to call that mass industrialisation, except to lie to people.

Reallivin says that you cannot see the fractures underground, or know how far they will extend, but this is not true. Microseismicity allows you to see the growth in the fracture network in real time to an accuracy of about 10m. Given the separation between the shales of often more than 1km and the fact that the largest fracture system seen is around 440m you can see why geologists think there is not a problem. Even then though you can see the fractures in real time and if they extended where you didn't want them you just turn the pumps off. However, campaigners are rarely, if never, geologists and so do not appreciate the geology of the UK. There are multiple rock formations between the shales and the aquifer, including many that are much stronger than the shales themselves. Fracture networks will extend along planes of weakness, not into much stronger rocks hundreds of meters above them when they can expand horizontally into weaker rocks. This is one reason why the geology matters, and you will notice that not a single anti fracking website has a section on the geology. All they ever do is link to one paper in the US that says something might have happened under different circumstances and they never ever talk about what is different, because they do not understand what is different. They do not know what anhydrite is, or what a fracture gradient is, or what affects it. They have never drilled a well, or seen a rock core. They decided they hate fracking and gone and looked for a paper on it they can hold up without caring whether it applies under the same circumstances, or what made it happen in the US in the first place. Look at how many of the papers they quote just say that they cannot determine if the affect is real, or whether the affect is down to fracking or if they have just measured something else from an unknown cause that just happens to correlate with the location chosen for the study. Mostly they just call for more research because they can't prove it either way, but then why are some people using them as if they made definitive conclusions when they didn't?

If fracking was half as bad as environmentalists say then with over 125000 wells in the US we would know. The claim that people, including doctors, are being gagged about health affects (environmentalists go to excuse as to why they have no smoking gun) was recently rubbished by a judge, who said he saw no evidence of gagging and more to the point the law in the US meant that doctors were not stopped from informing patients or the public.

Fracking poses very little risk to the water table, it occurs kilometers below it. You can watch the fractures made in real time and stop if there is an issue, which there won't be because the separation distances are too great and the fractures don't extend that far. Wells can be monitored and any problems fixed very quickly. Shale wells only produce for a few years so are not a long term risk. A well can be cemented up to render it inactive and the cement is like rock; there is no weathering down there. Water usage is large, but much can be recycled. Waste processing can be handled and 3 sites can already handle it. If the industry grows the site capacity can grow with them.

The main issue has to be the number of trucks for carting the fluids around. While drilling the well the number of truck movements per day is still low, with perhaps a maximum of 10 and on average more like 3-4. Fracking itself would need many more than this, so sites must be chosen respecting this and planning must take it into account so HGVs are kept on main roads with as little as possible on B roads.

And that is about it. And for all that the country gets numerous benefits, of which the largest is probably a new tax stream of billions to fund more teachers, doctors etc etc. And remember that the global wind and solar industry has lowered CO2 output by 275million tonnes per year. US fracking has lowered US output by 300million tonnes per year. And in just 6 years while generating 1.3million jobs. It is win win for everyone.
There is a silly amount of scare stories about this, but most of them are nonsense - nothing more than greens trying to scare people because the companies that fund them don't want anything to compete with the taxpayer giving them loads of cash for renewables. The chemicals are sand and a couple of things you get in shampoo (with higher concentration in shampoo) and that are added to public swimming pools. All chemicals can be looked up on the internet and all are public. Even educated environmentalists admit this and say the worry is that they might use something else in the future, but then you could say that about any industry. The reality is that you don't need to add nasty chemicals, it is just that in the US they have tried lots of things before settling on what is used now. There is even a fracking fluid composed entirely out of foodstuffs. Industrialisation of the landscape is another good one, and one the MP might have fallen for. A rig can drill a lateral well out to 5 miles, 7 perhaps and some can handle 10 miles. Taking the lower figure means a well pad the size of a football field hidden behind trees and the next one about 10 miles away. It is silly to call that mass industrialisation, except to lie to people. Reallivin says that you cannot see the fractures underground, or know how far they will extend, but this is not true. Microseismicity allows you to see the growth in the fracture network in real time to an accuracy of about 10m. Given the separation between the shales of often more than 1km and the fact that the largest fracture system seen is around 440m you can see why geologists think there is not a problem. Even then though you can see the fractures in real time and if they extended where you didn't want them you just turn the pumps off. However, campaigners are rarely, if never, geologists and so do not appreciate the geology of the UK. There are multiple rock formations between the shales and the aquifer, including many that are much stronger than the shales themselves. Fracture networks will extend along planes of weakness, not into much stronger rocks hundreds of meters above them when they can expand horizontally into weaker rocks. This is one reason why the geology matters, and you will notice that not a single anti fracking website has a section on the geology. All they ever do is link to one paper in the US that says something might have happened under different circumstances and they never ever talk about what is different, because they do not understand what is different. They do not know what anhydrite is, or what a fracture gradient is, or what affects it. They have never drilled a well, or seen a rock core. They decided they hate fracking and gone and looked for a paper on it they can hold up without caring whether it applies under the same circumstances, or what made it happen in the US in the first place. Look at how many of the papers they quote just say that they cannot determine if the affect is real, or whether the affect is down to fracking or if they have just measured something else from an unknown cause that just happens to correlate with the location chosen for the study. Mostly they just call for more research because they can't prove it either way, but then why are some people using them as if they made definitive conclusions when they didn't? If fracking was half as bad as environmentalists say then with over 125000 wells in the US we would know. The claim that people, including doctors, are being gagged about health affects (environmentalists go to excuse as to why they have no smoking gun) was recently rubbished by a judge, who said he saw no evidence of gagging and more to the point the law in the US meant that doctors were not stopped from informing patients or the public. Fracking poses very little risk to the water table, it occurs kilometers below it. You can watch the fractures made in real time and stop if there is an issue, which there won't be because the separation distances are too great and the fractures don't extend that far. Wells can be monitored and any problems fixed very quickly. Shale wells only produce for a few years so are not a long term risk. A well can be cemented up to render it inactive and the cement is like rock; there is no weathering down there. Water usage is large, but much can be recycled. Waste processing can be handled and 3 sites can already handle it. If the industry grows the site capacity can grow with them. The main issue has to be the number of trucks for carting the fluids around. While drilling the well the number of truck movements per day is still low, with perhaps a maximum of 10 and on average more like 3-4. Fracking itself would need many more than this, so sites must be chosen respecting this and planning must take it into account so HGVs are kept on main roads with as little as possible on B roads. And that is about it. And for all that the country gets numerous benefits, of which the largest is probably a new tax stream of billions to fund more teachers, doctors etc etc. And remember that the global wind and solar industry has lowered CO2 output by 275million tonnes per year. US fracking has lowered US output by 300million tonnes per year. And in just 6 years while generating 1.3million jobs. It is win win for everyone. SarahAL
  • Score: 0

4:15pm Fri 1 Aug 14

Philip Tate says...

SarahAl may well be right about large scale Fracking in the UK. The reason most people are worried is that Fracking practised elsewhere in the world does not bear any resemblance to the vision she has for Fracking in the UK. The principal fear is that hurried legislation and planning applications processed by under resourced County Council Planning Departments will fail to provide the necessary safeguards for what might otherwise have been responsible Fracking.
Even she accepts that Fracking requires proximity to good arterial roads and yet most of the proposed areas that are licensed to Frack are in remote country areas of outstanding natural beauty. It does not seem sensible that the first major developments for Fracking should be in thes e ares that are manifestly difficult to service with large numbers of heavy lorries.
And I thjink too she has a touching faith in the ethics of the companies who intend to invest in this new industry. International companies are extremely hard to control not least because shareholders are constantly changing - sometimes several times a day . For these companies Fracking is as big a gamble as Oil exploration. They are simply not interested in environmental issues unless forced to do so through rigourous controls : controls which at the present moment have not even been discussed.

With her knowledge of geology she should join those who want to be sure that if Fracking goes ahead it does not destroy our local environment.
SarahAl may well be right about large scale Fracking in the UK. The reason most people are worried is that Fracking practised elsewhere in the world does not bear any resemblance to the vision she has for Fracking in the UK. The principal fear is that hurried legislation and planning applications processed by under resourced County Council Planning Departments will fail to provide the necessary safeguards for what might otherwise have been responsible Fracking. Even she accepts that Fracking requires proximity to good arterial roads and yet most of the proposed areas that are licensed to Frack are in remote country areas of outstanding natural beauty. It does not seem sensible that the first major developments for Fracking should be in thes e ares that are manifestly difficult to service with large numbers of heavy lorries. And I thjink too she has a touching faith in the ethics of the companies who intend to invest in this new industry. International companies are extremely hard to control not least because shareholders are constantly changing - sometimes several times a day . For these companies Fracking is as big a gamble as Oil exploration. They are simply not interested in environmental issues unless forced to do so through rigourous controls : controls which at the present moment have not even been discussed. With her knowledge of geology she should join those who want to be sure that if Fracking goes ahead it does not destroy our local environment. Philip Tate
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree