Category Archives: Fracking

Stuff on fracking , mostly in Lancashire

All the Facts about Fracking – er – um

Ever since I started to find out what fracking entailed  I have been amuzed by the sheer nonsense put out by opponents of fracking. Worst are those who should know better like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace  and Guardian Environment. They have been successful both in raising an awareness and hostility to fracking, but at times their followers/dupees come out with complete tosh.


Here is a prime example from a female protester at Preston New Road.  On 3rd of Sept this was posted on the FB page Lancaster fights Fracking entitled “All the Facts about fracking”

Here it along with my comments;

You can read it here.

All the facts about fracking


I went to Preston New Road on Friday to demonstrate against the fracking company Cuadrilla. The idea was to go and stand outside cuadrilla’s gates to prevent deliveries etc from coming and going,

Is this actually legal? And how would she liked it if someone stopped her clients entering her premise for their “Neuroplastcity”?

this is what demonstraters were doing since March.
I found that the local people I talked to were very upset as the value of their properties had dropped 70% since Cuadrilla’s arrival.

Really! On what evidence? The evidence shows that house prices have not dropped

Fracking has already caused huge amounts of damage and fear in the area with ground tremors.

Yet another! Even tremors of Mag 2.3 don’t cause damage. This is simply falling for scaremongering

In 2011 at Preece Hall there were two significant tremors of Mag 1.5 and 2.3. Few felt them and no one reported any damages, though later some claimed that their property was damaged.

This image is useful. It shows that a Mag2.3 is about the same as a lightning bolt and that tremors that size are very common, with a about half a million every year. Further they are at least a billion times smaller than either the Nepal quake or the 2004 tsunami.


Fracking does cause seismic activity and many refer to 50 at Preece Hall. all but two were Mag 1 or less and would hardly cause a ripple in a teacup. Despite this many have used these “earthquakes” as a scare-mongering tactic and was used in the Greenpeace “Not for Shale” Campaign.


That was effective in conning locals and here its influence can be seen with concerns of “huge damage”. There was pretty clearly no damage.

The way the damage is caused is by enormous amounts of water poured a mile down

A profound mis-undrestanding of fracking. The water is pumped in under very high pressure, not poured.

into a pocket of gas,

I am beginning to despair. conventional sources have pockets of gas. Gas in shale is simply found in microscopic interstices in the shale.

This is a terrible misunderstanding. Some gas deposits, as in Holland, are found in underground caverns, but in fracking gas is extracted from shale, where the gas is found in the shale in tiny interstices in the rock. Hence in exploration a rough test is to put a piece of core from the shales into a “fish tank” and the amount of gas is indicated by the number of bubbles. There is simply no pocket of gas, but gas spread throughout the shale

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this forces the gas up, along with all kinds of methanes

The gas is methane and there are no other kinds of methanes. This is so face-palming.



and other toxics.

Presumably a clumsy reference to the variopus stuff in flow-back

The drilling disturbs the land plates

This is simply hilarious and shows and incredible ignorance of even school-level geography. She is vaguely aware of palates but ain’t got a clue about plate-tectonics and quakes

and causes tremors and disturbances.

More guff

We heard that the government was going to start putting nuclear toxic waste down the drilling hole when the drilling was finished and cover it in! 😳 Terrifying !

If she hadn’t come out with such silly stuff before, I’d say she was lying. This is simply repeating someone else’s blatant lie.

There was about 50 or 60 of us and the same amount of police. People were very amusing , someone called to the police “I hope no one is getting robbed in Blackpool”
I can’t say I wasn’t a bit scared as I’d seen videos on FB the night before of the police being very rough indeed. Saying this, my own experience was that the long term demonstraters , who were there every day, were quite offensive to the police, but I saw why later!


We stood in the same spot outside the gates, as was customary , the police arrested one of our group for obstructing the highway.

That is illegal!!

We weren’t on the highway we were where we thought it was legal to stand. It turns out that Lancashire council had redesignated the land, that morning, to become part of the highway. The police are always talking about cooperation , if they had told us the facts, we would have moved , this was a really slimey way to get an arrest.
The police were arrogant , unpleasant and far too authoritarian, there were far too many of them, at one time one police person per demonstrator . Don’t we have a shortage of police ?

Well if you bait the police and continue pushing them to the limit, they may not be friendly.

We noticed an awful lot of support from motorists going past who beeped and waved.
Lancashire council voted against fracking

And a lot who didn’t beep. It was a the planning committee not the whole council

but a conservative minister over ruled this and granted a license !

No, the minister did not over-rule it. Cuadrilla appealed as is their legal right and after much evidence was taken, the minister upheld the advice of the Planning Officer


It seems it makes no difference to this government what the public want, they just need to get their hands on more cash and deal more destruction to our environment!

More of the usual mantras!

I am afraid i didn”t find one fact in this article




The author is a lady working in Lancaster and according to her FB page is;

As you read it you will see she makes a lot of statements about fracking and the behaviour of the police at the fracking site near Blackpool.

The post has been shared 40 odd times, including to to RAFF and RAG. If RAFF and RAG shared it , why didn’t they correct its howlers. It makes you wonder!

Here is a complimentary comment for “all the facts about fracking”

  • grace


  • RAG liked it too, with one saying “well-written and observed”
  • rAG on Grace



Mark Lynas – On why GMOs are vital to food security in our world


This is an excellent address by Mark Lynas on the value of GMOs

One of the annoying things about the environmental movement today are those who apply heresy tests to anyone claiming to be green.

GMO EU action

and so;

If you don’t regard GMO as frankenstein food you hate the environment


If you don’t only eat Organic food you are doomed to a green hell

If you don’t hate Glyphosphate then you are poisoning the earth and our food

If you support nuclear energy, you deserve the green version of being nuked.

If you don’t support divestment from fossil fuels, you are a shill for the coal industry

If you support fracking you don’t give a damn about climate change and are a shill for Big Oil.


Sadly, I have only taken a little poetic licence there, but sadly these attitudes are only too common. They are essentially the views of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who possibly do more damage to the environment and humanity than anyone else


Anyway ignore my rant and read Mark Lynas


Source: Mark Lynas – Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference 2018

Big oil stops selling oil

I nicked this blog as it sums up the daftness of the KEEPITINTHEGROUND policy on fossil fuels.

I often do not agree with Luis, but this is very good

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy!

Tired of being demonized by the green fringe and by the media in general, a secret meeting of the most important oil companies CEOs took place during the weekend.*

They decided enough is enough so, unilaterally they have suspended all oil deliveries immediately and for an indefinite period of time.

The world’s reaction was swift and brutal. The news services are currently overwhelmed so we only know a minute part of what this decision has triggered. Here are some of them:


Airlines do plan to operate their flights on Monday, but no new bookings are being accepted at this time. Among other things, this means travelers are being stranded all over the world with no easy way to go back home. The revenue of the airlines will quickly drop to zero and their financial position will deteriorate rapidly if the oil flow is not restored fast.
State oil companies are not all participating in the boycott but the price of oil has skyrocketed already. Frantic traders have pushed the price above $250 per barrel but the ceiling is nowhere near. At least in the short term, Saudi Arabia and Iran seem poised to benefit from the chaos.
Stock markets all over the world plummeted by more than 20% but the floor has not been reached. Markets are essentially in free fall.
Long lines at petrol stations are being observed all over. Violence has broken out in several instances.
Car sales have ground to a halt. It seems nobody wants to buy a product that cannot be fueled.
Absenteeism at companies and schools reached an all time high. It is expected this metric will further deteriorate and by the end of the week the whole economy would have come to a halt.
Food shortages are beginning to alarm. Most of the food bought worldwide is transported by truck or ship and there is a serious risk riots will break out in all major cities. Price gouging has already began. The prices of some staples have already reached levels never encountered before.


Additional updates:

World leaders condemn the decision of the oil companies and urge their CEOs to immediately reconsider their actions.
In a joint press conference called by the executive director of Greenpeace and the president of Sierra Club both begged oil companies to reconsider. They both came close to apologizing for their previous unfair attacks on the oil companies.
Layoffs at many companies have begun.
All sorts of services gradually begin to shut down as people cannot commute to their jobs.
Trash begins to accumulate in cities around the world. Public health officials fear epidemics will be triggered at any moment.


More updates:
While the world spirals toward an uncontrolled economic depression, the main oil CEOs stand firm and have not yet reversed their decision.
Panic, riots, violence, despair have erupted all over the world. This truly looks like the end of the world. Ironically, this catastrophe was not caused by CO2.
Stock markets globally have lost more than 50% of their value.
Supermarkets begin to close as they have nothing left to sell.
Motor vehicles begin to run out of fuel and are being abandoned wherever they shut down.
Even though ambulances have fuel priority, they cannot go anywhere as abandoned cars block almost every street and avenue. People are now dying.


Overnight, almost eveybody has turned into a pauper. Despair is rampant.

Stay tuned for more updates…



* Obviously, what is mentioned here is fiction but moving away from fossil fuels before the time is right would be catastrophic for humanity. Let’s be responsible and not advocate medicines that would be much worse than the illness.



Take the Pro-Truth Pledge (because we’re all fallible)

Not all like signing pleadges like this, but it very relevant today.

LPolitics is plagued by fakenews and post-truth as it seems politicians compete with each other to spew out the most blantant post-truth aka lies.

It is equally bad when science impinges on daily lives. We all know of the post-truth of Creationists, which is often deliberate. But we see the same on GMOs and glyphosphate. On climate change we have the fake news and post-truth from the extreme climate deniers to the radical activists like Bill McKibbin, Friends of the Earth and Christian groups like Operation Noah. I don’t who are the worst

And then there is fracking, and antifrackers have got post-truth down to fine art.

Read and enjoy, but only after you have marked, learned and inwardly digested

Even if you do not sign the pledge, make sure that you carry it out by sharing, honouring and encouraging truth and show no quarter to those who persistently do not

This is another pertinent post from Paul Braterman

Primate's Progress

Pro-Truth Pledge LogoI  learnt about this pledge from the Skeptic Reading Room. And while I generally loathe public pledges (too much virtue signalling for my liking), I am making an exception for this one, in response to our exceptional times. And the fine print makes admirable reading. Besides,  several hundred public figures and organizations have signed it, including Steven Pinker and Peter Singer, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for me. Many dozens of politicians have signed it as well, and one of the aims is to persuade more to do so, and hold them accountable.

Truth matters. Propagating untruth is big business and big politics. The traditional guardians of truth have abdicated, are compromised, or lack traction. By default, the job of protecting truth falls to us. We need to take our responsibility seriously.

We are all drawn towards confirmation bias, group think (our own group, of course!)…

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Scaremongering on health effects of fracking in Lancashire

17th November 2017. Today Gina Dowding and 11 others were found guilty of obstructing the public highway outside the fracking site on Preston New Road in July 2017. Of these 12 3 were various councillors and all argued about their concerns for health and water contamination and appealed to the slogan #wesaidno. dowding said after the hearing that they opposed this “pernicious and perverted ” industry

Here is drillordrop’s  account!!

Dowding has been active in opposing shale gas, mostly on health grounds, for several years, despite her concerns not being accepted by Public Health England and other bodies. Her claims are not upheld by Public Health England and thus were rejected by the chief planning officer of Lancs County Council in 2015. She wrote up her claims for the CIEH in 2014 and here is a brief rebuttal of them. It seems that in the last three years these personal unsubstantiated opinions have not changed.


I find it concerning that a health professional rejects the findings of Public Health England along with her fellow protesters.

It is difficult not to see her concerns as rather hyped and not founded in proper research, but this is the approach of many who oppose fracking  – and the Green Party


Lancashire County Council has recently considered the health impact of two proposed fracking sites. Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green Party councillor and a former NHS health promotion officer, outlines her personal view of the key health risks.

The CIEH’s assessment of the risks is available here:



1. Climate Change
The greatest threat to future wellbeing is climate change. It is now recognised that 70 per cent of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid more than two degrees of global warming. It is imperative that the UK takes the lead on this and concentrates on investment in renewable energy development instead of new fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently issued again stark warnings that urgent action is required now.

A popular and simplistic argument. She does not say which fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and doesn’t point out shale gas is cleaner than coal and thus the best solution now, in the absence of anything better. Further renewables produce only 5% of world’s energy so there cannot be a rapid transition. In the USA use of gas has resulted in a reduction of emissions thus help Climate Change. The IPCC saw an important place for the use of shale gas, so this reflects an incomplete reading of the IPCC reports

This shows how much energy must be produced to replace fossil fuels


2. Air quality
Venting and incomplete flaring of shale gas will lead to the release of benzenes and other known carcinogens. In the US fugitive gas levels around sites have been found to be up to 100 times more than predicted.

There will be no venting and flaring when drilling is complete. She is misinformed here. Further, flaring only happens before production if at all. Venting or flaring is simply losing money. What evidence does she have of benzenes and carcinogens? That sounds a scarestory. On fugitive levels this seems like an allusion to the discredited Howarth paper

3. Water pollution

The risk of well leaks is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix. Studies (such as by Schlumberger published in Oilfield Review) admit that 6 per cent of wells leak immediately with 50 per cent leaking in 15 years – leaving a potential toxic legacy that may irreversibly damage underground water supplies.

This is just nonsense. Out of 2200 wells on the English mainland only a few have had minor leaks. Again much exaggeration

4. Flowback Fluid
The flowback fluid produced by the process contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials. There are concerns about sufficient capacity to treat hazardous: In Lancashire and at peak times one of the proposed sites alone will utilise a major proportion of the available treatment capacity within 100 miles of the site (based on radiation levels and physical treatment capacity).

Yes, flowback is nasty enough not to be put into watercourses, but it isn’t much worse than the Dead Sea for chemical. The radioactive NORMS present are fairly low level Many of us have survived swimming in the Dead Sea!! The flowback from Preese Hall was cleaned to EA standards by Remsol and then disposed off according to regulations. Remsol says treatment is not a big deal.  Cuadrilla have treatments ready for the flow back. This is blatant scaremongering

5. Chemicals
The chemicals used in the Fracking process in the US have been linked to cancers and low birth weight in infants. Breast Cancer UK have called for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing due to their concerns about the potentially adverse health effects.

She is relying on the list of 600+ chemicals which HAVE been used in the USA, rather than the handful of non-carcinogenic which will be used in the UK – Water 99.5%, sand , polyacrylamide, possibly HCl and a biocide. In other words are benign solution despite what Friends of the Earth claimed in 2015  The ASA forced them to withdraw their claims. Breast Cancer UK ‘s report was very dodgy and partially retracted See also Dr James Verdon



6. Transport related accidents
Site visits undertaken in Lancashire show that HGVs with large loads e.g. 40ft trailers for office space and work space would have difficulty safely negotiating the narrow rural roads in proximity to the project sites. But there are long-term traffic implications once drilling is underway. The Lancashire Roseacre Awareness group are highlighting the risk of accidents and the impact of traffic on their rural villages.

This is not the case for Preston New Road and she should have said so. This is despite all the protests at PNR on 2017. This is more of a problem for Roseacre but is not a serious as she implies. Her best argument!!!!

7. Noise
Health effects that may result from community noise are well documented and include interference with communication; effects on sleep, and on the cardiovascular and psycho-physiological systems and noise-induced hearing impairment. Drilling is planned 24 hours a day, including nighttime; it is expected that the noise levels will be continuous for at least 14 months.

This is sheer overstatement. The noise is minimal and can hardly be heard beyond a hundred yards.  Even by the rig, when in operation (I have visited it), you can speak quietly and not find the noise unpleasant. Pure exaggeration. Far worse, is to live on most streets in towns!!

8 Occupational health risks
There is limited evidence on occupational health risks due to cumulative exposure to silica dust, noise and air pollution during shale gas exploration in the UK context. The concern is that there are no specific occupational health standards for onshore oil and gas extraction.

There are plenty of regulations for any industrial process

9. Emergencies
Local residents have anxiety over emergency scenarios. Although emergency planning is a requirement for this type of development, this process has not been ‘visible’ to residents. Anxiety fuelled by uncertainty over this issue could potentially have wider health impacts than the risks themselves

This is grasping at straws as are the worries of anxiety. That anxiety is induced by misinformation like this article. I wonder if any local residents were concerned before they were fed with this type of alleged problem.

10. Inadequate regulation
Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

This is a favourite argument and is put forward forcibly by Mike Hill. Regulations are in place and all aspects are being monitored by the appropriate bodies. Dowding’s paper was written in 2014 and here refers to a report of 2014. By 2015 the Planning Officer using reports from PHE etc concluded there was not a concern here, except demanding that noise levels were reduced. This was carried out by Cuadrilla.

Today 17/11/17 Dowding argued that regulations were still insufficient

Problems of “the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty” were largely inflamed by anti-fracking groups of which Dowding was active in. Of course, people get anxious when fed with plausible scare stories.

As it happens all her possible concerns on regulation were dealt with before  permission was granted by the Secretary of State in late 2016.

Green Party leader claims that fracking tax won’t be paid by offshore companies


On Friday 10th November 2017 the co-leader of the Green Party visited the gas site at Kirby Misperton and gave a speech at the entrance. This story is going to run and run and gather moss as it goes. We will have how the police mistreated the leader of a political party and that all potential tax revenues will be lost as the company is offshore.
Here’s the video
First, we note that on several occasions the police asked him to move. He then sat down and was dragged away by the police.
He gave a normal green spiel but from 2.10ff he claimed “The Government is using tax payers’ money to subsidise tax-dodging frackers. All fossil fuel subsidies are unacceptable but to use tax breaks to help a company keeping its wealth in an offshore tax haven is obscene”, (cited from Left Foot Forward but what I transcribed too)
Clearly if this were so then Britain could lose billions in tax. That would be worrying and is an excellent scarestory
As was reported by an anti-fracking group

“The Government is using tax payers’ money to subsidise tax-dodging frackers. All fossil fuel subsidies are unacceptable but to use taxes to help a company keeping trillions of pounds of wealth in an offshore tax haven is beyond the pale. “Fracking is dirty, dangerous and unnecessary. It will destroy our climate commitments and leave us dependent on fossil fuel for years to come. The community in Kirby Misperton have made it clear they don’t want it here. Instead of overriding their wishes in its desperate dash for gas the Government should be investing in modern, clean energy for the future.”

Here are two reports repeating this

Here is an extract citing Bartley

Third Energy Holdings, the parent company of Third Energy which is set to start fracking in North Yorkshire within days, is registered in the Cayman Islands, making it exempt from UK corporation tax, it’s been revealed by the Green Party.
Fracking companies are already subsidised by taxpayers, enjoying a 50 per cent tax cut on early profits thanks to George Osborne’s 2013 budget — that these companies are trying to get out of paying even this is astounding.
“The Government is using tax payers’ money to subsidise tax-dodging frackers. All fossil fuel subsidies are unacceptable but to use tax breaks to help a company keeping its wealth in an offshore tax haven is obscene”, Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader said today whilst visiting the site.

And also

Clearly this story will do the rounds. First, on how a leader of a political party was dragged away by the police. Secondly, the avoidance of tax by firms using tax-havens will pass into to the catalogue of fracking horrors, along with earthquakes, poisoned aquifers, health issues, cancer and climate change questions.
However the claims are simply false, as UKOOG tweeted soon afterwards Twitter 10/11/17 pm

For more information on tax regulations you can consult the Oil and Gas Authority page and follow the links  

Here it goes to hmrc
This makes it clear that any taxes due from oil or gas production are made according to the locality of the well i.e. in Britain, rather than whether the operators are based in Britain, Cayman Islands, Russia or Timbuktu. This was brought in to ensure maximum tax revenues from North Sea Oil, by , asit were, taxing the well and not the company..
Here is a section of the HMRC page

The taxation of the UK oil industry: an overview: the current fiscal regime for oil and gas
The fiscal regime which currently applies to oil and gas exploration and extraction from the UK and the UK Continental Shelf consists of three elements.
• Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT). This is a special tax on oil and gas production from the UK and UK Continental Shelf. It is a field based tax charged on profits arising from individual oil fields: It is not charged on the aggregate profits from all oil fields owned by each company. The current rate of PRT is 50%. PRT was abolished in FA93 for all fields given development consent on or after 16 March 1993. (See OT03500).
• Ring Fence Corporation Tax (RFCT) This is the standard corporation tax applicable to all companies (subject to some important modifications e.g. relating to capital allowances) with the addition of a ‘ring fence’. The ring fence prevents taxable profits from oil and gas extraction in the UK and UK Continental Shelf being reduced by losses from other activities (see OT21050) or by excessive interest payments (see OT22005). From the 1 April 2008 the main rate of corporation tax in the ring fence has been fixed at 30%.
• Supplementary Charge (SC) This is an additional charge originally set at 10% on a company’s ring fence profits excluding finance costs. The supplementary charge was introduced from 17 April 2002 (see OT21200). The supplementary charge was increased to 20% for APs beginning on or after 1 January 2006 and 32% from 24 March 2011.


note that it says “It is a field based tax charged on profits arising from individual oil fields:”

To put it simply, all gas being produced from Kirby Misperton, Preston New Road or anywhere else will be taxed at the going rate.
It is unbelievable that someone who should be well-informed about all Green issues, including fracking, should come out with such a false claim.
I hope he apologises and publically withdraws his false accusations.

Anglican Environmentalists misguidedly challenge church report on fracking



In January 2017 the Church of England published a briefing report on Shale Gas and Fracking

. The church was slow to give a response to fracking so this was overdue. It was produced under the join chairmanship of the Bishop of Salisbury and Philip Fletcher CBE. Responses to it have varied; The industry representative body, UKOOG were favourable but the Green Party and Operation Noah slated it for being too supportive of fracking.
My take is that it is a very balanced and accurate report, and is what should have been produced five years ago.
With Operation Noah being so anti-fossil fuels I wondered how Green Anglicans would respond as anti-fracking is more important than faith in Christ to some. Or at least it feels like it 
Well here is the response from the Blackburn Diocesan Environment Committee. Since 2012 they have produced three previous discussion papers on fracking, which are somewhat flawed in their accuracy. The first referred to contaminants in fracking fluid including acetic acids (plural) and citric acids (plural). There is only ONE acetic and Citric acid and both are added to fish and chips. To make howlers like this it does seem the committee are short of scientific knowledge. I do not have space to discuss these, but a URL for my blog on The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response is given below.

In July the Social Responsibility Network published a rather negative blog; Shale Gas and Fracking The SRN describes itself as “A network of people passionate that the Church engages with the issues of our communities”. However from the website I could not work out who exactly they are as no names of organisers are listed, but it does seem to come from social responsibility sources in largely the Church of England. What is most concerning is the committee reject or ignore the careful work from academics like Paul Younger and Nick Riley (both Christians) and reports from government agencies including the British Geological Survey. As in this blog reviewed here, they seem to prefer those “experts” who are not recognised outside anti-fracking circles. It would be like a diocesan science and religion group advising church members to reject the work of Prof Tom Mccleish,F.R.S., Sir John Polkinghorne, Prof David Wilkinson and Prof Alistair McGrath in favour of creationists like Andy McIntosh and Ken Ham, who may even have doctorates but not in the field they are challenging.
The blog is brief and asked readers to comment on what they saw as the short comings of the Fletcher/Holtham paper.

Here is the blog post in full
JULY 26, 2017 SRNET221
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We welcomed the Church of England’s December 2016 Briefing Paper “Shale gas and fracking”1 pulling together some of the key references on this topic and so stimulating debate within the Church on this controversial process.
Since then, a number of well-referenced papers2 have re-examined the evidence in various publications cited in the Briefing Paper and raised significant concerns about the reliability of the conclusions drawn.
We feel it imperative that the authors of the Briefing Paper seek expert advice on the strength of the evidence given and the conclusions drawn in these new publications and update the Briefing Paper as necessary so that Christian churches and others can participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.
We would be grateful for your response to this concern, to the email addresses below.
Blackburn Diocese Environment Group
• Revd Professor John Rodwell (Chair, )
• Revd Canon Ed Saville (Diocesan Environment Officer,,
• Dr Stephen Garsed,
• Derek Estill.
1 Mission and Public Affairs Council and the Environment Working Group of the Church of England (2016) Shale Gas & Fracking;
2 Michael Hill (2017) Review of the Church of England Mission & Public Affairs Council and Environment Working Group Briefing Paper on Shale Gas and Fracking; Paul Mobbs (2017) Whitehall’s ‘Fracking’ Science Failure; David K. Smythe (2017) Submission to the Scottish Government consultation in unconventional oil and gas.
end of post

The blog challenges many aspects of the Church of England report. I would now like to consider their claims over its shortcomings.

The second sentence states;

“Since then, a number of well-referenced papers2 have re-examined the evidence in various publications cited in the Briefing Paper and raised significant concerns about the reliability of the conclusions drawn.”

The three cited publications are from Mike Hill, Paul Mobbs and David Smythe. All are well-known for their adamant opposition to fracking. Hill and Smythe have made exaggerated claims of their professional capabilities and experience. They are the ‘specialists’ of choice for the anti frack movement. Their claims are not matched by the mass of evidence from independent specialist studies, such as those done by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and many others.

Mike Hill is an electrical engineer from Lytham, Lancs and over the last few years has given presentations against fracking mostly in Lancashire but also throughout Britain. He has given presentations to church groups e.g. Canons and Area Deans in the diocese of Blackburn and was the main advisor for the Dean of Blackburn’s report The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response published in Nov 2014. His main argument is that the regulatory system of fracking is totally inadequate. He still complains that of the 10 recommendations made in 2012 to properly regulate shale gas operations, only one of these has been put in place. This is at odds with the industry representative body. He claimed to be an ‘EU adviser’ in a talk in Canterbury and a complaint to IPSO revealed that this was not the case. He stood as an antifracking candidate in the last General Election, and his independence was called into question in the publication of the ‘Medact Report 2015’ which was strongly antifracking.

Paul Mobbs is a freelance biologist with very green concerns who often publishes in The Ecologist. He was arrested for attempting to arrest the Prime Minister.

David Smythe retired as Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow in 1998 and has not worked professionally since. He runs a B and B and lives in France. His recent paper in ‘Solid Earth’ was rejected, and described by one critical peer review as ‘Advocacy based science’. . Other comments are similarly dismissive. Smythe was told not to resubmit the paper. The Geological Society has instructed him not to describe himself as a Chartered Geologist. This article also states that the University of Glasgow, where Mr Smythe worked 16 years ago, has also written to him asking him not to suggest that its academics share his views.

The blog simply gave the titles of the papers but no way of obtaining the papers and should have given URLs to enable readers to make a proper judgement. Having read the first two writings I was aware of the URLs for them, but was unable to access Smythe’s but am familiar with his writing.

I am baffled why these papers are given such a definitive recognition. None were peer-reviewed or from any recognisable professional source in any acceptable publication. Hill’s paper is published on his private website, Mobbs in a green magazine The Ecologist, and Smythe’s is simply a letter of submission to a Government consultation. Anyone, including a 6 year old, can submit to a consultation like that
Hill’s paper 2 Michael Hill (2017) Review of the Church of England Mission & Public Affairs Council and Environment Working Group Briefing Paper on Shale Gas and Fracking is to be found on his website Shale Gas Office.
Hill makes a lot of charges against the inadequacy of the Church report, which would take a lot of discussion to analyse. However his choice of references is very revealing and show why he cannot be recognised as any kind of authority.
Here are his references from the paper with my comments
REFERENCES Nearly half are written by Mike Hill and have * by them. It is not acceptable or professional to cite your own UNPUBLISHED work as a source for you conclusions. My comments on the references are in BOLD

* 1. Presentation for the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, Whaley Abbey Conference. Hill. M., May 2014.
I was not present and have not seen it. This is one of Hill’s self-published papers/presentations
As far as I can gather the Dean of Blackburn (Armstrong) had invited Hill to speak to the Area Deans. (A diocese is split into deanerys of 10-20 parishes and one vicar is appointed as Area Dean). I have not seen a copy
* 2. Briefing Note for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most reverend Justin Welby, Hill. M., April 2014.
This was an unsolicited paper sent to the Archbishop This is one of Hill’s self-published papers
*3. The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response, The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong, Dean of Blackburn, Nov 2014.
This response is both inaccurate and biased. Hill put on his website that he had been the adviser. I reviewed it here
Hill was the chief expert and advisor for this report chaired by the former Dean of Blackburn, according to Hill’s own claims…The internal evidence and the fact it repeats Hill’s false claims on regulation confirms it.
4. Dept. for Communities and Local Government Appeals Decision,

5. World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment (19tcf TRR, Cuadrilla estimated 200 Tcf GIP) and U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA/ARI World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment, September 2015.
6. London School of Economics Aug 2014
7. Professor Andy Alpin, Unconventional Petroleum Development, Durham University. 4th March, 2014.
8. The Oil Drum – estimate of TRR for the Bowland shale
*. 9. Necessary Regulation in the Exploration and Development of Unconventional Fossil Fuels. Hill. M. January, 2014
This is one of Hill’s self published papers
*10. Shale gas regulation in the UK and health impacts of fracking. Hill.M. The Lancet. 28th June, 2014. P2211-2212.
Simply a letter to the Lancet, thus has no authority
*11. Medact “Health and Fracking – The impacts and opportunity costs”, McCoy. D. Dr., Saunders. P. Dr., Hill. M., Rugman. F. Dr., Wood.R. Dr.
Hill was a major advisor to the first Medact report published on 30 March 2015. I and a retired oil engineer were present at the launch. Hill had difficulty answering our questions. He waxed lyrical about seismic problems but showed he had no grasp of geology . I summarise some of Hill’s shortcoming s here; Interestingly, after much criticism, Medact republished their report in 2016, and in their key points, stated that ‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’.
*12. Institution of Engineering & Technology Conference “Managing the Risks” – , “Brief Review of The Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering Report and the present position of shale gas regulation” Hill.M.,
Another self-published paper by Hill
Reviewed by Slater.G., May, 2014. at the IET Meeting 20th May, 2014. Presented to the President of the OET and to Prof. Robert Mair’s (Royal Society Shale Gas Report Author) representative Prof. P. Younger.
13. Environment Agency Permitting Decisions. Issued Permits. Jan 2015. Sec 5.1.10.
14. Geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity. November 2011. Dr.C.Paer & Dr. S. Baisch. P27-28 Wellbore Deformation.
15. Shale Gas North West – Monitoring of Flowback. Environment Agency. Dec 2011. These results used drinking water as a metric as selected by the EA. The results showed that the Lead rose to 1438 times the average level found in mains water. All of the following figures relate to the amount more than mains water. Cadmium 150x, Chloride 6,874x, Chromium 636x, Aluminium 198x, Arsenic 47x, Iron 17,979x and Radioactive Material averaging 90x the safe level. This from just one fracked well and only to stage 5. 30 stage + frack jobs are now the plan and potentially rising to 100 frack stages.
This should have given a URL or a proper reference so that we could actually READ his claims. A proper academic and professional approach would provide a full reference
16. The Royal Society – Shale Gas Extraction in the UK: a review of Hydraulic Fracturing. June 2012. Prof. Mair. R. Page 7- Recommendations. GLOSSARY HVHF: High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

6 out of 16 of the refs are by M Hill , Ref 3 advised by Hill, so thus nearly half refer to Hill’s unpublished writings

This is an article in The Ecologist trying to show that the late Prof Sir David Mackay’s report of 2012 has been overturned by work by Ingraffea. No expert agrees with Mobbs. This is simply an advocacy article.

The committee referred to Smythe’s (2017) Submission to the Scottish Government consultation in unconventional oil and gas.

Here is the URL

This is a very long submission of 71 pages, which would take much space to discuss at length. He refers to his paper submitted to Solid Earth in 2016. . This was strongly criticised by other geologists and the paper was refused for publication. One must note very strongly that those who criticised Smythe’s paper ARE leading geologists working in this field at the present time eg Younger,  Verdon and others. Smythe is now writing from his house in France having retired in 1999, is not an active researcher and not an expert in this field.

It should be obvious to anyone that on issues like this you go to the leading authorities of the day and not to someone outside the field. further Smythe has attacked many of these geologists in a personal way.

It is difficult not to see this as pure vitriol against leading geologists like Riley, Rutter, Davies, Lord Oxburgh, Selley, Shipton , Styles, Verdon, Younger. I have met and discussed matters with several of these. Incidentally Lord Oxburgh was one of my geological teachers, and very good was he – and entertaining in the pub at Horton in Ribblesdale, where he was teaching us geological mapping.

The appendix to this submission continues on attacks on geologists, which scarcely seems professional.

Here he raises various questions especially on the problems of faults. This is a long and technical section, but I prefer to go with the consensus from active geologists!!!

There is a section on disposal of waste water which fails to state that waste water from Preese Hall was cleaned up by Remsol to the satisfaction of the EA and that procedures are in place. This is a serious oversight

The Environment committee should have considered this before relying on a questionable document.

Smythe retired from Glasgow Univ in 1999 and has had no professional involvement in fracking.
He self publishes widely, including his blog.
His contributions are totally rejected by nearly all academics working this field.
It may seem cheeky for me to say so, but I question his geological competence as when discussing why there were no fracking licences in Witney – Cameron’s constituency – he was unaware that the sub-surface geological feature – the (Wales –)Brabant High meant that sediments would be too thin for fracking. This is first year geology teaching!!
His personal attacks on leading geologists, including one of my university teachers Lord Oxburgh, then a geology don at Oxford, and others of my acquaintance are in very bad taste.
As a result my blog on him, which gives details of his rejected paper in Solid Earth.
And the third sentence is
We feel it imperative that the authors of the Briefing Paper seek expert advice on the strength of the evidence given and the conclusions drawn in these new publications and update the Briefing Paper as necessary so that Christian churches and others can participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.
I think I have demonstrated that these publications are without any value, and thus cannot help anyone “participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.”. This appeal reflects the sheer incompetence of the writers of this blog. It does seem that they have selected only those who give an anti-fracking stance and ignore the vast body of work from leading academic bodies, govt bodies etc. At best the authors are guilty of culpable ignorance and are bringing the churches into disrepute
Perhaps they need to listen to St Augustine from 400AD


(This quotation is often cited against Creationists whose misunderstanding of science is legendary.)
The identity of the contributors
Though the blog does not specifically say so, it does seem to come from the Blackburn Diocese Environmental Group. Members of that group have been involved in producing three very inaccurate reports on fracking for the churches of Lancashire, both Anglican and Roman Catholic
This gives an indication;

We would be grateful for your response to this concern, to the email addresses below.
Blackburn Diocese Environment Group
• Revd Professor John Rodwell (Chair, )
• Revd Canon Ed Saville (Diocesan Environment Officer,,
• Dr Stephen Garsed,
• Derek Estill.

The fact that two of these have Ph Ds in biologically related science is very concerning. Any scientist should be cautious going outside their sphere of competence and when they do should look very closely at the experts in the field. Some of the false arguments they accept are like someone claiming they found cacti in a peat bog on the tops of the Forest of Bowland. (If you ask about my qualifications, I have a degree in geology and worked as an exploration and mining geologist in Africa for 2 ½ years before ordination. Since then I have researched and published on the history of geology in major journals,and have led geological field trips. In recent years I have studied fracking deeply, visited sites and made my own field study of the Bowland Shales. I also benefit from experts who tell me when I go wrong!)

If this is produced by the Blackburn Diocese Environment Group, then they should be ashamed of themselves misleading other Christians about fracking. At best it is folly and at almost the worst, intellectually dishonest
Church of England Report
• A very careful study using decent authoritative studies from Government sources etc
• Were not gulled by the anti-fracking rhetoric
• Gave a fair and considered assessment along with some concerns

Blog article
• Rejected all authoritative studies from govt bodies, academics etc and ignored them.
• Essentially this shows a bias to extreme anti-fracking rather than a balanced and fair discussion.
• Accepted as gospel writings of anti-frackers , who though they have some technical background, have no actual involvement or experience in fracking
• Failed to see that self-published and self-referenced articles are of very limited worth. This is very much so of Hill’s paper
Finally I regard this blog as not only very misguided but liable to misinform and confuse others. It is not a responsible action.