Tag Archives: Bowland

Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip?

Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip? I certainly hope so after see what they did in Lancs and Yorks . Over the last few years they have cajoled too many in these counties to oppose fracking, yet they cannot get there facts right.


fracking sandDSCF9208

Here is Nick Grealy giving a good summary of their activities and why they may well be losing



Are Friends of the Earth leaving the field of the shale battle in the UK?  There are recent pointers that they are at least sidling towards the exit.  Ironically, for an organisation whose followers often see oil and gas money as the root of all evil,  it comes down to money.

In North Yorkshire, FoE and Frack Free Ryedale, are considering a legal appeal of the council’s planning decision, and are in the early stages of the process.  If it moves to the next stage, then it starts getting expensive, since under the UK legal system each party is liable for the legal costs of the other side if they were unsuccessful.

Given that appeal leans heavily on the argument that onshore natural gas is bad for climate change, a point broadly dismissed by the Committee on Climate Change itself,  the case is looking shaky.  Speaking for several in the industry however, we would happily welcome it. Bring it on – lets settle this in court where it belongs and not in the local press.  Then we can move on. Given that the multiple, if sometimes interminable, reviews of regulation are finally drawing to a close and the new government has other quixotic issues to waste years of time on, we will finally see a put up or shut up  day of reckoning – for both sides- sooner rather than later. This winter we may well see some actual results.  Based on the combination of 2017 technology and 300 million year old rocks,  the results may promise to be even more interesting than they could have been five years ago.  To those of us who have managed to survive, it may well be worth the wait.  Or perhaps not.  Even a failure of UK shale would settle things and allow an educated discussion of other UK energy options. Shale has been the elephant in the room that blocks all other energy projects too. The question has to be settled sooner or later, one way or the other, for everyone’s benefit.

FoE can commit their own lawyers’s time and risk their money on helping this cause.  But just as in shale exploration, investment from partners often depends on a complex web.  One thing that may be putting FoE off is that the donations from Frack Free Ryedale ‘s side are underwhelming with £618 out of £10K raised as of August 3.  Why should they run all the risk.  People have mouths – but sometimes you have to show them your money and FF Ryedale and their allies are neither putting up or shutting up. Insiders at FoE have told me that the Brexit referendum also counts in the calculations.  FoE, in line with most greens, and most of the onshore industry too, see Brexit as the real issue.  But as the insider from FoE notes, their allies in North Yorkshire and Lancashire voted two to one, not for the Earth, or Europe, but for selfishness and nimbyism. This highlights the essential clash of cultures in the shale battle between climate campaigners with progressive values and nimbys who are obsessively conservative. If the nimby side can only come up with £600, why should FoE bother?

But if it goes to court, even £10K will be peanuts.  So will FoE invest?  They have an in-house legal team so their costs are initially already low, but they run the risk of significant impact if they lose.

Insiders say they could run some commercial  risk for their arm Friends of  the Earth Limited, a company set up to avoid FoE’s charity arm ban on political campaigns. A complaint, long overdue in my opinion, against an egregiously alarming fund raising pamphlet by FoE Limited and inserted in the Sunday Times,


made by both Cuadrilla and private citizens is currently being decided by the Advertising Standards Authority.

If the complaint were upheld, FoE Limited run a risk of then being sued for damages based on restraint of trade or other principles. Cuadrilla would be unlikely to do so , but many other license holders and their potential suppliers could. At the very least, FoE can be expected to tone down some of the more fanciful allegations in their fracking scare machine.

It’s three years this month since we saw peak fracking frenzy in the press during the Balcombe protests.  Since then, nothing has happened either way.  The OGA ran an exploration round in the meantime that was  underwhelming in it’s results, and the press have moved on.  Anything other than the local press seems thoroughly bored with yesterday’s news. Meanwhile it’s clear that the shale revolution is advancing beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in the US, and starting to reach critical mass in China. At the same time, damage just isn’t showing up in modern shale and any point of having a debate based on the outdated Gasland movie is looking as meaningless as talking about solar and wind based on 2010 costs.

It’s time to move on and explore and see if the resource is actually there or not.  Then we can have a fact based discussion on the next moves. FoE have plenty of other good work to do. Fracking has been a money spinner for them, but the green brand is a valuable (as smart shale explorers are discovering) and attractive one and they can survive well enough without the fracking distraction.



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  1. Appreciate the article, Nick. Had much the same reaction to the news that these groups would legally oppose the 3rd Energy decision. I hope that challenge does go forward. From what I understand, if FoE seeks an injunction to prohibit the fracking from proceeding, it could lose a lot more because it would then be subject to paying for lost operational time in addition to legal fees. Let me know if you have any thoughts? Thx

  2. Interesting story from the UK. In the US, it appears that civil unrest in Venezuela, Iraq, and Nigeria can be found everywhere but in America’s oil import statistics! Today’s EIA report has high imports from all three states and Saudi Arabia and it appears that the ultimate law of OPEC is no member concedes any loss of the American market and will fight it at any cost.

    Also, I see that New York state has decided to include nuclear power as no-carbon power which will allow at least some reactors to continue running in the state. The justification offered was if they were shut, the power would be replaced by natural gas.

    I actually applaud this decision because it shows that the regulators (finally) understand that there are many competing values at stake, (no nukes!) (no carbon!) (save the earth!) and to choose one is to exclude the other. Making decisions on this basis is the sign of mature intellects making balanced decisions.

    If they continue this way eventually they will understand that allowing shale drilling in New York will lead to economic prosperity!

bowland brewery subjected to hate campaign for supporting hen harriers

Are the comments an admission of guilt that Hen Harriers are being exterminated in the Bowland Fells

I haven’t seen Harriers in the Bowland Fells for nearly 10 years and want to know why. The fewer raptors I see in the fells convinces me that something is going on



bowland brewery subjected to hate campaign for supporting hen harriers

Bowland brewery HHEarlier this year, the Bowland Brewery in Lancashire committed to donate a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of its Hen Harrier beer to the RSPB’s hen harrier conservation projects (see press statement here).

James Warburton, owner of Bowland Brewery said: “The hen harrier is a living symbol of Bowland Brewery’s intimate connection with the landscape where we produce our beers.

The very real prospect that this beautiful bird of prey may disappear from the skies above the Forest of Bowland is unthinkable. That’s why we are committing to donate a significant sum of money each year to safeguard the future of one of Bowland’s most iconic residents.

As the harriers return to the Bowland Fells to nest this spring, we hope to see nature-lovers visiting the area to marvel at their amazing skydance and celebrate with a pint of the beer these rare and precious birds inspired.

By buying Hen Harrier by the pint or in bottles, locals and visitors alike will be making a positive contribution to hen harrier conservation in Bowland – and ultimately helping the population to grow.”

bowland breweryRecently, this photograph of Chris Packham and Mark Avery enjoying a pint of Bowland Brewery’s Hen Harrier beer, was posted on the Bowland Brewery’s social media platforms (twitter and facebook). As a result, some individuals from the grouse-shooting industry have launched a hate campaign aimed directly at the Bowland Brewery.

Bowland Brewery’s facebook page was targeted with a torrent of fake reviews, resulting in a drop in their overall review rating. Comments posted on facebook by the grouse-shooting trolls included:

“Get this off tomorrow or we will hound you”.

“They drink with the devil. Destroy the business!”

“Side with Packham and the knife comes out”

“They thought going with Packham was good. Now they must feel the pain”

“Shut them down. Anti shooting”.

“You can run but not hide. Hammer em!”

“Shut down the business. Shut down, boycott, whatever. Get Bowland Brewery outed”.

“Get hold of the boss and tell him to mend his ways. Otherwise we will crush em”.

Nice guys, eh? Wonder how many of them making threats have a shotgun/firearms certificate? There are some known gamekeepers involved in this hate campaign, including the Head Gamekeeper of Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, Bert Burnett from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (who wrote “Well done everyone”) and some of the comments have been ‘liked’ by the official facebook page of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

All slightly ironic from an industry that has recently accused Chris Packham of ‘celebrity bullying’ (see here) just because he’s politely asking Marks and Spencer to be transparent about their claims that their red grouse are produced ethically and sustainably (see here).

It’s also ironic that this hate campaign against the brewery comes from an industry that purports to be interested in protecting rural jobs. The Bowland Brewery is a small business, employing local people, in a rural community.

If you want to show your support for the Bowland Brewery and their ethical and charitable support of hen harrier conservation, please consider buying their beer. It’s available in various local outlets (see here) and can also be bought online (see here).

If you want to support the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting, because it’s the only way hen harriers will be allowed to thrive in the English uplands, then please join 65,000 others and sign THIS PETITION.

16 Responses to “Bowland Brewery subjected to hate campaign for supporting hen harriers”

  1. 1peter hatton

    July 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    could do with a pint after reading all that I’m spitting feathers!

    • 2Andrea Goddard

      July 27, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Me too Peter. I’ve just left a 5* review/comment. It seems that Andy Richardson has been stirring again and has initiated the hate-filled posts against the brewery.

      • 3Les Wallace

        July 27, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        Andy Richardson – oh well there’s a surprise. Not so long ago a wildlife rescue centre in Wales posted a picture of a juvenile cucloo that had come in misidentifying it as a kestrel. He had a field day mocking them for that, people who donate time, effort and money helping injured wildlife being ridiculed for a not so bad and probably temporary mistake. One of Richardson’s charming buddies added the lovely comment F***wits (they didn’t use asterisks mind). Richardson wasn’t quite so hard himself though when he posted one of his narcisstic videos in which he berated the RSPB for its supposed mismanagement of Mar Lodge Estate. A very serious criticism indeed considering Mar Lodge is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. We know who the real bile brigade are.

  2. July 27, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    To the grouse shooting industry – keep giving us the nails and we will happily hammer them in to your coffin.

  3. 5Marco McGinty

    July 27, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Aye, nice people right enough.

    They’re not content with carrying out widespread persecution, trying to get people sacked, or just blatantly lying on the whole, they’re now resorting to acts bordering on terrorism.

    Hopefully the Bowland Brewery have informed the police, and swift action will be taken against those trying to bully and intimidate.

  4. 6Secret Squirrel

    July 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I do hope they have all use dtheir real names, as it makes it so much easier for the Police to identify them. I do hope that Bowland Brewery report each of them

  5. 7Marco McGinty

    July 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Forgot to mention that I was reading some nonsense recently on the shooting pages, and apparently there are people going around Scotland reintroducing Goshawks and Pine Martens just for the sake of it.

    A lot of these shooting types really are dim-witted in the extreme!

  6. 8Caro McAdam

    July 27, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Just bought a case online. Looking forward to it!

  7. 9Peter Shearer

    July 27, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    I will support these and we all need to do the same to help those that make the right decisions. Perhaps at some time we should compile a list of the good and the bad-so that we can at least make an informed choice.The ethical consumer website might help us.

  8. 10Tim Dixon

    July 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Just bought 12 bottles of Hen Harrier. Suggest everyone else does the same.

  9. July 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Like Caro, I have just bought a case online and suggest others do likewise. I’ve also posted this story on FB & asked others to follow my example. In addition, I have emailed a message of support to Bowland Brewery. Anyone know who I can email in the CA?

  10. 12Jeff S

    July 27, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    And the shooting folk behind this hate campaign refer to normal, rational people like us as the “bile brigade”…

    I’m teetotal but will buy some anyway.

  11. 14Carole

    July 27, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Bile; hate; aggression. Maybe these poor people can’t help it? If they are eating lead contaminated game, perhaps they have been affected?


    The evidence does seem to be stacking up. Thank goodness lead has been banned in paint & petrol. I also believe it affects fertility. Several of my male ancestral relatives, who were housepainters in Victorian days when paint was lead based, although married never had any children. Their brother, my ancestor, who was a miner, had a large family.

    Anyway, lets all support Bowland Brewery and hope the extra publicity, far from being damaging, results in improved sales of Hen Harrier beer. My husband likes it anyway!

  12. 15Mr Greer Hart, senior

    July 27, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    For the first time in human history, there has arisen a part of humanity, represented world wide and across many cultures, that shows a deep and committed concern to save the other life forms with which humanity shares the Earth, from cruelty and death from many forms of abuse. Arraigned against that force of compassion, there are many who act harmfully towards animals, and the whole natural world. Shooting game birds on a large scale, poaching and trophy shooting endangered species, using animals in circuses and in certain badly designed and managed zoos, unmonitored slaughterhouses and factory farms, illegal pet trade, blood sports and bullfighting, laboratory experiments, and many more forms of ill-treating other creatures, have brought into existence many organisations to campaign against animal cruelty and the conservation of wild species, along with the protection of essential habitats. Surely some approach by the management of all our charities working to save from pain and from extinction, whereby, in some matter of deep concern, there could be a coming together to get those members who may have an interest in forming a common concern. That common concern would create good Samaratin attitude to epiphanise all, and henceforth, all welfarists and conservationists would coalesce and make the Government see that one area of gross and impertinent criminality requires immediate attention. That corrupting and nullifying of the law by powerful interests, who mock and threaten when some celebrity like Chris Packham or a company such as the Bowland Brewery, make a humane appeal to save our Birds of Prey, and to donate the resources to campaign more effectively. When a man like Donald Trump can become a landowner, as that man once did in Scotland’s Cairngorm area, and use it as a shooting estate, then Scotland does need a more revitalised attitude from its Governments; one that recognises, despite the blusterings that shooting estates contribute so much to our economy, that not just anyone should own or manage integral parts of our natural landscape, and do as they please. The future for any country in this world, is now painfully apparent, is to ban all excessive hunting and to eliminate poaching of wildlife. If not, then we will have created an extinction as bad as any asteroid strike would create.

    Donald Trump and his ilk have made the USA a horror story for its wildlife, with many species under severe threat, such as the Grizzly, the Wolf, Mountain Lion, Wolverine, from an obsessive hunting lobby that wants all opposition to their killing deer. Our shooting estates are their counterparts here, with pogroms of Mountain Hares and Birds of Prey. Trump was eventually persuaded to sell up through the efforts of Olympic runner and rambler, Chris Brasher, and his former estate is now part of the Cairngorm National Park. Scotland has an opportunity to become the first country in the world to eradicate industrial scale slaughter of game birds, and to effectively reduce in size, if not eliminate, if nonconformity to the law is experienced, the centuries old grip of excessive hunting has had. Our politicians have been woefully lacking, in the main, in seeing the need for the teaching of humane education and respect for life, in our schools and further education. If the Government can attain targets to cover the land and seascapes with wind farms to make Scotland free of fossil fuel use, then surely it can use similar fervour to challenge and overcome the “industry” that appals all humane thinking people, the cruel suppression of our wildlife. Those who support the various political parties should pressure their respective representatives on this subject, as should those of religious persuasion to help save the creatures of God’s wonderful creation. How can all our wonderful conservation charities ask other countries to save their willdlife when we have such an anomaly here in Scotland and the rest of the UK, of our law enforcement not being able to effectively deal with protected species? How can anyone derive pleasure from the mass killing of birds and other animals, without conscience? It exhibits a contempt of Life. The Bushman can hunt to survive, but the trophy hunter kills for perverse pleasure and ego enhancement.

  13. July 27, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Fantastic conservation – ignore the trolls they are the dinosaurs. Keep up the good work – will happily buy your product.

David Smythe – anti-fracking geologist

 A world-class star of geological research

One of the difficulties of following fracking is working out who the experts really are amidst the clamour of competing voices. This is especially so if one has no technical expertise. Very quickly I discovered that the anti-fractivists in Lancashire looked to two experts. For the actual drilling and later for medical stuff, the expert was Mike Hill from Lytham, who was taken down a peg or two in 2015 about the time of the publication of the Medact report,  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/medacts-madact-on-fracking/. This also refers to the Times report on Hill.

When I heard Tina Rothery rave about Prof David Smythe I was intrigued and several cited him at the hearings in County Hall, Preston in June 2015.

Smythe was prof of geophysics at Glasgow and left in 1998 shortly after giving evidence for friends of the Earth over the Nirex plans to deposit nuclear waste in Cumbria. (D Oldroyd; Geol Soc Memoir No25, Earth, Water, Ice and Fire, p271-288.  (This chapter is useful as it gives background on how Smythe and Haszeldine were consultants for Friends of the Earth  in the 90s.)


Since then he has not been employed professionally as a geologist but has given evidnece for environmental groups most notably on fracking, gaining the accolade of fractivists.

Controversy came in 2014 when the Geological society of London told him to stop using the letters C. Geol (Chartered Geologists) after his name as he had not paid his dues since 1996, nor refreshed his skills. (Thus I cannot use the letters A.M.I.M.M. as I am long lapsed.)


In June 2015 he made a deposition to the Lancs County Council hearings in County Hall, when Cuadrilla’s applications were rejected. Several fractivist speakers cited his material, even though it went against all other geologists, e.g. the CPRE speaker. Dr James Verdon blogged against his views of Lancashire geology here  http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/professor-david-smythes-critique-of.html 

More recently Smythe has started a blog, almost aping the title of Verdon’s blog.

blog http://www.davidsmythe.org/frackland/

His blogs are relatively few but one is devoted to attacking fellow geologists  “The insolence of Office”, eching critics on fracademics.


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.

Most odd was his post in July 2015, The Mysterious case of Frack-free Witney  http://www.davidsmythe.org/frackland/?p=162 , why discusses why the Prime minister’s constituency of Witney was not up for shale gas exploration. The reason was implicit – that Cameron did not want fracking in his constituency. This idea gained traction among fractivists.  The location of Witney is clear from the map copied from his blog.



However note that the area to the east of Witney is not available for exploration. It seems very suspicious until one considers the geology. The sub-surface Carboniferous strata below that area are much thinner than elsewhere as in Carboniferous times that area which stretches over to Belgium, known as the Brabant High was mostly a landmass and thus very little deposition took place. Thus to an oil/gas prospector it is moose pasture i.e. nothing there and not worth drilling. Smythe and I had a twitter exchange on this and he seemed unaware of the Brabant High, knowledge of which is no more than second year geology. (He got narked with me and told me to simply organise bible studies!! He does need to learn some geology! )

In January 2016 Smythe offered a paper   Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK  to the journal Solid Earth Discussion. This was posted to their website http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/se-2015-134/ for comment and review.

Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK

David K. Smythe 1College of Science and Engineering, University of Glasgow, Scotland
*now at: La Fontenille, 1, rue du Couchant, 11120 Ventenac en Minervois, France

Abstract. North American shale basins differ from their European counterparts in that the latter are one to two orders of magnitude smaller in area, but correspondingly thicker, and are cut or bounded by normal faults penetrating from the shale to the surface. There is thus an inherent risk of groundwater resource contamination via these faults during or after unconventional resource appraisal and development. US shale exploration experience cannot simply be transferred to the UK. The Bowland Basin, with 1900 m of Lower Carboniferous shale, is in the vanguard of UK shale gas development. A vertical appraisal well to test the shale by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the first such in the UK, triggered earthquakes. Re-interpretation of the 3D seismic reflection data, and independently the well casing deformation data, both show that the well was drilled through the earthquake fault, and did not avoid it, as concluded by the exploration operator. Faulting in this thick shale is evidently difficult to recognise. The Weald Basin is a shallower Upper Jurassic unconventional oil play with stratigraphic similarities to the Bakken play of the Williston Basin, USA. Two Weald licensees have drilled, or have applied to drill, horizontal appraisal wells based on inadequate 2D seismic reflection data coverage. I show, using the data from the one horizontal well drilled to date, that one operator failed identify two small but significant through-going normal faults. The other operator portrayed a seismic line as an example of fault-free structure, but faulting had been smeared out by reprocessing. The case histories presented show that: (1) UK shale exploration to date is characterised by a low degree of technical competence, and (2) regulation, which is divided between four separate authorities, is not up to the task. If UK shale is to be exploited safely: (1) more sophisticated seismic imaging methods need to be developed and applied to both basins, to identify faults in shale with throws as small as 4–5 m, and (2) the current lax and inadequate regulatory regime must be overhauled, unified, and tightened up.

Citation: Smythe, D. K.: Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK, Solid Earth Discuss., doi:10.5194/se-2015-134, in review, 2016.

Several geologists responded and most were very critical. Click on “discussion” on the page to read the responses.

CO Editor

Interactive discussion Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
[Login for Authors/Topical Editors][Subscribe to comment alert]Printer-friendly Version – Printer-friendly version      Supplement – Supplement
SC2: ‘Comment on “Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald basins, UK” by D.K. Smythe’, Rob Westaway, 05 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC9: ‘Interim reply to Dr Westaway’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC18: ‘More rhetoric rather than substance’, Rob Westaway, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC11: ‘Regrettable re-insertion of citation of a tabloid press article’, David Smythe, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC1: ‘EC on SC2’, Federico Rossetti, 09 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC4: ‘Advocacy-Based Science’, Terry Engelder, 16 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC2: ‘Conjecture and refutation; author’s response to Dr Engelder’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC13: ‘In a tangle over philosophy of science’, Rob Westaway, 28 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC14: ‘In a tangle over philosophy of science – ii’, Rob Westaway, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC3: ‘Water well contamination case history: Bradford County, Pennsylvania’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC6: ‘TYPOS CORRECTED SC5: ‘Erroneous assumptions lead to fundamentally flawed hydrogeological conclusions”, Paul L. Younger, 18 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC8: ‘Reply to Professor Paul Younger’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC20: ‘Rejoinder to Smythe’s response on hydrogeological issues’, Paul L. Younger, 14 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC2: ‘removal of SC3 and SC5’, Federico Rossetti, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC7: ‘This paper shows a poor understanding of the hydraulic fracturing process’, James Verdon, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC8: ‘Correcting formatting issues in Verdon comment SC7’, James Verdon, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC7: ‘Reply to Dr James Verdon’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC9: ‘Reply to “Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK”’, Huw Clarke, 02 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC5: ‘Reply to Huw Clarke of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd’, David Smythe, 24 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC10: ‘Some additional thoughts on Preese Hall’, Rob Westaway, 04 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC1: ‘Failure by Dr Westaway to incorporate well data released in April 2015’, David Smythe, 05 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC12: ‘Diversity of stratigraphic interpretations for the Preese Hall-1 well and surroundings’, Rob Westaway, 10 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC11: ‘Misunderstanding of the Literature and Expanding the Discussion of Fracturing Fluid Migration Modeling’, Daniel Birdsell, 04 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC4: ‘Response to Daniel Birdsell and co-authors’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC1: ‘Smythe se-2015-134 Review’, Andrew Aplin, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
AC10: ‘Reply to review by Professor Aplin’, David Smythe, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC15: ‘Comment on use of data and figures in Smythe paper’, Andrew Kingdon, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC16: ‘Clarification of Affiliation’, Andrew Kingdon, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC6: ‘Thanks for new PH-1 image data; faulting on 3D seismic not ambiguous; nothing missing from Balcombe logs’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC17: ‘Preese Hall-1 bedding dip’, Rob Westaway, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC3: ‘regarding SC18 and AC11’, Federico Rossetti, 02 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC19: ‘About SC18’, Fabrizio Storti, 04 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
RC2: ‘Review’, Stuart Haszeldine, 15 Apr 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC3: ‘Review of Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK’, Anonymous Referee #3, 10 May 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC4: ‘review’, Anonymous Referee #4, 12 May 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC4: ‘decision on SE Discussion paper’, Federico Rossetti, 14 May 2016Printer-friendly Version

Apart from Haszeldine ( aformer student) the responses were very critical.Finally on 14 May Rossetti made a decision not to publish on the grounds of 3 out of 4 referees rejecting the paper http://editor.copernicus.org/index.php/se-2015-134-EC4.pdf?_mdl=msover_md&_jrl=431&_lcm=oc108lcm109w&_acm=get_comm_file&_ms=49101&c=106184&salt=14965404591990297433

F. Rossetti (Editor) federico.rossetti@uniroma3.it Received and published: 14 May 2016
Dear Dr. Smythe,

your ms. has been now evaluated by 4 independent reviewers. Based on the resulting reports (3 negative over 4), I regret to say that we can not go forward with this ms., since too much work is needed to render it potentially suitable for final publication on SE.

My decision is therefore to discourage submission of a revised manuscript.

Yours sincerely,

federico rossetti

This is a sharp response, especially the last sentence.


I find this a strange story, and would be more sympathetic if he did not get some basic geology wrong i.e. unaware of the Brabant High, and did not try to trash so many eminent scientists, whose work I have got to know.

There do seem to be close parallels with Mike Hill, who also opened himself up to be discredited, yet both are held in high regard by fractivists.

I am left rather baffled why both Hill and Smythe have followed their courses of action.


Friends of the Earth get sand in their eyes

It is every child’s dream to play on a sandy beach on a perfect summer’s day and perhaps building a sandcastle.

But from what Tony Bosworth said on television  in October 2015, it seems that this could give you cancer!!!!

He probably regrets saying it, especially as the trigger factor for his comment has not gone away. In the last month a Friends on the earth leaflet was enclosed in several publications –  at least Private Eye, The Sunday Times, Simple Things. I don’t know if there were others. Presumably FoE paid hard cash to have the leaflet as an insert.

For more my assessment and the complaint put into the ASA see;


The leaflet was asking for donations for FoE’s work in attempting to stop fracking in Lancashire, where they have been very active in working among communities over the last few years. Among other things they wanted donations “to investigate the practices of the fracking giant, Cuadrilla”. The cover had a picture of Grasmere with the words “Don’t let fracking destroy all of this” – what numpties! A little geology would have told them there is no gas in Grasmere.  They also claimed “25% of the chemicals used in the fracking process could cause cancer”.

Exactly what FoE meant by the 25% of the chemicalsis not clear. Did the mean 255 of the number of chemicals used  – including dihydrogen monoxide,which in its pure from kills several hikers each year in the Arizona desert. Or did he mean 25% of the total volume of chemicals? Bbut on BBC TV on 19th October Tony Bosworth said it was silica, which makes up about 95% of beach sand, and so I draw on some humorous artwork from Backing Fracking. (The quotes are made up but give the gist of it!)

fracking sand

Sand gets in your eyes and gives you cancer!! Yes, sand i.e. silica CAN give you cancer but only if you breath in vast amounts as did coal miners, who often got silicosis rather than cancer. (I know too many who died of that and it was not pleasant, with oxygen cylinders and being virtually housebound.) It was a silly example as the Health and Safety Executive lay down VERY stringent regulations on how sand/silica should be used to protect workers. I say “workers” as even if the HSE regulations were not followed very little silica would blow off site to be a hazard to those nearby.

To clear matters up a letter was sent to the HSE requesting their guidelines on the use of silica and below is the reply. Frankly, it shows that Tony Bosworth was grossly ill-informed about the dangers of silica and unaware of the regulations. It is surprising that as Energy Campaigner for FoE,  Tony Bosworth could be so ill-informed. He only compounded the errors and scare-mongering of the leaflet.

If you are bored with this, you can read the HSE’s response to the question about silica and decide for yourself whether or not rig-workers and local residents are at risk of getting cancer. I honestly think all are at greater risk of getting silly-cosis.

So here it is;


Health and Safety Executive on the use of silica

Thanks for your email, below is an overview of the HSE’s expectation regarding silica use on oil and gas well sites in GB. I hope you find this helpful.


Silica is one of the major components of soil, rock, sand, granite and many other minerals and is a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles and concrete. Silica itself is not harmful but silica dust can cause a whole host of health problems for those who work with this mineral. Many common workplace activities such as cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing, produce fine dust containing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).


Repeated and prolonged exposure over many years to relatively high concentrations of RCS in the air is known to cause a lung disease called silicosis and also lung cancer. Such exposure may occur for instance when rocks containing crystalline silica are ground up during mining or quarrying operations. The term ‘respirable’ means that the dust particles are small enough to get deep into the lungs when they are inhaled. Silica is not readily soluble in water or body fluids and this is thought to be one of the contributing factors determining the damage that silica can cause in the lungs.


The hydraulic fracturing of rock, (fracking) process used to exploit gas and oil from shale deposits requires a substantial amount of sand. In 2008, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a safety warning, because they have evidence that in the US the risk of exposure to silica dust was not managed effectively.


The risk of exposure to silica dust is well understood in Great Britain and the HSE has issued guidance to help employers manage the risks and to raise awareness of the importance of controlling exposure at work.   The occupational use of silica is regulated under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Occupational exposure to all substances hazardous to health, including RCS, should be adequately controlled using measures that are proportionate to the health risk. There is a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for RCS,  a WEL is the maximum concentration of an airborne substance, averaged over a reference period, to which employees may be exposed by inhalation.


RCS has a WEL of 0.1mg m-3 and in practice, employers are expected to keep exposures well below 0.1 mg m-3 and to apply good control practice, as well as getting below the WEL. The position around the WEL, including developments in the EU is being kept under review by HSE.


In oil and gas wells sand can be used as a propant – a material that holds open fractures in the rock caused by hydraulic fracturing. Where sand is used on well sites the risks of exposure to RCS should be controlled. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to ensure that the sand is transported to the site and introduced to the hydraulic fracturing fluid in a way that worker exposure is minimised.


Using sealed silos is a good way of ensuring that workers are not exposed to sand that could contain RCS. This technique was used at the Preese Hall well and there is an expectation from HSE that similar techniques to limit exposure will be used on other oil and gas wells where hydraulic fracturing is planned.


Further information is available from HSE:





Kind regards

name removed

HID Oil and Gas Policy Team

Health and Safety Executive

Redgrave Court

Merseyside L20 7HS




The best cycle ride in Lancashire; Trough of Bowland

That is quite a claim to make that one cycle ride could be the best in a county, but I think I am justified. It is a circular route from our house in Garstang (which is nearly at sea level), and is basically from Garstang , over the Trough of Bowland (950ft), through or near Whitewell, on to Chipping and then back to Garstang via Inglewhite.  Depending which alternatives you choose it is 36 to 40 miles and well over 2000ft of climbing. Today I chose the anti-clockwise route, including an extra hill, so I cycled 36 miles, climbed over 2,600ft and did it in 4 hours and 3 minutes. The weather improved whole way round and yesterday’s rain meant clear views.


And so I left home at bang on 2  and set off on back roads through Inglewhite going past their cross on the green and on to the village of Chipping where I had some sweet coffee just outside the church. Shortly before Chipping I had this lovely view of Parlick (1400ft) with more of the Bowland Fells behind. My daughter and son-in-law were up there yesterday and came back as drowned rats.


Having been fortified with unhealthy sugar and witnessing a retired cleric bombing down a hill on a mobility scooter I set off and turned left on a lane where I was presented with a fine view of Pendle Hill of witches’ fame and for giving the type section of the Bowland Shales. The top of the hill is – Pendle Grit!



And so onwards and upwards needing to climb over 300ft on this stretch. I was now on Her majesty’s lands – i.e the Duchy of Lancaster. The hills were unklike the Pendle Grit Fells just to the easy as they were knolls of limestone – in fact limestone mud, but I didn’t stop to look for fossils.



003And so upwards past a farm. Somewhere I saw a stoat or a weasel. I was quite pleased to get to the top with my ticker ticking at about 142 beats per minute. A quick stop for the view  and then whoosh – downhill – but kept stopping for photos.






And so looking down to the River Hodder 300 ft below and the upper Hooder beyond Dunsop Bridge behind with a Yorkshire Dales mountain just visible. As you see the country scents were not honeysuckle, but common and garden shit.





Another fine view with Waddington Fell to the right. There’s another grand ride over there.




007It was tempting to shout “chocks away” here and I did, but only touched 30 mph before caution prevailed with bends ahead. Straight ahead in the valley is Dunsop Bridge – the official centre of mainland Britain. It is famous for its ducks and a café.




Well, down to a bridge of the Hodder, one of the cleanest rivers in Lancs. Off to the left is Whitwell with its posh pub and scenic church, which has a wedding every five minutes. The Environment Agency planted all these trees to protect the bank. Last year I met the man who planted them and doted on them. A good example of an EA employee.





And so I pedalled up the Hodder Valley but 009turned left instead of going to Dunsop Bridge up my favourite Bowland river – Langdon Brook, which has two incredible upper tributaries. Another steady climb past a Catholic church celebrating its 150th birthday  and then looking down on Langdon Brook. I love this stretch of road. I looked over to a 20,000 year old landslide, where an area of 100 by 300 yards of Bowland Shales decided to slide downhill and may have dammed the river.  Ancient landslips are very common here.

010And so I stopped by a little bridge just up from the usual carpark. I first chatted to a horse and then consumed the rest of my unhealthy coffee.  The view uphill was to Sykes farm, a delightful place right on the road . The hill behind is Top of Blaze Moss, which I have been over many times following invisible paths.


011The view the other way showed where I had come from and gives no idea what lay ahead.







After Sykes Farm I went past Sykes Anticline, a great geological site of limestone. Last year I collect a large hunk of coral which I pooped into my panniers, From here it was all uphill with over 400ft of climbing in a mile.





I stopped for an undisclosed reason and took a photo of my steed with the Sykes Anticline behind. 200 years ago lead was mined half way up the crag.






This photo looking uphill is deceptive. You can just make out a car on the steep part of the climb (directly above the 3rd post from the left) As I remounted I engaged my baby chainwheel ready for the grind up. I got up with a gear to spare (but I do have reduction gearing) and cycled past a fine exposure of the Upper Bowland Shales, but did not stop to look at them. My ticker got to 152 ticks a minute up this hill!!

016 And so to the summit, with a lovely view behind. I soon passed the Yorks/Lancs boundary stone and then it was downhill all the way with a thousand feet of altitude to lose.



017Now this was the reward, a fantastic descent through moorland to the upper Wyre valley. It is the right gradient as you go fast but not to fast.






018Leaving the moorland behind , The Marshaw valley is exquisite, especially as no one was there. A lovely river with trees either side  – and – of course – FOXGLOVES.




020But just off the road you can go through a gate onto the moors again  but bikes were not allowed









And the river, not very full at present.









Another view of the road






Two barns over the wall with mandatory foxgloves.

From here I pedalled on with another climb on the side of Haythornthwaite Fell, which is popular with the royals.





024     And before my final descent of 600ft to Garstang a look back at the fells – looking to Wolfhole Crag at 1700ft  – again with invisible paths





And so I returned from my nth time of cycling one of the best routes in Lancashire. I was lucky with the weather. I have done it in all seasons, including under snow and it always feels new.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

G M Hopkins


Visit Blackpool-under-the-Sea. Mike Hill’s seaside dystopia

Stop Press; 31/1/15 I have just heard that Mr Hill is standing for parliament. I hope his constituency remains above sea level, unlike the Bishop of Dunwich’s patch.

Blackpool is an iconic English seaside resort, and for the benefit of Americans is our equivalent of Myrtle Beach. I enjoy cycling along the promenade. As a town it is one of the most derived in the UK, with high unemployment and other social issues. Blackpool is crying out for new employment but sadly some are trying to thwart fracking in this area.

Blackpool could be the first place where Britain is fracked and Lancashire County Council were to decide at he end of January 2015, but it has been delayed until April.

Needless to say anti-frackers have been active in the area, or some would say fractivists or frackwits. One has technical skill – Mr Mike Hill MIET C.Eng from Lytham St Annes who has been connected the oil and gas industry. I would suggest that many of the presentations at the council next week will have looked to Mr Hill for advice. Contrary to everyone else he claims that only one of the 10 recommendations put forward by the RS/RAE report of 2012 https://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/  has been implemented. A clear case of strangulating at birth by regulation! his take is here http://www.shalegasoffice.co.uk/downloads/all/d5776aee1401797912.pdf. It does seem he has persuaded many of the Fylde on this, including M.P.s.

However when he strays onto my home turf, or rather my basement rocks, I begin to have a few Doubts. I don’t think it gneiss and I tend to get seismic. When I read on the RAFF (Residents against Fracking:Fylde) Website  http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/latest-news/more-shocking-revelations-about-fracking-in-the-fylde/ that he reckons that the Fylde could suffer subsidence if fracking takes place and drop below sea-level, my face gets super-glued to my palms.

This is one of the most face-palming arguments I know as there is no way 8inch holes 8000ft below surface could cause even a micron of subsidence. After all in London the underground has not cause subsidence. It is frankly the most stupid argument put forward by fractivists against fracking. That is quite an achievement, but only comparable to those who suggested, according to Mike Stephenson that fracking could cause a volcano to erupt in Blackpool.

What baffles me is that Mike Hill is advisor to RAFF and has been for several years and thus if this is not a true report he would and should have made RAFF remove these wacky statements about him:.

Another huge cause for concern is the likely increase in subsidence due to shale gas extraction. Again, this issue has been raised by Mike Hill, who visited the BGS (British Geological Survey) in Keyworth (Nottingham) this week, at the request of Prof. Mike Stephenson, to discuss the compaction of the shales post fracking and compressibility equations. The conclusion Mike and a colleague have come to is that the Fylde coast is at risk of sinking below sea level.

According to Mike Hill, the only way to prove or disprove the subsidence theory is to do tests  on the Bowland shales in the labs at the BGS.  The problem is that the BGS’s  priorities are set by the government and this is not a priority, so it has not and will not be done.m




Anyway here is a video from Mike Stephenson himself, who has recently been appointed to be in charge of monitoring the Fylde during fracking operations – good old BGS.

Hill under water

And more from Prof Mike



Anyhow, enjoy all this and I apologise for any pain you feel if you have a few cracked ribs.

I could not have made this up

More on the prospective MP

In his recent Press Information 6th February he very humbly claims over regulations “Mike is of the very clear understanding that regulations and monitoring relating to fracking are totally inadequate as it is he himself who has written the papers that have been used to identify this huge flaw.’

I suppose he must be right and everyone else wrong. Just as he is right on the potential subsidence of the Fylde Coast.


Click to access MH_press_release.pdf


Complaint to ASA against RAFF (Residents action on Fracking; Fylde) for Gross Errors



If you travel through villages like Westby and Roseacre on the Fylde in Lancashire, you will see anti-fracking notices claiming that fracking is highly dangerous.  The claims are simply scaremongering and reflect the success of propaganda from anti-fracking groups of which RAFF is the most active on the Fylde.
144 145 151 153


This is a blog with a difference as it is a copy of a complaint to the ASA (Advertising Standards Association) against the Leaflet Shale Gas, the facts, which has been produced by the leading anti-fracking group on the Fylde in Lancashire. I (Michael) has copies were given out at a public meeting in Elswick on 6th March 2014 and at the Garstang Show on 2nd August 2014. Ken has already complained to the ASA about similar inaccuracies in “factsheets” from Frack Free Somerset.

Neither Ken nor I have any connection with any shale gas exploration company but we are both concerned with the high level of disinformation put out by local anti-fracking groups.

Ken describes himself with this “CV”; After graduating with an Engineering Degree from Manchester University, I worked for Schlumberger Wireline Services as an open and cased hole engineer for 2 years in the mid 70s, in South East Asia, being promoted to ‘Senior Field Engineer’. In the 80s I worked for Halliburton wireline (Welex) as a cased hole wireline engineer. I worked in Libya, Kuwait, the USA, and India, mainly. I was promoted to ‘District Engineer’ in Libya,the most senior technical post. I dealt with customers, sorting out problems with leaking wells, cement bond logs, production logs, perforating etc. I quit the oilfields in 1990, after a total of 12 years, and became a Physics teacher. I have recently retired from teaching. I became interested in the fracking debate as I could not understand why people were protesting about shale gas fracking, in Balcombe. This was about an oil well, drilled in limestone, with no fracking planned. My researches and questioning of anti frackers (before they banned me) made me realise that the whole anti fracking bandwaggon is based upon falsehoods, failure to read UK regulations and procedures, nimbyism, and scaremongering. I am a beleiver in correct science.

As an environmentalist, and scientist, I agree with the IPCC and believe gas to be the sensible low carbon choice to fill in the gaps when renewables do not function, provided it is done properly. My researches convince me it will be, like any other technically advanced science that operates in the highly regulated UK.


For myself I graduated in geology, worked for a few years in Africa as an exploration and mining geology dealing with base metals like copper. I then was ordained in the Church of England and have recently retired. I have published much on science and religion and also in the history of geology and have written several academic papers on Darwin’s geological work in Wales and Shropshire, which he carried out in 1831 and 1837 -42. I have presented papers on Darwin’s geological work in the UK, Switzerland and the USA (at their annual conference of the Geological Society of America in 2008 and 2009). Like Ken I am an environmentalist, agree with the IPCC, (and wrote a book chapter on Evangelicals and Climate Change where I was very critical of Christian denialists like Beisner and other creationists) and with Dieter Helm in The Carbon Crunch see gas i.e shale gas as a bridge or transition to get rid of coal before sufficient renewables come on line, which will not happen in my lifetime. I have lived within 10 miles of Cuadrilla’s previous and proposed sites since 2001 so qualify as a local.

Several of my blogs have been on fracking and related issues

ed9/2/15 The irony is the first paragraph of RAFF’s leaflet;

It has become apparent that the UK government and gas and oil drilling companies have not been honest about the risks involved with shale gas development. PR consultants have been employed to disseminate misleading information to strengthen the case to extract shale gas in the UK.

It seems that the ASA did not quite agree with this claim



Complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority against leaflets distributed by ‘Stop Fylde Fracking’ and ‘RAFF’ (Residents against Fylde Fracking) in summer 2014
Presented by Michael Roberts, and Ken Wilkinson. 19 August 2014

The leaflet we would like to complain about is available online here http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/RAFF-BROCHURE-4-PAGE-NEW.compressed.pdf and has been distributed as hard copy in numerous meetings in the Fylde area. There are numerous inaccuracies in this document, and in view of the public interest in this, it is important that these inaccuracies are brought to light. Many inaccuracies are based upon reported poor practice in the USA, which are genuine concerns, recognized by the Royal Academy of Engineering report https://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/  in 2012. This led to recommendations https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49541/7269-government-response-sg-report-.pdf that have been incorporated into recent regulation. There are also many points raised by RAFF that are either irrelevant, incorrect, or bad science. It is wrong for this group to attempt to influence public opinion using false arguments. This is but a selection of what could be many more complaints.
Page 1
Complaint 1  ‘Hydraulic Fracturing, established technique, or new technology?’
The history of this technique is summarized here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing_in_the_United_Kingdom#History . This paper http://fracfocus.org/sites/default/files/publications/hydraulic_fracturing_101.pdf suggests a 30 plus year history of shale gas fracking. As such this is false.
Complaint 2. ‘ What is the difference? Drilling for unconventional shale gas utilizes horizontal wells and…. ‘
The comparison was made with Wytch Farm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wytch_Farm#Environment. In fact Wytch Farm has around 100 wells, drilled from 10 well pads, and it uses horizontal drilling as a matter of course. It had the world record of a 10.5 km horizontal well. The reason for this is that to access the oil and gas, it has to be done in a World Heritage site, and AONB, in an area of very high property values. Horizontal drilling was developed in the North Sea, and is a well established technique.
Complaint 3. ‘Drilling would be intensive and on a large scale’ and the photo of the Jonah gas ¬field, Wyoming, USA (on page 3).
Drilling is covered by local planning consents, and the type of development suggested would be unlikely to gain permission. The Jonah gas field is a conventional vertically drilled gas field in the desert 30 years ago, when horizontal drilling was in its infancy. As such there was no reason to use horizontal drilling in this environmentally uninteresting area. Modern technology allows for 10 wells to be placed on a 2 acre site, each well being the source of up to 4 separate ‘laterals’, or steered horizontal wells, a total of 40 wells. That would be able to access gas from a radius of several kilometres, with no surface evidence, except the access road(s). Like Wytch farm, buried pipelines would mean that the public are hardly aware of any infrastructure. As such this information ignores latest technology, and is misleading. It is also subject to local planning consents.

Here is the photo of the Jonah Gas field. M Roberts drove past the field in 2012 passing within 400 yds of wells, but found it no more intrusive than other oil/gas fields

Complaint 4. The image of burning flares on Page 1 and 4.
We are unsure of the provenance of this image but believe that it is flaring of gas produced with oil. Any flaring in the UK would be short term, (up to 30 days typically) and is required by the Environment Agency (EA) to use low noise, low impact burners. ‘Green completions’, where gas is collected and used are highly likely, and are included if possible as this is ‘best practice’http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/about-us/best-practice/ . As such this information ignores latest technology, does not follow UK permitted procedures, and is misleading. This is covered in this publication https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf.

Page 2
Complaint 5Regulation’. ‘No regulation specific to the onshore unconventional shale gas industry exists’ and ‘The EA’s hands off¬ approach relies on the drilling company to self regulate’
This is simply untrue. The various regulatory agencies have all prepared and reviewed their practices to accommodate shale gas exploration. This series of publications  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking present this information to the public, and shale specific regulations  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/283834/Regulation_v3.pdf are in place from the HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/shale-gas/assets/docs/shale-gas.pdf , Environment Agency, DECC, UKOOG. (see this link https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265988/Onshore_UK_oil_and_gas_exploration_England_Dec13_contents.pdf as well). In addition, OUOG https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/office-of-unconventional-gas-and-oil-ougo  has been set up specifically to deal with these issues. As every action is covered by a licence http://www.ukoog.org.uk/knowledge-base/regulation/what-is-the-process , it is false to claim that there is no regulation. Much regulation is pertinent to the process of drilling and this is no different from conventional oil/gas wells. In addition BAT, (Best Available Technique)  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-roadmap-onshore-oil-and-gas-exploration-in-the-uk-regulation-and-best-practice is required which means that rather than following a prescriptive regulatory standard, the agencies can require improvements as technology improves.
Complaint 6In 2012, Steve Walker of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a key shale gas regulator, admitted they had failed to inspect Cuadrillas‘ wells in Lancashire.’
This is totally at odds with this link which reports 10 visitshttp://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/how-are-we-regulated/  . The EA and HSE have agreed to jointly inspect operations.
Complaint 7 ‘Chemicals’ ‘a chemical spill of Calcium Di Hydroxide at iGas’ Barton Moss site’
This does not indicate a lack of regulation, but a minor accident. Regulation, enforced by the EA, requires that the well pads must be chemical-proof http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/water/ , and assessed against flooding risk to mitigate mishaps such as this which can occur in any industry. In any event, Calcium Dihydroxide is not hazardous. http://www.icca-chem.org/Portal/SafetySummarySheets/634578159377315274_PSS%20Ca%28OH%292_V01.pdf
Complaint 8 Chemicals used in the extraction process …. as well as BTEX volatile organic compounds; Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene, which return to surface with the gas….. in the USA people living near shale gas wells have found drilling chemicals in their blood and organs,….
None of these chemicals have been licenced by the EA. The EA require that in the UK, operators must show the Environment Agency that all such chemicals are non-hazardous in their intended application. (See page 4 of this link https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265972/Developing_Onshore_Shale_Gas_and_Oil__Facts_about_Fracking_131213.pdf ) In view of the carcinogenic properties of these chemicals there is no evidence to suggest that these would ever be permitted. The nature of chemicals must also be made public. The implication is that this would be included in the current plans, which is false. This also ignores the fundamental differences in regulation of fugitive emissions, controlled by the EA https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf . It also ignores the judgement of scientists at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141391233 .
The assertion that drilling chemicals have been found in the blood and organs of people in the USA is highly contentious and would not happen here due to the regulation required. We believe it to be yet more scaremongering as all drilling chemicals need to be licenced by the EA. This link http://www.dartenergyscotland.co.uk/images/documents/Dart_Closing_Submissions-Mr_Steele_QC.pdf  (Pages 34 to 39) shows that claims such as these have been made before, and have no basis in fact. All additives are individually assessed and required to be non hazardous.
Complaint 9 ‘Well leaks… 6% of wells leak immediately, with 50% leaking within 15 years… Well integrity is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix.’
This is a common misconception and it is false. This is based on a paper from Schlumberger http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/en/pdf/Publications/MudCement2003.pdf , in 2003. In this, the problem of ‘sustained casing pressure’ is tackled, and the company helpfully provides a solution! Wells have a number of barriers to leaking gas, and a single leak is not good, but it does not necessarily mean a leak of fluids to the environment. It is also fixable by ‘squeezing’ cement, so the idea that ‘the industry does not know how to fix ‘ is false. The technique is described here http://petrowiki.spe.org/Remedial_cementing  . Leaks in the USA that have been heavily publicized have all been repaired. Further details are available on this link  . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing_in_the_United_Kingdom#Well_leak_concerns There are currently no wells leaking in the UK https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/268623/13_1664.pdf , with over 2000 land wells, and 6500 offshore wells. There were some historical prblems but these have been fixed. This paper http://www.spe.org/atce/2013/pages/schedule/tech_program/documents/spe166142-page1.pdf  indicates ‘true well integrity failure rates are two to three orders of magnitude lower than single barrier failure rates’ This is inaccurate, misleading and scaremongering.
Page 3
Complaint 10 ‘Where does the waste go’….. ‘vast quantities of hazardous wastewater also called flowback. It contains water, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive materials including Uranium, Thorium, Radium, Lead and Radon….. radioactive drill cuttings, however, a radioactive waste permit is not required.’
The treatment of flow back water and drill cuttings is covered by licencing from the EA https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265988/Onshore_UK_oil_and_gas_exploration_England_Dec13_contents.pdf  , (Page 23 on) under ‘Environmental Permitting Regulations’ as it is a ‘type 2 NORM industrial activity’ similar to many mining and extractive industries. It is open to public consultation as can be seen here https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/npsapp/dartenergy/dart_energy_west_england_limited  . The levels of radioactivity are monitored. Radioactivity and microscopic amounts of many materials are present in food, building materials, soil, the human body and yes, drill cuttings. The question is at what concentration? The main ‘toxic’ chemical is salt. This BBC report  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25902272 covers the main issues, indicating that the EA have tightened regulations, and that treatment methods http://www.resource.uk.com/article/Comment/water039s_fine-3365#.U_Oiuf1wapq  mean that the fluid can be disposed of safely. As such this is both false, and is scaremongering.
Complaint 11 ‘toxic chemicals that rise to the surface with the gas are also discharged into the atmosphere. This results in poisonous air pollution’
Covered in this publication   https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/npsapp/dartenergy/dart_energy_west_england_limited . Use of the words ‘toxic’, and ‘poisonous’ is false and scaremongering. The gas that would be produced is mainly methane, and that would be collected, or burned, leaving no toxic products. Like much of the output from protestors, this is based on the open storage of flowback fluids. The EA and EU require enclosed steel tanks.
Complaint 12 The use of the image of the overflow pipe, ‘draining into the river Ribble’.
This pipe has been installed under licence from the EA, and is part of the drainage and storage of rain runoff. It is not a ‘secret’ chemical disposal point. As such this is scaremongering by people who have not bothered to enquire as to what this was for. Cuadrilla’s website http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/water/  shows the construction of this and clearly a chemical proof pad will need to be drained after rain, after checking that there is no chemical contamination.

Page 4
Complaint 13Water contamination…etc ‘
There is ‘no medical evidence’ to support the Hollowitch case described, as can be seen herehttp://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/marcellus/2013/03/Affidavit.pdf  . In addition, no pollution that could be ascribed to drilling was found by the authorities http://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/DEP-Response-Letter-to-Hallowich-08-12-2009-3.pdf  . As such the claim of a gagging order seems rather bizarre.
There have been many claims about methane contamination of water wells due to shale gas fracking, and it has been difficult to prove this as no base line measures were made in many cases (such as the one above). The British Geological Survey have recently completed a baseline survey http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/methaneBaseline/results.html  to inform any claims. In addition the Royal Academy of Engineering report https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf  recognized this as a problem area and best practice in well design are required by the HSE.
The RAE report https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf  also indicated that there has never been a case of fracking fluids entering aquifers in the USA, (see page 12, para 1.4.1) although this was an area of concern, regarding well design, and the separation of aquifers and shale formations. The reported AAP article appears to be this one  https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf , and the only contaminant mentioned is methane, which is non toxic.

Unfortunately the ASA has provided support for RAFF in the past. This is frequently referred to by those who are against this technology. Many of the ASA sustained complaints http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2013/4/Cuadrilla-Resources-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_203806.aspx#.U_Okx_1wapp  seem tenuous, but one, that hydrochloric acid is ‘toxic’ is simply incorrect. The stated reference, the HPA, does NOT classify this chemical as ‘toxic’, merely as ‘irritant’, and in high concentrations, as ‘corrosive’ as can be seen here, on Page 13 http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2013/4/Cuadrilla-Resources-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_203806.aspx#.U_Okx_1wapp  . (The designations of ‘toxic’ refer to hydrogen chloride, not hydrochloric acid.)
We feel it is a matter of public interest have full judgments made. There are court cases arising from legal, well researched drilling plans being opposed on false grounds. In addition, policing of ill-informed protest is costly for the UK as a whole, yet the ‘anti fracking’ movement seems able to present these false arguments with no comment.

Regards, Michael Roberts, and Ken Wilkinson

The Fracking Fylde; Fracking comes to Lancashire- March 2014

Background; In 2010 the drilling firm Cuadrilla began prospecting for shale gas in the Fylde with several sites. At Preece Hall they began fracking  – hydraulic fracturing  – at about 8000ft and ruptrured the well, triggering off two tremors of 1.5 and 2.3.  They ceased work.

The Fylde is a lowland part of Lancashire between Preston and Lancaster. It is a farming area, with the Forest of Bowland to the east and Blackpool and the coast on the west. Parts are uninteresting farmland but here are some shots I have taken on cycle rides. DSCF2679                      DSCF2593 Few knew about fracking a few years ago but then a drilling company Cuadrilla began drilling for shale gas of the Bowland Shales which lies 8000 feet below the surface. After two terrible destructive major earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.3 on the Richter scale in 2011, they stopped drilling. I believe they caused tiny ripples in a teacup. Since then many anti-frack groups have been set up ; RAFF (Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking) and one for almost every small town and hamlet. It was the outcry after the earthquakes which caught my attention as I have lived through an 8.6 when a child and many 4s and 5s in the rift valley of Uganda when working there. The most serious earthquake made the organist miss a note while playing for a hymn in a church service. I felt there was something wrong with the media frenzy as even a 2.3 is of no consequence. So on retirement I followed up fracking with a vengeance, but instead of reading the latest journalistic hype, or anti-fracking rant, I decided to read only technical articles from Britain and the USA, whether the geological surveys , environmental agencies or academic articles. I ignored the “frack, babe, frack” and “frack off and fuck off ” diatribes. This picture is from the facebook page GAF – Garstang against Fracking ;


The concerns are environmental issues, concerns over water usage and pollution, air pollution, fears of industrialisation, worry about regulations  etc, and are much hyped by anti-frackers but the concerns are very real in the perception of many and need to be considered seriously. However I cannot deal with them except in passing, but the dangers are much less than some claim and fracking is essentially safe  – or as safe as any industrial process can be and safer than some processes which we don’t worry about!

After three years of local anti-frackers getting in a frenzy, Cuadrilla announced that they were coming back in February 2014. Not that they had ever left as they own the gas well at Roseacre, which was vertically but not horizontally fracked in 1992 and has produced gas ever since. This is what it looks like from half a mile away (the actual site covers about a fifth of the skyline) , and right by the fence 🙂

DSCF2846      DSCF2556

There are two new sites, one at little Plumpton and one between Roseacre and Wharles by Roseacre wood, pictured below. The site will be two hundred yards through the gate.

DSCF2686    DSCF2689 Already the impact of the Greenpeace “Not for shale” protest is apparent in the village and in mid-March the following had appeared at Roseacre, when one resident claimed their housesale had fallen through because of fracking.

DSCF2858 DSCF2859 The question is “who has caused the scare?” The second post answers that as this is what Greenpeace’s Wrongmove campaign is doing. http://www.wrongmove.org/fracked.php?postcode=la2+oeb. The second reason is pure scaremongering; “Minor tremors” This implies possible damage and ignores that fact that the 2011 tremors were only 1.5 and 2.3 , which can hardly be felt, and that they were very unusual in fracking. Not only is this campaign scaremongering it is also less than honest.

Shortly after the announcement from Cuadrilla there were two meetings, which I attended . one by Cuadrilla at Elswick Parish Hall on 12th February and one organised by RAFF for the parish council at YIPS in Inskip on 6th March. These meetings could not be more different in format, style, and even bad language 🙂 Cuadrilla’s meeting was an open one from 3 to 8 pm and thus, to my knowledge, had no formal presentation. I arrived at about 5.30 and was greeted by an anti-fracker who gave me a leaflet. “Fracking for Gas threatens us all” produced by RAFF. Inside there were a number of stalls dealing with aspects of the exploration, from drilling, geology, environmental issues and for residents who have concerns. The staff were helpful and polite and willing to answer any question and direct you on to the right person. My questions were technical, either on the geology, issues of drilling or environmental questions. I was given straight answers and my portable BS-meter was not needed. (I am quick to identify BS as I have dealt with creationists for years!) They were not to know that I had fully researched the tremors at Preece Hall and knew of the two other instances and that the big tremors in USA were probably due to injection not fracking. They could have piled on the BS, which I would have quickly spotted! Neither did they know I once directed some diamond-drilling, so rigs etc are familiar to me. Nor did they know I had read loads of technical reports. It was good to speak to the person who drilled and fracked the well at Elswick in 1993. None of them were the liars and crooks portrayed on anti-fracking sites! If they were, then they were very clever indeed, and I had been terribly conned.


The RAFF meeting at Inskip could not have been more different. Their presentation was crisp and slick, and were very creative in  their descriptions both of processes and potential risks. They repeated the usual anti-fracking memes, which resurface in all anti-fracking literature; water pollution, problems of waste water, “at least as dirty as coal”, etc etc. all these memes have been refuted many times by independent groups. The leaders spoke with intensity and were full of the dangers of fracking. However as their arguments were tenuous. At best it was simply scare-mongering – and , of course, they were dealing with people with no or little knowledge of the technicalities of fracking.  After the presentation which contained two clips from BBC programmes there was opportunity for questions. The main clip included Mike Hill, whose credentials I cannot elucidate, speaking about regulations. It seems as though he wants an EA and elf’nsafety official present at every stage of the process. He does not seem to realise that most industry does not have such helicopter- regulating. Thus my garage is not visited every day to see whether he is doing MOTs right! Answers were hostile if they perceived you were amenable to fracking. At times the language of the presenters was offensive due to expletives. We were given several leaflets, including  Shale Gas the facts…. produced by RAFF or Frackoff (www.frack-off.org.uk) One handout was  20 Impacts of Shale Gas, .  which was printedoff from  http://frack-off.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ShaleImpactCards.pdf. It is a mixture of facts, fracts, errors and inuendos, with much scaremongering. Errors include claiming that shale gas ; causes pollution of aquifers, is more polluting than coal, 50% of wells fail as well as exaggerating various issues. It is not a fair and reasonable portrayel of shale gas. “There will be an increase in traffic with 500 trucks per well and up to 800 wells across the Fylde and nearby areas – that’s a lot of trucks on our roads”. http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/our-concerns/ This is contrary to Cuadrilla’s estimates of 2 to 6 km spacing, which is widely accepted ; see http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/my-visit-to-glastonbury.html That would result in somewhere btween 12 and 80 pads. Frack-off go further and suggest over 7000 wells in the Fylde area. That is manifestly false and has simply been made up by a fertile imagination.

Below is frack-offs threat of thousands of well in Britain;


This kind of scarmongering is clear when we consider the leaflet RAFF handed out “Shale Gas the Facts”. Though they do not mention well-spacing as they do on their site, they give a photo of the Jonah gas field in Wyoming (RH photo below) where wells are incredibly close. In fact the Jonah field is made up of closely-spaced VERTICAL wells going down into tight sandstone and not shale. The Jonah field is of 80 sq km of Wyoming desert and devoid of population, as we discovered when we breakfasted at the nearest town – Pinedale.  We drove within a few hundred yards of part of the field and noticed a few well-heads – but took no photos. These below are of the Jonah field (LH) and one (RH) in New Mexico on Highway 64 on which my friend Kim Johnson worked when a student. In NM the well were no more than half a mile apart as they were vertical rather than horizontal wells. When I got out of the car there was no noise or smell.

5453290375_d1d7b01078_o DSCF1508



Thus jonah is neither of shale gas not an area of hydraulic fracking . It is vertically drilled into “tight gas”.  Frack-off super-impose this spacing onto a photo of the English countryside (LH photo), thus giving well-spaces of 200 yards . This gives a very misleading picture. However the photo serves its purpose of scaring people away from fracking. If fracking wells were emplaced on the Fylde at the same density as in the Jonah field their would be about 400 pads, as opposed to 12 to 80 from Cuadrilla’s estimate . The photo of the Jonah field is often used by anti-frackers to show what would happen to the English countryside. It is a dishonest representation, and its constant use shows little integrity.

The Jonah field (RH) and the supposed effect on the English countryside (LH)

fracking-sim-smalljonah The leaflet begins by saying ;”PR consultants have been employed to disseminate misleading information to strengthen the case to extract shale gas in the UK.” (surely this is a libellous statement.) Let’s consider Their information. The section on Hydraulic Fracturing is both misleading  and muddling (active or passive?). They try to define fracking as only “high volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing” and dismiss any other hydraulic fracturing. Hence  they can deny that the Elswick gaswell was hydraulically fractured in 1993 – which it was ! They conveniently ignore that today’s “fracking” has been a process which has been evolving over the last 65 years. if not 165 years,  and what we call fracking today is crude shorthand for hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. A similar evolution  over the same period is the development from side-valve engines, to overhead valves to overhead cam , which is the norm today. The section on regulations falsely declares that regulations are lacking, and claim that “A lack of regulatory enforcement has already been evidenced …with a chemical spill of calcium Dihydroxide at IGas’ Barton Moss site…” That sounds scary , but on ebay you can buy edible Calcium dihydroxide or even 10 kg with no problem http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10Kg-Calcium-Hydroxide-98-Pure-Reef-Kalkwasser-/140858328488?pt=UK_BOI_Medical_Lab_Equipment_Lab_Supplies_ET&hash=item20cbcf85a8. Clearly there should have been no spills from the lorry concerned but all documentation on Ca(OH)2 show that it is only mildy hazardous (and probably as nasty as cement). Thus you should use gloves, wash any off  your skin etc. The worst is to get it in your eyes, but that is unpleasant rather than serious. Beyond that, there would have been no regulatory enforcement wherever Calcium Hydroxide was used, whether in cooking or for any other industrial purpose.

Then we are told “Cuadrilla claims its frack fluid is non hazardous” yet they intended to use “hazardous chemical antimony trioxide at Balcombe”. As Wikipedia puts it “Antimony trioxide is an opacifying agent for glasses, ceramics and enamels.Some specialty pigments contain antimony. Antimony trioxide is a useful catalyst in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic) and the vulcanization of rubber. Flame retardant for textiles, leather, polymers, and coatings.” There must be some in our houses!! Shock, horror! Cuadrilla have declared their frack fluid and published it on their website and in Colorado the state governor Hickenlooper, formerly an oil geologist drank some to make the point. It sounds better than Coke but worse than Budweiser. I would prefer a Wyoming beer – Moose Drool.

Antimony trioxide is easily obtainable , including on ebay and needs to be used with care as these guidelines show. http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDkQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bathpotters.co.uk%2Fproduct_pdf.php%3Fid%3D1716&ei=3WcrU4qeJo2EhQeI3ICoCA&usg=AFQjCNEFi8v0uVo64Da5ggrmptIE9ouQPA

There is no good purpose to continue disecting this section but these two demonstrate the use of scaremongering and feeding into the fear of chemicals. Howver they did not mention the commonest chemical used in fracking –  Monoxy-dihydride, which kills more people than any other chemical.

And so they continue with allegations that 50% of wells leak. What they fail to say that these do not refer to onshore fracked gas wells but offshore deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico. They would do well to concentrate not on well integrity but their own. Given enough time, patience and digging up the appropriate references I could deal with whole handout but I hope this gives sufficient to cast doubt on the reliability of RAFF and Frack-OFF. Another problem with the leaflet is that it is very poorly referenced so that most readers cannot check the veracity of statements, unless you are familiar with the literature.

The section on water contamination describes the harrowing story of the Hallowichs of Pennsylvania. But it ain’t true. No gagging order was served on the children and 25 July 2011 the Hallowichs signed an affidavit agreeing there was no medical evidence of health problems caused by drilling.  http://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/marcellus/2013/03/Affidavit.pdf  Further the Pennsylvania Dept of Environmental Protection found no evidence that drilling had polluted their private well. http://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/DEP-Response-Letter-to-Hallowich-08-12-2009-3.pdf It took me two hours to find the detailed documentation on this (having been previously aware generally of the case). I suspect that most readers will see the reference to the (poorly researched) National Geographic article and conclude fracking pollutes water supplies. I am not saying it never does, but in this case it did not. To digress slightly, if fracking is carried out in a cavalier manner there is liable to be water contamination, but that can happen in any industrial concern which ignores good practice. Fortunately regulations in Britain are tight, despite concerns of the National Trust , RSPB and Wildlife trusts in their recent report(which is flawed).

A useful summary refuting common misrepresentations of fracking is from NoHotAir http://www.nohotair.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2446&Itemid=232


In Britain there are fairly tight regulations for all undustries and also manufactured products. So much so that many joke about “‘elf’nsafety”. One of the main foci of many, whether ardently anti-fracking or not, is whether regulations for the onshore gas industry are fit for purpose or not. The recent report of the RSPB, National trust and Wildlife Trusts implies that those for onshore gas are not fit for purpose, and then gave a list of suggestions, most of which are in place today!

The first thing about regualtions is that in all spheres they develop with time. For example cars even dating from the 60s, like the iconic E-Type Jaguar could not be built today because they do not fulfil today’s safety regulations as with crumple zomes, air bags etc. In the 60s few cars had dual braking systems – today regarded as essential. One only has to talk to an electrician to find out how regulations keep changing.

There are a host of regulations which are directly applicable to fracking; water use and disposal, emissions, noise, light , use of chemicals etc. Many from mining and onshore oil and gas extraction are directly applicable. An unjaundiced study of the way in which fracking exploration has been carried out demonstrates that these are being followed (or to be cynical, at least as much as any other industry). It should be obvious that when fracking takes place in earnest, the whole regualatory system will evolve, some will be tighter, some laxer. It is silly to expect every aspect to be covered at such an early stage. Maybe some may be like the regulation that cars could go at more than 4 mph until it was repealed in 1896.

One of the BBC clips which RAFF showed including a long spiel by Mike Hill claiming that regulations are not in place. It is difficult to work out his qualifications as an authority, as accounts of  his oil experience varies from 2 to 20 years. In one sense he is totally right to argue for robust regulation , but he needs to recognise what is already in place. At times the demands for tighter regulations would throttle fracking at birth – and I suspect that that is the aim of some fractivists. Ultimately even the strictest regulations cannot guarantee the fracking will be 100% safe, any more than electrical regulations for the home will eliminate domestic electrical accidents. Earlier we considered aspects of regualtions with Calcium Hydroxide. That example shows how regualtions are being used to throttle fracking by making regualtions impossible and requiring a vast armer of regulators to ensure not one ounce of Ca(OH)2 is spilt.

There are some aspects which are unique to shale gas. The two most obvious are the possibility of tremors and the composition of fracking fluid. These two issues give rise to concerns about damage through earthquakes and pollution of water. However, genuine concerns are frequently fanned by the scaremongers.

On tremors the basic facts of two scarcely felt tremors of 1.5 and 2.3 during drilling in 2011 are conflated with larger tremors in the USA caused by fluid injection into old oil and gas wells to dispose of waste. This practice is illegal in Britain and in the USA problems go back to the 80s long before fracking as we know what invented. Thus a report by Nicholson and Wesson in 1990 as USGS Bulletin 1951 discusses these which are frequently 3.8 or even 5.5 on the Richter scale, which have caused mainor damage in the USA. (see Wikipedia on Richter Scale) . (There have recently been a spate in Ohio – again – which the unscrupulous or ignorant put down to fracking.) To put things into perspective the Blackpool earthquake of 2013 at 3.2 was about 20 times more powerful than the 2.3 at Preece Hall. A 5 quake is about 2, 000 times more. An 8.6 is 4,000,000,000 times more powerful than Preece Hall. (A family friend Frank Kingdom Ward, a plant hunter, was staying above the epicentre during the 8.6 earthquake in Assam on 15th August 1950, and was missing for months due to the remoteness of the Himalayan valleys. ) The largest ever recorded in Britain was 6.1 in 1931. Since 1900 one person has died – an old lady who fell down the stairs. Worldwide there are over one million 2 to 2.9 tremors are year and several million between 1 and 1.9. In California quakes of 5 to 5.5 are very common and gain little attention. A recent u-tube clip shows the effect in an icecream parlour. The lights were swaying but nobody bothered. The greatest damage seemed to be broken wine bottles in a supermarket. The latest Californian quake at 5.1 was 20,000 times more powerful than Preese Hall.  This makes Greenpeace’s Wrongmove campaign ( see photo above) irresponsibible scaremongering as assuming 2.3  tremors will be the norm for drilling (there are, in fact, only three occurences , one each in UK, USA and Canada), a tremor of that magnitude directly below your house might just cause a ripple in your tea cup. http://earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/research/earthquake_hazard_shale_gas.html

Compared to other extractive industries fracking causes the fewest and smallest earthquakes as Davies showed in his report on Preese Hall http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/ (26/3/14). Note that there are only 3 fracking quakes worldwide. In the words of Professor Davies himself at the Unconventional Gas Aberdeen conference this week 25/3/14, “in terms of earthquakes, shale gas [fracking] doesn’t even make it into the premier league”. (Probably the most dangerous area for tremors on the Fylde is by the old salt-workings by Fleetwood) Below is a diagram on the relative frequency and intensity of tremors due to extraction industries.


To illustrate the magnitides involved a large stick of dynamite is equivalent to a 1.2 quake. However the tremors at Preese Hall have been taken very seriously and the government-sponsored report have recommended seismic monitoring and that drilling should cease if there is a tremor above 0.5, which is equivalent to three hand grenades. (In comparison a train crossing a viaduct causes a tremor of 1.5). That is extremely vigorous monitoring and should put all at rest – except Greenpeace :).

The other is pollution of water, which was made famous with the burning tap in the film Gasland. That was caused by methane in the water and has been  common in parts of the USA, especially Colorado (where it was filmed) and Pennsylvania for decades. In fact burning taps only occurs in places where it was common way before fracking. It also occurs in Leicestershire and there’s an interesting example from Oregon in 1951. Scientific analysis is at best inconclusive as there are few base-line studies. Most of these occurences are in private wells, which often have poor quality water. An advice brochure produced in 2004 in Pennsylvania i.e. several years before fracking started shows how common methane in water is. It gave advice on how to deal with methane in your private well. And that was several years before there was any fracking.

At least Putin is an ally for fractivists; http://www.nohotair.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2259:vladimir-putin-draws-you-a-picture-on-shale-gas&catid=63:shale-gas70&Itemid=144#comment-588


There are many issues I have not covered but this blog is far too long as it stands. I will wait for a further blog to discuss fracking and Climate Change, as some oppose fracking on the grounds that it will make Climate Change worse. Like Prof Dieter Helm of Oxford I do not agree but that is another story.

I hope I have made the case that arguments against fracking collapse on thorough investigation. It is best to read reliable accounts as list below.


When I started looking into fracking I decided to ignore publications from fracking companies and look for experts outside the industry. I have to admit that my research made me angry as I found that anti-fracking literature had little substance, ignored expert studies and always assumed the worst case scenario. I began by reading semi-popular stuff, but soon found it suspect and running counter to what I knew as a geologist. The problem was that the internet was flooded with stuff from Greenpeace and the usual anti-fracking memes like “fracked gas is worse than coal”, or that acetic acid is a contaminant! To me it is,  as I loath vinegar but it won’t kill you! So much material is written to an agenda. The popular film Gasland is best seen as a sitcom and in the words of an American geologist, who is a little hostile to fracking,  is simply “crap”. Thus if we go to the website of Fracking Unsafe http://fracking-unsafe.co.uk/category/resources/,(whose  their main sources are Gasland and an Earthworks study Hydraulic Fracturing 101 http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.Uy4Asv1FCPx which which is out of date and only applicable to the USA. Their list of chemicals with health effects include acetic acid (vinegar) ethanol (Alcohol in drinks)  and urea which I must now pass in my pee! (They even used the same yeast found in Marmite to frack in Sussex in the 90s.) On groundwater contamination they cite a 2004 EPA report on coalbed methane contamination. This is not fracking for gas and the date of 2004 means that it is BEFORE widespread fracking for gas. The whole article is misleading, yet the groups below have signed up to the fracking-unsafe declaration. I would have thought these groups who support Fracking UNSAFE would have had more perception


As a geologist I started with reports from  the British  and US Geological Surveys and then onto the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our EA and reports from the Royal Soceiety  and mongraphs by competent scientists. In a sense this was confusing as there is often diversity of opinion as over the claim Gas is worse than coal, which has its roots in Howarth and Ingraffea’s 2011 study which claimed that leakages of Methane in fracking  could make it worse than coal for emissions. Soon could become is, and conveniently the many other studies which challenged Howarth and Ingraffea were ignored – a clear case of cherry picking and lack of integrity.

Perhaps the one best source to understand fracking and whether it is safe and worthwhile is the 2012 Royal society report  http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf This never is rarely used by anti-frackers, and then only in a cherry-picking way yet it represents the best of what British scientists and engineers have to say. Rather than give a long list of publications I refer to a list by Dr James Vernon a geophysicist at Bristol University whose blog Frackland was a late and useful find; http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/p/libraryresources.html

That should be sufficient for most!

To come (hopefully);

The fracking gas filter – beginning of April

Fracking and climate change

The report from RSPB, National Trust and Wildlife Trusts