Energy-rich Britain is about to be subjected to a full court media press after Cuadrilla Resources announced that it has discovered huge underground deposits of natural gas in Lancashire, up to 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in all.
For such an announcement in an economically depressed part of the British Isles, the announcement has generated a media buzz, with Cuadrilla Resources slyly announcing that if permission is received to develop the find, it could produce up to 1,700 new jobs, while meeting Britain’s future natural gas needs for more than the next fifty years.
London is excited about the project, as its North Sea oil and natural gas fields are in apparent irreversible decline.
Sound too good to be true?
Well maybe it is, depending on how one views the energy industry’s latest miracle cure, hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking.”
In order to unleash the Black Country’s potential, Cuadrilla Resources is proposing to drill up to 800 wells and use the controversial technique.
Hedging its bets slightly, Cuadrilla Resources admitted that its reserve figures had yet to be independently verified, but remained confident that the final estimates would largely confirm their initial findings.
Cuadrilla Resources, stating on its website, “Cuadrilla is an independent UK energy company led by a team of experts in unconventional sources of exploration. Our multi-national senior management team includes members from the UK, U.S. and Australia, who have accumulated nearly 200 years of gas exploration experience, and have previously run companies which have successfully explored more than 1,500 unconventional gas wells in the U.S., Canada and Europe. We believe that exploration from unconventional oil and gas sources will become an important part of the energy mix in the years ahead, and that the UK is well placed to become a leader in the field.”
Anticipating public concerns about the controversial practice, under the website heading, “I’ve heard lots of conflicting comments – how can I be sure that this will be safe?” Cuadrilla Resources soothingly replies, “The technology we use is tried, tested, proven and safe.
While shale gas production is an emerging industry, the practices and techniques we use have been widely adopted in the gas exploration business for several decades. The industry is also closely regulated, and operates under stringent guidelines set by a number of government agencies. Maintaining the highest standards of safety and environmental protection is something we take seriously, and is the number one priority at each and every one of our sites. Our team of employees are also highly trained and have extensive experience working on gas exploration projects in Europe, the United States and Canada.”
Well, since Cuadrilla Resources ballyhoos its expertise in the U.S., this might be the place to note that fracking has increasingly aroused the ire of county and state governments sitting over the Marcullus Shale deposits in the eastern U.S., and even the federal government is getting dragged into the debate, as the energy companies involved are even stonewalling requests to disclose the admixture of fluids that they pump down wells to fracture the shale deposits.
Former CIA head John Deutch has been chairing U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu’s Natural Gas Subcommittee Advisory Board on hydraulic fracturing, despite media revelations that since retiring from the CIA Deutch had received more than $1.4 million from energy companies Schumberger and Cheniere Energy. The apparent conflict of interest led 28 scientists to write to Chu that Deutch should be removed.
Nor is Deutch the only advisory board member with apparent conflict of interests – board members Stephen Holditch, Kathleen McGinty, Susan Tierney, Daniel Yergin and Mark Zoback also have financial ties to the natural gas industry.
News of the scope of the Cuadrilla Resources discoveries have outraged British environmentalists , who are demanding a moratorium on shale gas activity until further research is undertaken, fearing the potential environmental consequences of such massive projects. Cuadrilla Resources received a setback earlier this summer when it was forced to suspend its hydraulic fracturing activities in the wake of two earthquakes prompted the government to review the safety of the process.
Not to worry, said Cuadrilla Resources – a review of the process, currently underway by Cuadrilla Resources experts is schedule to be delivered to the Department of Energy and Climate Change shortly and Cuadrilla Resources CEO Mark Miller believes that it will exonerate the company, adding that Cuadrilla Resources is planning to drill 400 wells, possibly as many as 800 at 40 different locations, as Cuadrilla Resources discovered far higher reserves than it had originally believed to be present.
Dangling the fiscal carrot further, Cuadrilla Resources enticingly noted a potential "Aberdeen-effect" for Lancashire which could generate an £120 million in local business rates and up to £6 billion for the British economy overall by 2016.
But "Aberdeen-effect" oil blowouts in the North Sea, as distressing as they are for coastlines, do not yet pollute Midlanders’ drinking water, and the rising local resistance to “fracking” across eastern U.S. communities should at the very least give Her Majesty’s government pause before signing off on the review by Cuadrilla Resources’s team of “experts.” After all, potential increased seismic effects and polluted aquifers are hardly insignificant side effects. Britain has one of the best cadres of scientists in the world – it’s time to let them, as opposed to Cuadrilla Resources’ “experts” do their work free of political pressure.
And send the bill to Mark Miller.
By. John C.K. Daly of OilPrice.com