your recent article in the Herald, Wed 22nd January completely omits any mention of the public health issues which surround the new ‘super frack’ or high volume hydraulic fracturing. Could that be to save your DUP colleague the Health Minister, from having to answer awkward questions on the matter I wonder ?
The article also says that those opposed to fracking are ‘scare mongering’. The pro-fracking side cherry pick their pieces too. However I’m going to give you two pieces of scientific information both from UK academics, who believe that Fracturing and Shale gas could be beneficial if properly regulated.
Professor Peter Styles stated at Stormont in 2012 that the Lough Allen basin is too shallow to frack. Professor Richard Davies believes the gap between the target shale and the aquifer should be 1200M; Tamboran’s own diagrams show the max depth of the shale to be around 1200M – too close to the aquifer under Professor Davies rules. There is a higher risk of aquifer contamination in Fermanagh from hydraulic fracturing due to the shallowness of the basin. Indeed the thickness of the shale, reaching nearer the aquifer may also pose a problem given SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) research which concludes that the cement which must seal the well, has difficulty adhering to Shale.
Risks must be weighed with benefits, but those also seem diminished by the shallowness of the basin too. Less depth, implies less pressure which in turn means less flow, so less gas. Benefits of course are also dependent on price. But then many politicians see Shale gas as lowering gas prices. Lower gas prices mean communities who suffer receive less dividends from the 1% revenues being promised.
So we have less gas, worth less on the open market, with significantly more risks to the environment,ecology,public health and indigenous industries such as Tourism,Angling and Agriculture here in Fermanagh.
While other industries may be attracted to Fermanagh, the case is not supported historically. The price of gas in Fermanagh will be the same as the price of gas in Belfast, mainland UK, and in Europe, given the European wide Energy market that operates. It should also be noted that the period when Britain was most energy independent in North Sea oil and gas, was also when most of Britain’s manufacturing was off-shored. Ideology, global trends, a highly leveraged financial sector, and many other factors play a part in whether industry would follow to Fermanagh as a result of any gas find. Finally there needs to be something of value in that gas find; that internal emails from IHS consultants (Cheerleaders of Shale Gas) described shale gas as a ponzi scheme is extremely worrying, particularly in light of the economic shock waves emanating from a mining sector investment collapse in China last week.
On the subject of a local referendum I am opposed as I don’t believe it will have any legal standing. Under Aarhus convention (international UN law), EU directives (EU law) and local legislation which transposes those, the local community are granted rights to be involved in consultation and the decision making process. So the legislation and processes already exist. One cannot be involved in meaningful consultation without access to information, and the Minister’s Department has failed in this respect. Indeed, her need to call those of us who oppose shale gas as scaremongering, shows the loss of control by her Department of the Shale Gas message. Recent FOIs from DECC show the extent to which this message is being micro managed on the mainland. Only recently (Jan 16th) the DETI website was described as “a joke” by the deputy chairman of the ETI committee. The amount of information being made available to the public is minimal, late and hard to find.The call for a referendum by Sinn Fein, the other major party in Government, is an indictment of the Minister’s failure to inform and consult at either a local or Governmental level, and indeed a double failure given her position as an MLA for Fermanagh.
With regards to legislation and process, no Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was carried out prior to this licence being granted. An SEA provides the opportunity to consult with locals, while also scoping the project and would provide independent figures on job creation and the like. Ironically the Director of Tamboran was still involved with the CNCC when that organisation called for an SEA in their submission to the Irish EPA study. So we seem to have a Minister more pro shale gas, and anti the consultation process than the Shale Gas company director. But perhaps the biggest indictment comes from her own party colleague. Sammy Wilson on the DUP website calls for a debate on “the policies related to Shale Gas”. The Minister cannot argue that unconventional gas was not being targeted when the exploration licence was granted to Tamboran. The fact that the Government doesn’t seem to have a policy, would indicate a cart before the horse scenario in the granting of this licence; before appropriate consultations were carried out, and before any meaningful policy was in place.
A fracking disaster from start to finish.
I speak only for myself.