Fossil Fuels

Shale gas ranks among the least sustainable sources of electricity, according to research from a team of Manchester scientists. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” to extract shale gas is a controversial technique that has been opposed by many environmental campaigners and local residents in proposed fracking areas. Despite being banned by the Scottish government, fracking projects are currently being rolled out in other parts of the UK. To determine the potential of shale gas extraction in the UK, the Government has stated it is “encouraging safe and environmentally sound exploration”. After finding a “very sizeable quantity of natural gas” in Lancashire’s Bowland Shale, fracking company Cuadrilla announced on Friday it intends to drill four exploratory horizontal wells to extract gas. However, there is still much debate surrounding fracking, and in a study published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, a research team has for the first time examined the environmental, economic and social sustainability of shale gas. “Many countries are considering exploitation of shale gas but its overall sustainability is disputed,” said Professor Adisa Azapagic of the University of Manchester. As it stands, the US is still the only nation that is undertaking fracking on a large scale. “Previous studies focused mainly on environmental aspects of shale gas, largely in the US, with scant information on socio-economic aspects,” said Professor Azapagic. To address this knowledge gap, Professor Azapagic and her colleagues took all these factors into account and compared a variety of energy sources, including fossils fuels, renewables and nuclear power.

Independent 16th Jan 2018 read more »

London has been put to shame by New York’s decision to divest city pension funds from fossil fuel companies, according to climate campaigners who accuse the mayor, Sadiq Khan, of fudging a similar promise he made during his election campaign. Global efforts to drive investment away from oil, gas and coal were given a major boost last week when the biggest city in the US announced plans to sell off its $5bn holdings in fossil fuel assets and sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming. As the home of Wall Street, this had enormous symbolic value and added to the momentum provided last year by divestment pr oposals from the Norwegian central bank (which runs the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund), and the World Bank’s promise to end funding for oil and gas extraction. The mayor of London – the world’s other great financial centre – has also pledged action. In his manifesto, Khan said he would “take all possible steps to divest the London Pension Fund Authority (LFPA) of its remaining investments in fossil-fuel industries by 2020.” City Hall has quietly sold off about half of its fossil fuel assets, but divestment campaigners complain that London’s policies are muted, ambiguous and full of loopholes that could be copied by other institutions.

Guardian 15th Jan 2018 read more »

ROYAL Dutch Shell has provided a boost for the hard-pressed North Sea oil and gas industry by announcing plans to revamp the huge Penguins field off Shetland. The Anglo Dutch giant confirmed it has given the green light to a project that will involve it making a hefty investment alongside America’s ExxonMobil. Shell expects to be able to make good money from the development at current crude prices using a giant new production vessel. The company said the proposed investment showed the North Sea remained an important area to it. Led by chief executive Ben van Beurden, Shell has retrenched in the area in response to the oil price fall since 2014. Shell has sold off a big chunk of its North Sea business and shed more than 1,000 North Sea jobs. In November 2016 the firm said it would close its accounts centre in Glasgow, putting nearly 400 posts at risk.

Herald 16th Jan 2018 read more »

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Times 16th Jan 2018 read more »

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Energy Voice 16th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

What does the Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe hope to achieve by serving a writ on the Scottish government over its effective ban on fracking? Precedents such as Imperial Tobacco’s challenge over the in-store display of cigarettes in 2012 show judges tend to side with government over big corporates in cases that hang on the technicalities of whether – and through which instruments – ministers can effect policy goals. In any case, a victory for the frackers in the Court of Session would almost certainly be appealed against in that court’s Inner House, and again at the Supreme Court. The process could take years, during which – unlike with the Scotch Whisky Association’s unsuccessful challenge over minimum alcohol pricing – no commercial advantage would be gained by Ineos in buying time in the courts. Even if successful, Ineos would still not have t he green light to proceed. with plans to recover Scotland’s “unconventionals”, but would have to submit its plans for its various schemes to the authorities. These submissions would almost certainly be called in by ministers and flatly refused, not least because of pressure from vocal locals. Ineos’s legal basis for calling the ban “seriously erroneous . . . unlawful . . . illegitimate . . . incompetent” and, for good measure, “a misuse of ministerial power” will be revealed shortly. It will be pored over by planning and public law anoraks anticipating a monumental legal battle, with environmental campaigners, scientists, unions, engineers and pro-business cheerleaders pulling up chairs.

Times 14th Jan 2018 read more »

An earthquake triggered by a giant Dutch gas field has rocked the UK’s gas market in a further threat to energy supplies that risks driving gas bills higher. The third-strongest quake in Dutch history registered 3.4 on the Richter scale last week and has unearthed fresh calls to wind down gas production in the Netherlands, which is Britain’s third largest source of gas imports. The giant Groningen gas field has helped make the Netherlands the most important gas market in Europe, but decades of drilling has riddled the northern Dutch town with earthquakes for years. The Dutch gas regulator has made an official appeal to ministers to make “substantial” gas production cuts in their response to the Groningen quake due next week.

Telegraph 13th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 14 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

Cuadrilla’s controversial bid to frack for shale gas in Lancashire has struck a rare gush of good luck after tests unearthed “excellent” conditions for fracking. The fracking firm drilled a 1.6 mile deep vertical well at its protest-hit Preston New Road site, through two different types of shale, to reveal “excellent rock quality” for fracking. The tests also suggest a high natural gas content in the core samples, Cuadrilla said. The findings rebut a warning from a team of scientists at Heriot-Watt university last year that the UK’s most promising shale gas reservoirs had been warped by tectonic shifts millions of years ago.

Telegraph 12th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 13 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

The price of oil has hit $70 a barrel for the first time since December 2014. Brent crude climbed after members of Opec, the cartel of 14 oil-producing nations that accounts for 40% of the world’s output, said it would continue to limit supplies. The RAC, the motoring group, has warned that rising oil prices could lead to higher forecourt costs for motorists. However, the AA said that drivers would benefit if supermarkets resumed their petrol price war.

BBC 11th Jan 2018 read more »

New York City’s decision to sever ties with its fossil fuel investments is set to prove a catalyst to other cities in the face of the Trump administration’s staunch support for coal, oil and gas interests, according to several leading economists. On Wednesday, city officials announced that New York was to divest its pension funds of about $5bn in fossil fuel-linked money over the next five years. New York’s total pension fund for its teachers, firefighters and other city workers is worth about $189bn. Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, also revealed the city is suing the world’s largest oil and gas companies over their role in knowingly creating dangerous global warming in a two-pronged assault that he said is aimed at “standing up for future generations”. Economists said the status of New York as a financial and cultural giant would probably spur other cities in the US and worldwide to divest and, more significantly, build momentum in the global shift required to reduce emissions and stave off the worst consequences of climate change.

Guardian 11th Jan 2018 read more »

Donald Trump is not afraid of a touch of hyperbole, certainly when he talks about US coal. “We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal”, he said recently. As most of the world knows, the idea of clean coal is a contradiction in terms; no matter how you dress it up, coal is dirty. It is also the fossil fuel that poses the greatest danger to the future of the planet, its burning responsible for vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases. The idea of clean coal is based on capturing and storing emissions from power plants and other coal-burning facilities. The technology is still at an early stage of development and is at present installed at only a very few sites around the world.

Climate News Network 11th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 12 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

Petrochemical firm Ineos has launched a legal challenge to the Scottish government’s effective ban on fracking. Ministers announced the prohibition in October 2017, and it was subsequently endorsed by a vote of MSPs. Ineos Shale has applied for a judicial review of the decision, citing “serious concerns” about its legitimacy. The Scottish government argues that it took a “careful and considered approach” while coming to the decision, with “detailed assessment of evidence”.

BBC 9th Jan 2018 read more »

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Herald 9th Jan 2018 read more »

Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, said: “INEOS’s legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s ban on fracking reeks of desperation from an industry that is failing to get results anywhere in Scotland, the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Wherever fracking has been proposed it has been strongly opposed by local communities and subject to serious delays and mounting costs. “We are confident that the process to ban fracking was robust and fair, and the courts will find against INEOS. A two-year process looked at mountains of scientific evidence that spoke of the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our environment, climate and people’s health. “There is overwhelming support from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood for this ban. In challenging this ban INEOS are attempting to overturn a democratic process that engaged tens of thousands of people across the country and found that 99% were opposed to the dirty industry. Sadly, given the companies tactics south of the border it’s little surprise that INEOS are taking this course of action. INEOS are no doubt taking this challenge to keep alive their hope of ever making any money out of this toxic industry.”

Drill or Drop 9th Jan 2018 read more »

Dr Keith Baker is a researcher in energy policy at Glasgow Caledonian University: The Scottish Government has taken the highly admirable approach of commissioning independent research and consulting extensively with the public on the risks, costs and benefits of fracking to the Scottish environment, economy, and society. The results of this work have shown, very clearly, that those costs and risks far outweigh the benefits, which are largely economic and, given the urgent need to manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry, also short term. If the Scottish Government is to meet its target of reducing national emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, it will need to achieve a significant reduction in the use of all fossil fuels over the next decade, so it is absolutely right to conclude that allowing unconventional extraction is a major step in the wrong direction, and to use its devolved responsibilities for planning to legislate against the development of fracking sites. Whether or not fracking can be managed safely or not, and the jury is very much still out on this, is actually a lesser issue. On one hand this is simply because even if the risks are small, the impacts of risks such as groundwater contamination to other areas of the Scottish economy, such as tourism and the whisky industry, are easily high enough to justify applying the Precautionary Principle as a justification of the ban. As this is a cornerstone of European policymaking on science and technology, I would be surprised if a court would rule against such a justification, especially now France has also implemented a ban.

Herald 10th Jan 2018 read more »

When Paul Wheelhouse, the energy minister, announced plans to use the planning regulations to effectively ban fracking, he said he was doing so largely because the vast majority of responses to the government’s public consultation endorsed prohibition. In light of that public hostility, much of it organised by special interest groups, the government’s research, he said, “does not provide a strong enough basis from which to address these communities’ concerns”. This was a flimsy argument when it was advanced last year and time has done nothing to strengthen it. The expert panel appointed by the government concluded that, subject to proper and sensible regulation, there was little reason to suppose fracking could not be undertaken safely. That was in 2014, and no fresh evidence has been presented by the government that contradicts its own expert assessment. Ministers, of course, are free to change their minds. They are not free, however, to claim politics-based evidence-making is in fact science-based policy-making. Mr Wheelhouse all but admitted this change in parameters when he told parliament: “The people have spoken. The time has come to move on.” Be that as it may, leadership sometimes demands governments tell the people inconvenient truths. Moreover, the government’s attitude to energy is wildly inconsistent. On the one hand ministers demand the UK government does more to support the offshore oil and gas industry; on the other they decline to support onshore oil and gas when they have the opportunity. Offshore oil, the SNP argues, still has a bright future; onshore oil and gas should have no future. It is hard to fathom the logic underpinning this distinction and equally difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is an opportunity missed. As Scotland’s nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness near the end of their productive lives, new forms of energy production are going to be required. Renewables will and must play a large part in a cleaner, greener, future but they are not the only answer. Unconventionally extracted oil and gas could, and should, play a role as we continue to reduce our carbon footprint. As it is, the Grangemouth plant will continue to import fracked gas from the United States. It would be preferable, and greener, to exploit Scotland’s own reserves of onshore gas instead. Even if the government survives this legal challenge, the best that may be said is that it reached the wrong conclusion for the wron g reasons but retained the right to be so very mistaken.

Times 10th Jan 2018 read more »

Ineos, the owner of Scotland’s biggest industrial site at Grangemouth, is quite within its rights to mount a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s decision to effectively ban fracking. If the move is unlawful as the company claims, a judge should rule accordingly and Holyrood may have to think again. However, given the level of public and political support for a ban, it is likely that parliament will come up with much the same answer in just a different form of words. During a lengthy consultation process, the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens all came out against the controversial gas-extraction process, leaving only the Conservatives in favour. And, of 60,000 public submissions, 99 per cent were opposed.

Scotsman 10th Jan 2018 read more »

Fracking firm Cuadrilla has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil near a West Sussex village that was the site of the UK’s biggest anti-fracking protests. The approval came as another shale company said it was planning a legal challenge against Scotland’s fracking ban. Thousands of campaigners besieged Balcombe five years ago when Cuadrilla last tried to extract oil at the Lower Stumble site, igniting a national anti-fracking movement. The company eventually scrapped its plans but recently applied for planning permission to test how much oil will flow from an existing well. West Sussex county council’s planning committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the application, which opponents said defied local opinion.

Guardian 9th Jan 2018 read more »

Telegraph 9th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 10 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

India’s coal power tariff data shows that replacing the most expensive coal power plants with electricity generated by solar photovoltaic’s (PV) and wind can save discoms and consumers up to 54,000 crores ($8.3 billion) annually. New analysis of India’s coal power tariff data shows that replacing the most expensive coal power plants with electricity generated by solar photovoltaic’s (PV) and wind can save discoms and consumers up to 54,000 crores ($8.3 billion) annually. Focussing only on replacing older (>20 yrs), expensive plants can still yield 20,000 crore ($3 billion) in reduced power purchase costs annually.

Greenpeace 21st Dec 2017 read more »

Posted: 9 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

The world’s biggest insurers are opening up a new front in efforts to cut down on coal use by refusing to offer cover to miners and power generators that use the polluting fuel. Industry executives are worried about the potential for global warming to drive up insurance claims, leading to a debate about whether to cover companies that contribute to the problem. A range of investors, including insurance companies and pension funds have cut or eliminated holdings in companies that make money from coal. Fifteen insurers have taken action, according to pressure group Unfriend Coal, between them pulling $20bn in investments out of the industry.

FT 8th Jan 2018 read more »

The growth of Royal Dutch Shell’s oil and gas operations in the next decade will depend on shale production, its chief executive has said, in the latest sign of western energy groups pinning their hopes for expansion on those “unconventional” resources. Ben van Beurden told the Financial Times that he saw chemicals, electricity and biofuels as key sectors for Shell’s long-term future, as he positioned the company to face tightening constraints on burning fossil fuels. But he was also planning for growth in Shell’s traditional core oil and gas production business, focused on shale reserves in the US, Canada and Argentina.

FT 8th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 8 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

The government will introduce an emissions limit on all coal power plants in the UK in a bid to eradicate unabated use of the fuel in the power system from 2025. The plan, unveiled today in a long-awaited response to a 2016 consultation, will mean that from October 2025 all operating coal plants in the UK must comply with an emissions intensity limit of 450 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity generated. In effect, this means all coal plants running without emissions abatement technology, such as carbon capture and storage or co-firing with biomass units, will be forced to close by the October 2025 deadline.

Business Green 5th Jan 2018 read more »

Independent 5th Jan 2018 read more »

Telegraph 5th Jan 2018 read more »

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Times 6th Jan 2018 read more »

Posted: 6 January 2018

Fossil Fuels

For frackers and environmentalists 2018 could bring the biggest battle yet. Ineos, the chemicals and energy giant, is to announce plans to drill for shale gas under one of Britain’s most treasured national parks. It will lodge planning applications to drill up to 10 exploratory boreholes around the southern edge of the North York Moors, familiar to millions as the setting for the Heartbeat TV drama series, and which has the largest tracts of heather moor in England and Wales. “We can’t frack in national parks but we can frack under them by drilling sideways from points around the edges,” said Tom Pickering, of Ineos Shale, which will make the planning applications. “In 2018 we want to do a geological survey to build a 3D picture of the rock strata before drilling test wells.”

Times 31st Dec 2017 read more »

Posted: 31 December 2017

Fossil Fuels

When a tanker full of Russian gas docked at the Isle of Grain import terminal in Kent on Thursday night, as Britain experienced its lowest temperatures of the year, it was greeted as a propaganda coup for President Vladimir Putin. “Feeling cold? Help is on the way,” crowed the Russian embassy in London on Twitter, to mark the arrival of the first shipment of liquefied natural gas from a new Arctic production facility targeted by US sanctions. But by Friday evening, this story of apparent UK dependence on Russian LNG was beginning to look more like “fake news”. People with knowledge of the shipment said that, while the Russian gas had been offloaded into UK storage facilities it was set to be transferred to another tanker destined for elsewhere in the world, probably Asia . “It has not entered the UK domestic gas network and we do not expect it to,” said one person familiar with operations at National Grid’s Isle of Grain terminal.

FT 30th Dec 2017 read more »

The first shipment of liquified natural gas from Russia’s sanction-hit £20bn Yamal project has arrived in the UK. The shipment, estimated at 170,000 cubic tonnes, will now be stored in the UK before being sold elsewhere, rather than being used domestically. It belongs to Petronas LNG UK, the British arm of Malaysia LNG, Agence France-Presse reported.

Telegraph 29th Dec 2017 read more »

Posted: 30 December 2017