Can UK shale gas grow up and move to town?

big_city_adventure_london_classic_coverThe recent approval from North Yorkshire County Council for Third Energy’s well is neither the dawn of a new shale era nor the portent of doom local and national opponents would have us believe. Any news at all is good news in the UK shale industry, as we approach the five year mark for a license to even look. While there is cause for optimism in forward movement, there is much yet to be done on some basic facts.

In common with most of the industry, we’ve been sitting waiting for movement for so long that we’ve forgotten how new, and thus “controversial” shale gas is to many people. Issues that scientists, academics and regulators thought rebuffed years ago are exciting new facts to those who never heard about shale until a leaflet plastered with scary pictures falls through the letterbox. I was struck by that on two talk radio shows last week. It seems patently ridiculous that at this stage in the debate people still talk about taps on fire for example, or are convinced their water (from mains water!) is somehow at risk. The new licensing era will need both a  grown up discussion on climate along with a refresh on the facts.

The biggest confusion, misconception or just plain myth about UK shale remains landscape. The list of objections from DECC in it’s recent opinion polling is instructive:

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France’s shale conversation moves onshore

81140716_oWhen I started pointing out the paradox of France importing shale LNG as it bans the technique itself as some sort of ecocide catastrophe, I did so in hope that pointing out the contradictions would lead to some movement in France itself towards a more rational discussion of shale fears.

I’m happy to report some luck there, but first, let’s talk about why France’s role is important to me. As I tell my Anglo Saxon frack head friends, in between planning how to poison the water table and kill children, I have three things in common with the French: I’m smart, alternately charming/obnoxious and I speak French. As I’ve noted before I’m far from being the only French speaking shale advocate, and I’d be happy to release a key member of the London Local Energy technical team, far more fluent than I, but who can drill too. He’d be happy to hop on Eurostar and head to the suburbs of Paris, especially as the interminable wait for UK movement is starting to move from the realm of the boring to the anger inducing.

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France’s shale and LNG Paradox

pinnochioMy recent piece on Frence’s paradox of banning shale while importing US LNG, which is now at least 67% produced from shale, was republished at EnergyPost.eu and even at a site run by the German Green Party.It has also created a stir in France. This from the main French TV News on the A2 Channel, for those of you lucky enough to understand. No links in English, yet, but the French shale debate is firmly on the French front page.

Ségolène Royal the French Environment and Energy Minister said the paradox was insupportable. Next day it hit the headlines at business channel BFMTV and the morning show at the largest radio station Europe 1,where an anti described it “total hypocrisy”.

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Force of habit needs to be broken: Stop describing dominant shale as “controversial”

1 62631 stop bad habitsFrom the earliest days of what was once called “unconventional” shale gas, opponents and proponents of natural gas from shale alike have failed miserably, if for different reasons, in predicting actual production figures.

Opponents, and even worse, some proponents in the academic study industry, consistently insisted that somehow the size of “unconventional” natural gas resources was in doubt.  The sub-text is shale gas is untried, untested and thus merits further study. Or, as people convinced governments throughout Europe into believing, shale gas isn’t worth the trouble and lets study it some more.  This is what I’ve called the “let’s just call the whole thing off “school, which proposes to stop even consideration of the, new, unconventional, untried and “controversial” and simply go to proven technologies like solar, wind and CCS . 

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