It would be hard to find a natural gas project as cynical as the Yamal project in Siberia. The basic reason it exists at all is to take advantage of warming seas to open up a sea route to North East Asian LNG markets. The project has cost $27 billion before producing anything. It surely is using fracking to produce gas of course since that is the new normal today. The first step of construction involved building an airport. Novatek’s Deputy CEO Mark Gyetvay appeared to be actually serious in the two presentations I’ve seen him do in London when he helpfully pointed out that since the Yamal is already at -50C most winter days, the CO2 footprint of the liquefaction process is a great advantage. The LNG tankers used are actual icebreakers.
TV viewers around the world are starting to watch the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 this month, the highest rated show in the UK when it was shown starting last November. This fantastic show in the David Attenborough tradition is worth watching, and Attenborough ends the series by making an impassioned call for climate action, and it’s fair to think that viewers will nodding their heads and going tsk-tsk and agreeing. One can imagine that many viewers conflate fracking, fossil fuels and plastic pollution. Most people in the UK see something by journalists they otherwise trust and assume that anything that has F,C,K and ing in it has just got to be bad news.
Good or bad, the news of how gas actually comes to the UK isn’t considered news at all. It’s not that the 17 million UK Blue Planet 2 viewers are hypocrites when they use Yamal Gas instead of supporting local gas, it’s just their ignorance – no one wants to tell them. Chief among them is Roger Harrabin, chief environmental correspondent of the BBC who invariably decries onshore UK gas. Roger has point blank refused to cover the first US shale imports last summer, the 2015 US EPA report that essentially cleared the water contamination issue or the fact that 7.5% of UK southern north sea gas uses hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drills. He’ll ignore this too, as if visits by icebreakers to Welsh ports is such a quotidian event that no one could be possibly interested. To Roger, and the head nodders who listen to him on the BBC, anything about “fracking” is bad, and a pattern of censorship about anything remotely positive about natural gas ensures the keep it in the ground school is none the wiser.
This is to point out that Wednesday Jan 19, the Christopher de Margerie arrives in the Dragon terminal at Milford Haven.
The CO2 footprint of this cargo must be that of a herd of narwhals, easily the highest CO2 natural gas to the UK due to the entire production chain and route. The CdM already went to the Grain Terminal in Kent earlier this month, but that cargo was transhipped to Boston of all places. (The US Jones Act prevents intra US cargoes under foreign flags or crews, so all the far cheaper US LNG, some as close as 300 miles away in Maryland, can’t make up for the gas shortages in New England). Those shortages stem from opponents of pipelines who don’t want to encourage fracking or fossil fuel, but don’t like freezing either. The Russians (and Total) laugh all the way to the bank whether it’s in old England or New England. Since the Milford Haven terminal has limited re-export potential, the icebreaker gas will enter the UK grid there and Arctic gas molecules will be heating the homes, and powering the TVs of Blue Planet 2 viewers, not that they will be any the wiser.
And the rest of us never know thanks to the selective news flow, where the only fracking is bad fracking and thats that.
How UK journalists can reconcile their silent assent for Yamal LNG with vocal opposition to fracking is one of the mysteries of the age.