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Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group

To Frack or not to Frack

29th November 2013

A fracking installation in the USA

A fracking installation in the USA

To Frack or not to Frack

          Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, recently said that 'The coal industry needs to change rapidly to help prevent global warming by leaving most of the fuel in the ground'. It was against this background that Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group welcomed John Childs from Safe Energy Wales to explain the recent developments being proposed in the Swansea area.

          He started by explaining the method used to 'frack' (short for fracturing). This involves drilling down vertically then horizontally. Water, including numerous various chemicals not named because of confidentiality - is then injected under high pressure to create fractures to release the methane held in the rock.

          Coal Bed Methane (CBM) is the name given to this method for accessing fossil fuels. The shale gas seams are deeper than coal seams which are closer to the surface and stretch across South Wales including Pembrokeshire.

          The UK Government has designated large areas of Britain as suitable for exploitation and issued licences many in South Wales. The site covers the whole of Swansea. Permission has been given for test drilling of 6 holes just north of the M4. At this stage fracking will not be used. However should methane be found the normal progression is that initially the gas comes out naturally but fracking follows as it ceases to be released unassisted. The question of how the waste contaminated water is dealt with one which needs to be addressed. Generally only half comes back to the surface and that which does is held in 'ponds'.

          The pads on which the engineering work takes place do not require Environmental Impact Assessments as they only cover 7,000sq metres. However new pads and wells will be needed should permission be given.

          Underground Coal Gasification UCG) already has been granted 22 licences across the UK one in the Louchor Estuary. Many older readers will remember the time when coal gas was produced by carefully controlled burning of coal in local gas plants. The aim with UCG is to pump oxygen/air into coal seams, set fire to them in a controlled way to extract the gas. This process leads to massive CO2 emissions (as of late 2013 Carbon Capture and Storage had never been successfully implemented on a commercial scale). Toxic coal tars are left in the resulting cavity often leaching into ground water.

          In the course of discussion a number of points were raised. The UK Government controls energy policy and is in favour of seeing these types of projects developed. They have produced planning guidelines which place national interest before local interest unlike planning for windfarms which states that the interests of the local community must be taken into account. Their belief that these developments would reduce the cost of gas has to be considered in the context that the UK is interconnected to the continent - gas can flow to and from - and it will be sold to the highest bidder. Comparisons were made by some members to the USA where gas prices had fallen dramatically due to the exploitation of shale gas. However it was pointed out that until recently due to distribution problems most US gas was sold to the domestic market. Little was sold on the more profitable international market. George W Bush also removed many environmental protections most noticeably concerning water. Unlike the UK the US is a large country with vast areas being sparsely populated.

          Members and friends of PSEEG felt that they had learnt a great deal about an area of energy policy that has come to the fore very recently and could have large implications locally.


Past Articles
11th October 2013Quiet Revolution at Pembroke Dock: A visit with Marten Lewis to the Quiet Revolution factory
27th September 2013Keeping the lights and heating on: A talk by Graham Goodeve
28th June 2013Pembroke 21C Community Association: A talk by Elizabeth Gossage, Pembroke 21C Development Officer
24th May 2013Life beneath the waves; the beauties and the beasts: A talk by Blaise Bullimore, European Marine Site Officer
29th March 2013The National Trust in Wales - Energy Neutral by 2015: A talk by Paul Southall, NT Environment Advisor
1st March 2013Climate Change and a Sustainable Future: A talk by Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner for Wales
25th January 2013Waste Not Want Not: A talk by Hywel Gibbs, Pembrokeshire County Council Waste Awareness Officer
30th November 2012Array of Hope: A talk by Paul Carter & Kim Daye from RWE Renewables on The Atlantic Array
26th October 2012The Green Deal: A talk by William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy
28th September 2012A Fair Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy on PSEEG's renewable energy project
14th September 2012Not a Waste of Time: a visit to Withyhedges Landfill and recycling centre
29th June 2012The Need for a More Sustainable Future: A talk by Geraldine Leach of Transition Narberth
1st June 2012Know your Flood Risk: A talk by Andy Irving, Flood Risk Management Team Leader
11th May 2012The Power of the Sun: A visit to the Solar Farm at Rhosygilwen
23rd March 2012Planting Green Thoughts: A talk by Jo Horsley, Environment Wales Development Officer
24th February 2012The Atlantic Array offshore wind farm: A talk by Robert Thornhill, Development Manager
2nd December 2011Pathfinder Progress: A talk by Peter Willis from the Welsh Government's Pathfinder Programme
4th November 2011The DeltaStream project: A talk by Chris Williams, Development Director of Tidal Energy Ltd.
30th September 2011How Green is my Valley?: A talk by Grenville Ham, Manager of The Green Valleys Project
23rd September 2011PSEEG's visit to Carew Mill with Marten Lewis of the Darwin Centre
5th August 2011The Manner of the Message: A talk by Neil Sefton on communication skills
24th June 2011The Work of the Darwin Centre: A talk by Marten Lewis, manager of the Darwin Centre
27th May 2011Electric Cars The Road Ahead?: The talk by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles
13th May 2011Are electric cars the way forward?: A talk by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles
22nd April 2011Sustainability in Action: A visit to the Science & Technology Park (Technium) in Pembroke Dock
1st April 2011A Revolution in Wind Energy?: A talk by Vaughan Griffiths from Quietrevolution, Pembroke Dock
25th February 2011Preparing for Floods: A talk by Richard Wickes of the Environment Agency
14th January 2011The Way Forward for Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy
12th November 2010How Green is your Castle?: The National Trust & Global Warming
15th October 2010Challenge of the Rising Sea: The effects on the Pembrokeshire coastline
10th August 2010The beautiful Welsh coastline: Response to possible rising sea levels
18th June 2010Visit to Costain at Canaston Bridge: Not Costing the Earth
16th April 2010Feed in Tariffs: Power to the People
12th March 2010Heat Pumps & Photo Voltaic Panels: Prepare for the Goodlife
12th February 2010Parliamentary Candiates at Green Question Time in Saundersfoot
15th January 2010Weather & Climate: A Question of Energy
4th December 2009Sustainable Community Ventures: Regeneration in Pembrokeshire
13th November 2009Community Initiatives: Sustainable Wales leads by example
16th October 2009Climate Change Challenge for Candidates & Micro-generation with wind turbines
2nd October 2009A Visit to Castle Pill Wind Farm: Quiet blows the wind
11th September 2009Renewable Sustainable Energy: An Energy Survey for South East Pembrokeshire
10th July 2009A talk by Lorraine Dallmeier of Infinergy: Wind Power - Pembrokeshire's Potential
12th June 2009St. Oswald's, Jeffreyston - Pembrokeshire's Beacon of Sustainability
24th April 2009Solar Panels: Three Cheers for Sunny Pembrokeshire
13th March 2009Ashton Hayes Community Energy Reduction & Hot Water From the Sun
13th February 2009Could Pembrokeshire go carbon neutral?
14th November 2008Environment Wales to provide 'Start-Up' Funding for PSEEG
17th October 2008PSEEG to become a Registered Charity

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