UK's shale gas commissioner quits over 'de facto' fracing ban

By Lisa Pham on 4/28/2019
Photo: Cuadrilla Resources.

LONDON (Bloomberg) -- The UK’s commissioner for shale gas, an advocate for the public, has quit after six months, saying government policies and strict rules on hydraulic fracturing are stunting activity.

“Developing a shale gas industry in the U.K. will be an almost impossible task” without a policy change, Natascha Engel wrote in a letter to Business Minister Greg Clark released Sunday. “A perfectly viable industry is wasted because of a government policy driven by an environmental lobbying agenda rather than science, evidence and a desire to see U.K. industry to flourish.”

Engel was appointed in October, acting as a link between local communities, the shale gas industry and regulators. The UK’s progress on hydraulic fracturing has been painstaking, held back by tight government controls on seismic activity and fervent public opposition.

“The government’s decision to force the industry to stop fracing every time there is a micro-tremor of 0.5 amounts to a de facto ban on fracking,” she said in a statement accompanying the letter. “The threshold might have had the veneer of wisdom if it were not for the 49 geoscientists who have called for a much higher limit. They are the experts. And yet they are ignored.”

Britain’s shale gas production has the potential to be as good as the best-performing shale basin in the U.S., the Marcellus Formation, according to a report from the UK Onshore Oil and Gas Group last month. If Britain rolled out 100 shale gas sites across the country, net gas imports would almost be eliminated, improving the nation’s balance of payments by $10 billion (8 billion pounds) a year, according to the group.

“I appreciate that Brexit is continuing to dominate the public discourse, but our future energy security is something that we really need to be focusing on today,” Engel said in her letter. “We need to be making a stronger case for gas and its importance to our domestic and economic welfare.”

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