UK experts conditionally approve fracking

Article by Staff Writer

THE UK government’s climate change advisors have given cautious approval for onshore fracking but have attached conditions.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended three key tests that must be met before approval should be given.

These include the strict limiting of emissions from well development, production and decommissioning. Gas consumption must remain within the UK’s carbon budget – meaning it must not increase overall consumption, only offset imports. And the government should accommodate fracking into the existing carbon budget – meaning new shale projects must replace existing carbon emitters, and cuts would have to be made to the existing carbon economy to make room for new projects.

The CCC also recommends strict regulations should be applied to all of the test parameters before any projects are approved and has called for the wide deployment of CCS.

While the UK government has tentatively welcomed the report, it has disagreed with some of its recommendations. It believes the existing regulatory requirements for oil and gas production are sufficient to ensure emissions are limited and did not comment about the inclusion of industrial scale CCS. The UK government has not made any comment regarding the deployment of CCS since it cancelled a £1bn (US$1.3bn) CCS competition in November.

CCC says that CCS will be needed in order to meet 2050 emissions targets set in the Paris agreement and that the UK would be unlikely to meet the legally binding target without it.

UK local authorities have begun accepting fracking applications. North Yorkshire County Council gave permission to Third Energy to conduct fracking tests in May. The announcement was met with strong opposition from residents fearing the industry will bring noise and emission pollution to the region.

The government is eager for the shale industry to take off in the UK. In 2015, it announced it would intervene in shale gas planning applications that have not received a decision after 16 weeks.

Greenpeace believe the move to introduce widespread fracking will not allow the UK to meet its 2050 emissions targets. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, said the proposal’s claim that it will still meet the target was based on “assumptions” and “caveats” with “zero chance of delivery”.

“The problem with ramping up a whole new high-carbon infrastructure and the fossil fuel vested interests to go with it is that you can't just dial it down later on if emissions start going through the roof,” added Parr.

The government expects to publish an updated carbon budget that includes the establishment of fracking by the end of the year. The CCC will publish an updated report on onshore petroleum with carbon budgets in April 2021.

Article by Staff Writer

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