Thursday, 14 March 2013

Coal bed methane in Falkirk

There's been a fair bit of activity down in the SW over UK Methane's plans for coal bed methane extraction around Keynsham. Coal bed methane, like shale gas, uses fracking to extract gas, only from deep coal seams rather than shale beds.

Coal bed methane has already been in operation in Scotland for several years (I wasn't aware of this, and am indebted to Frack-Off for pointing this out).

So, how has CBM extraction affected Falkirk? Has it become an environmental wasteland? Here's the local MP (Eric Joyce) on the issue, writing in the Guardian:
My constituency of Falkirk is home to one of the UK's most advanced coalbed methane extraction projects. As Lord Browne says, the extraction of coalbed methane is a low carbon bridge to future technologies, is unobtrusive and is environmentally safe. I have received a handful of local objections to the project, all from the same campaign group and all reminiscent of the disastrous anti-science, anti-GM lobby of a decade ago. On the other hand, I have received many messages of support from constituents who accept the potentially valuable contribution unconventional gas extraction has to make to the UK's energy mix.
It surprises me how much these onshore unconventional gas developments seem to have slipped under that radar, on both sides of the argument. Councillors and locals with worries about CBM developments in Somerset should be making a bee-line to find out more about how it has impacted Falkirk? Surely that might help improve the quality of the debate somewhat.

As an aside, it is interesting that Eric Joyce draws parallels with the anti-scientific approach of those who oppose unconventional gas with those who opposed GM food a decade ago. He's not the first to make this comparison (nor the second)...


  1. You are incorrect to say that all opponents of hydraulic fracturing are anti-scientific. In Lancashire many engineers, scientists and doctors are protesting about the unwarranted and risky industrialisation of the Fylde. In fact a number of technical people who used to work for fracking companies are so appalled by their illegal and polluting activities that they are now advising the protesters.

    1. Hi X,

      Perhaps it is incorrect to label all fracking opponents as anti-scientific, but it's pretty clear that the groups that represent them behave as such. Some examples:

      Deliberately misconstruing the Schlumberger well-integrity 'advert' as implying that 50% of wells are leaking hydrocarbons (when in fact it applies (a) only to GoM deep offshore wells and (b) it reports incidents of SCP, which is very very different from leakage), while ignoring actual reports from onshore US drilling looking at leakage rates caused by integrity issues (e.g., by the Groundwater Protection Council) that show an incidence rate of >0.1%

      Continually cherry-picking the Howarth/Ingraffea study on methane leakage rates, ignoring the dozens that come up with much lower rates.

      Photoshopping using photos of old, conventional gas reservoirs (e.g., the Jonah Field, drilled with early 1990s technology) to scaremonger about the likely surface impacts of modern gas development. Again, there are plenty of photos available showing the surface impacts of modern gas development (which is a lot less than that from the 1990s tech), but for some reason they are never used.

      Regularly showing the Markham flaming gas tape video, when isotopic testing has shown that the source of gas in the Markham well is from a shallow gas-bearing layer not related to gas drilling.

      Writing reports in local newspapers claiming that fracking in the Mendips could trigger eruptions from an extinct volcano.

      Insinuating that 500 chemicals are used in every frack. In total, 500 different chemicals have been used in recent times, but an individual frack will only use about 5.

      Of course, individuals within the movement may not be anti-science. But the methods of the key representative groups certainly are. If you have a problem with that, the best way to deal with it (if you oppose drilling) is to talk to Frack-Off and the like.

      I'm aware that if I tell these people they are being anti-scientific I will probably be politely told to bog off. If people within the movement tell them to start being more scientific, to focus on the real issues (and there are real issues to address) rather than the made-up stuff, then that is more likely to lead to a change in methods. At the moment, they are more interested in scare-mongering.