Fracking within the UK can be unattainable at any significant scale and won’t assist with the power worth disaster, the founding father of the UK’s first fracking firm has warned.
Chris Cornelius, the geologist who based Cuadrilla Assets, which drilled the UK’s first trendy hydraulic fracturing wells in Lancashire, advised the Guardian that he believed the federal government’s assist for it’s merely a “political gesture”.
“I don’t suppose there may be any probability of fracking within the UK within the close to time period.”
He mentioned that when Cuadrilla had operated right here, it had found that the geology of the UK was unsuited to widespread fracking operations. “No wise traders” would take the chance of embarking on giant tasks right here, he mentioned. “It’s very difficult geology, in contrast with North America [where fracking is a major industry].”
Not like the gas-bearing shale deposits within the US, the shale useful resource within the UK is “closely faulted and compartmentalised”, making it far tougher to use at any scale.
Liz Truss, the prime minister, has made clear she helps fracking and can elevate the moratorium that has been in place since 2019, although it stays to be seen the place and the way websites can be licensed. She has mentioned she hopes to see fuel from fracked websites as quickly as six months from now.
However Cornelius mentioned that “wouldn’t occur”. Truss’s determination to offer the inexperienced mild to fracking “will not be going to have an effect” on the UK’s power provide, he advised the Guardian in an interview. “It makes good soundbites however I can’t see something occurring,” he mentioned.
In the long term, he mentioned it was potential there could possibly be just a few localised operations, however they might be small and couldn’t make a significant contribution to the UK’s power wants. “They are going to by no means be at scale, as a result of the capital prices are an enormous concern,” he mentioned.
Writing in right this moment’s Guardian, Cornelius and his former colleague, Mark Linder, who dealt with public affairs for Cuadrilla in its early days, mentioned the UK was over-regulated, having “singled out the power sector for laws that impede operations which can be customary in agriculture and different industries”. However Cornelius mentioned it was unlikely this may change and that frackers wouldn’t be given the “social licence” to function.
Cuadrilla, based in 2007, was the primary firm to make use of trendy hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling expertise within the UK on dense shale rocks, first at a website in Lancashire in 2011 and carrying on till 2018. Shale rocks, containing tiny pockets of methane, are blasted with a combination of sand, water and chemical substances to create fissures by way of which the fuel can escape, to be siphoned off on the floor.
Nevertheless, Cuadrilla shortly bumped into issues, together with its failure to report injury to an exploratory nicely, and as public consciousness of fracking grew, protests began at websites and potential websites. In 2018, an earth tremor of magnitude 1.5 at its website close to Blackpool induced fracking to be halted. In February this yr, the corporate mentioned its wells – the one two wells to be horizontally drilled and hydraulically fracked within the UK – could be “plugged and deserted”, in accordance with directions from the regulator.
Cornelius resigned from Cuadrilla in 2014, after Lord Browne, former chief of the oil firm BP, took over the chairmanship. Browne left in 2015. The corporate declined the chance to touch upon Cornelius’s views.
Cuadrilla has spent “tons of of hundreds of thousands of kilos”, in keeping with its chief government, Francis Egan, in its efforts begin up a fracking operation. Nevertheless, the corporate by no means produced any fuel on the market.
Egan welcomed the announcement this month that the moratorium could be lifted, however the firm has not but mentioned whether or not it would unseal any wells.
Cornelius, an instructional geologist, stays a staunch defender of fracking – “it has been used safely all over the world, throughout the US, with no issues” – and of shale fuel, however mentioned the geology of the UK and the densely populated nature of the British countryside made it unattainable to arrange a commercially viable fracking enterprise right here.
For Truss to advertise fracking was “primarily a political determination – they need to be seen to be doing one thing”, mentioned Cornelius. “It doesn’t make financial sense. I don’t suppose wise individuals are placing cash on this.”
He added: “It is a unhappy scenario. It’s a let-down. There was a chance 10 years in the past to take a look at this [fracking] sensibly, however that chance has now gone. It was value then, but it surely’s not sensible now.”
Writing in right this moment’s Guardian, Cornelius and Linder name for funding in key applied sciences they are saying usually tend to produce power than fracking, together with geothermal power and tidal energy.
Cornelius, who in 2014 additionally tried to start out fracking underneath the Irish Sea with a undertaking generally known as Nebula, which by no means turned operational, is concerned in a geothermal consortium referred to as Triassic Energy, which is evaluating the potential of utilizing the new water discovered underground in sure geological formations within the UK as an power supply. He has no enterprise curiosity in tidal energy.