Reference 4

FUTURE ENERGY OPTIONS (from BBC Bang Goes the Theory)

Energy DEMAND in UK runs at about                    50 gigawatts

CURRENT SUPPLY is    from        Nuclear               7gw

                                                              Coal                     25gw

                                                              Gas                       25gw

                                                              Renewables       10gw

                                                              Imported            6gw

The equation between supply and demand is managed by the National Grid minute by minute

Our carbon reduction target is 34% by 2020

6 COAL fired power stations are to be closed down in next decade

8 NUCLEAR Stations are due to close.   Govt intends to build new capacity up to 16GW

GAS stations offer instant control of supply and the lower C02 output than coal.  But North Sea supply is dwindling.  Imports so far from the Gulf, Norway and Russia.  Hence rush for shale gas.

RENEWABLES consistent supply target is 15% (about 10GW) by 2020. 5000 OFF SHORE WIND   Turbines could produce up to 10GW on best days.  The European offshore wind capacity could be 100GW. So a network would allow imported power from wind turbines to even out supply.

TIDAL POWER is advancing as fast as investment, planning processes and technology allow.  Tidal Lagoons Power (GB company) has a 12bn proposal in planning with likely decision in Spring 2015. If it goes ahead it is projected to supply 7GW (10%) by 2023. MeyGen have a project for 400 submerged turbines in the Pentland Firth (near Stroma Island) which would produce 400MW (0.4GW).  Orkney based EMEC has a series of research projects in hand.      

The potential exists for Renewables to exceed its 15% target by 2020 and to reach German levels of 40+% in the next decade – but only if government ensures due investment and support.      

POWER STORAGE is crucial to even out the inevitable inconsistency of supply from renewables.  A pilot project in Slough offers an original potential solution.  High View Liquid Air Energy Storage have a plant that uses spare energy (eg at night) to freeze air to -200C. When released this converts to steam and drives turbines to meet power demand. This needs investment to scale up.

REDUCING DEMAND remains the best way forward through the familiar ideas of insulating houses, pv panels etc. On a grander scale KiWi POWER (London) has signed up 100s of companies nationwide to agreements that allow their non-essential use of electricity (eg air-con, pools, excess lighting) to be switched off when the National Grid signals demand is peaking. The Grid pays KiWi so there is no cost to the companies.  Local Authorities needs to sign up and to act as advocates for this. (KiWi website is excellent).


IN SUMMARY:   If government policies harness the real potential of renewables, energy storage and demand management, the panic pursuit of shale gas and the scaling up of nuclear stations should not be needed. 

Reference 4

Reference 1

Fracking in UK and Germany: contrasting impact of scientific advice

In summer 2012 major independent reports on the risks of Fracking were published by scientific experts in both the UK and Germany.  Each report asserted that the risks were serious but could be managed with strenuous effort by all concerned. By 2014 Germany (as part of a coalition deal) turned its back on Fracking despite its dependence on imports of gas from Russia.  The UK government has pressed on regardless, dismantling as many obstacles to Fracking as possible and disregarding the heaviest warnings.   This is a summary of the backstory to these contrasting decisions.

In April 2011 a panel of experts (40) was commissioned by ExxonMobil to undertake a full analysis of the risks and social impact of Fracking.  In Spring 2012 the Royal Society was asked by HMG government scientific adviser to review the technical and environmental risks of Fracking.

RS key points

  • Yes it can be managed with best practice and strong regulation enforced
  • Greatest risk is from faulty wells. Need to review design.
  • Robust monitoring essential before during and after Fracking
  • Environment Risk Assessment should be mandatory
  • Water usage OK but disposal needs planning from start.
  • Disposal wells (reinjection) would need further review
  • Regulation must be fit for purpose, co-ordinated and well resourced
  • More research into effects on carbon footprint, climate policies and public acceptability

Review ‘not an exhaustive analysis’. Intended to be a specialist contribution to the wider debate.


The scale and scope of the German study is much more comprehensive and far-reaching

German Panel of Experts – “Hydro Fracking Risk Assessment”   trace via  davidsmythe –fracking and look for English translation of summary report.  (There is a French report to review yet as well).

12 month proactive scientific study on safety, health and environmental compatibility of Fracking, funded and fully supported by ExxonMobil.  Director Prof Dietrich Borchardt with core panel plus 30 experts.

  • Method included responding to 500 key questions drawn from lay people, councils, water companies etc. (eg Are there some environments…… where fracking should be banned?). Agreed with Exxon to focus analysis on worst cased scenarios.
  • Include installation, drilling, sealing, long-term management, waste water disposal, legal aspects.
  • To be realistic Report took notional 200sq km area under drilling to 2030 in Munster/Saxony.

Selected findings:

  • 1 in 4 boreholes need re using after months/years
  • Average well needs 10 operations, each using 1600cu m of water,5 tons of chemicals
  • Groundwater contamination risk: technologies better than in USA but still possible
  • Major leaks identified in minutes; minor leaks days/weeks. Intensive monitoring essential
  • Near certain that If 300 wells are sunk, with total 4000 drillings, then at least one serious leak will occur
  • Clearing contamination very difficult and expensive (£10m minimum per event)
  • Deep brine released contains heavy metals, some radio-activity. Possibility of upwards seepage varies with geological fractures etc. Long term problem
  • Fluids may include: Strontium, Barium, Zinc, Lithium, Manganese, Benzene, Mercury
  • From 80 years of gas drilling: long term stability of cement not reliable
  • Robust regulation and full legal framework absolutely essential
  • Long term monitoring and intervention essential



Dealing with contaminated water

  • Must have an overall first rate treatment strategy to manage and monitor all waste water. So best if contaminated water is retrieved for treatment (but in tests only 20% is returned from shale)
  • Deep re-injection in Germany is allowed at depth of 3.5km or greater (despite tremor risks)
  • Requires failsafe pipelines and 24/7 monitoring (not yet developed)
  • High salt content make re-processing of contaminated water problematic
  • Current substance flow analysis not adequate to guarantee safe disposal
  • Additional waste disposal wells would be needed – again new technologies


Protection of drinking water sources

  • “We feel strongly that water resource conservation must take absolute preference over energy production”
  • Therefore no Fracking to be allowed in:
  • Areas of tectonic stress
  • Areas with pressurised Artesian wells and geological fractures
  • Drinking water protection zones and thermal springs

Some Conclusions

  • No objective reason to ban fracking if all recommendations here are followed
  • . “In view of the new risk dimension of Fracking it is best to proceed cautiously, one step at a time, to allow for careful testing and ensure… fracking is not pursued in haste”
  • A broad fracking policy requires:
  • A defined statement of technological standards
  • A legal framework to address risks of Fracking
  • Additional scientific study (especially re methane leakage/climate)


Comment:    The German report is impressive in its depth, its length, its systematic method and in the way it involved a major part of the Fracking industry and in its commitment to engage candidly with the public.  The conditions it laid down for Fracking add up in effect to a ban (or at least a moratorium) although it avoids the word.  It all reflects how differently our two societies view science and engineering. In the UK the government seems to have selected those bits of the RS report that it likes and has proceeded flat out for fracking, ditching as many safeguards as it can on the way.  The German report is in most ways valid for the UK and can be cited in our campaigns.


John Plummer  Dec 2014

Reference 1