The go-ahead given by government for the resumption of exploration drilling by Cuadrilla in Lancs – in the face of refusal by the county council – presumably marks the start of the much-delayed Round 2 of UK shale-fracking activity.
There was another, rather quirky shale-related development when the larger-than-life Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS shipped in a cargo of ‘shale gas’ to Grangemouth. This ostentatious display was, I assume, designed to soften the Scotties up to the idea that shale gas is coming anyway, so we might as well develop it here. They do need something to replace the North Sea revenues, after all – so maybe a bit of a conundrum for the SNP.
(Of course, what INEOS was shipping in was ethane – a by-product of natural gas production – for use as a chemical feedstock. As a fairly pure chemical, it would generally be difficult or indeed impossible to identify the precise source of a tankful of ethane; but maybe this batch came from a gas processing plant that only takes in shale gas in the first place.)
So there is at least the possibility of new shale-related activities in this country in several places at once. This might then dilute the protesters’ efforts, I suppose: but with the newfound enthusiasm for people with too much time on their hands taking to the streets evinced by Momentum et al, maybe it will stimulate significant new outbreaks of civil disobedience, and overtime for the Old Bill.
As we’ve noted many times before, the current surplus of gas worldwide (caused by shale production in the USA, and a massive over-development in LNG liquefaction capacity worldwide with more still to come onstream in the next 3-4 years) makes for depressed prices, which won’t help a UK shale industry get off the ground. But the motivation to explore, if not then to develop immediately, is always great. Ding dong, seconds out, round 2 …