Extreme Energy in the South Midlands

From FRAW: http://www.fraw.org.uk

For more than a decade sections of the Government’s business and energy departments have been planning the development of new types of fossil fuel energy sources. These “unconventional” energy sources do not have the same production capacity as previous sources (e.g. the North Sea), cost more to produce, and create far more pollution than older sources of fossil fuels. For that reason that have been labelled as “extreme” energy sources, because shifting towards these sources would create a step-change in pollution whilst doing nothing to solve the greater problems of fuel prices and economic decline.

South Midlands extreme energy map, small
Extreme energy developments in the South Midlands area – mapping data courtesy of OpenStreetMap
click to view very large map

The map on the right shows the areas where the Government has been planning the possible extraction of these extreme fossil fuels in the South Midlands:

  • The green areas are currently being auctioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change as part of their14th On-shore Licensing Round for Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs). This is most likely to result in the exploration of these areas for shale gas – which has colloquially come to be known as fracking. The 14th On-shore Licensing Round was launched in 2010, and should have led to the issuing of new PEDLs in early 2012. However, as a result of the furore over the earthquakes in Lancashire and subsequent drilling, the round has been relaunched and is expected to be finalised around November 2013 – when the Government publishes its new Strategic Environmental Appraisal (SEA) of the projects. At that time we should know whether or not the areas offered in 2010 (shown on the map) have been taken-up by petroleum exploration companies. We know that the box between Banbury and Aylesbury has had some interest from exploration companies, because as a result of a geological anomaly it contains high levels of gas.
  • The blue areas show the extent of the Warwickshire-Oxfordshire coalfield, and could potentially be used for a similar source of energy to fracking called coal-bed methane (CBM) – essentially it’s like fracking, but is carried out inside coal seams. Surveys to date have shown that the deep coal seams in the area contain lower levels of gas, and so this process may not be viable for this area.
  • The orange areas mark the locations of thick seams of coal which have been identified as suitable for underground coal gasification (UCG). This process is completely different to fracking – as the coal is set on fire starved of oxygen – and the results are arguably far worse. Locally three areas have been identified by the Government as suitable for carrying out this process, and the largest is currently the subject of an application (marked by the brown box) to the Coal Authority byCluff Coal – and is significant because it’s the first on-shore application for UCG in Britain.

All these process are known to cause significant environmental pollution (both water and air), climate change, and as a result of the pipelines, drilling, pad development and waste disposal, significant impacts upon the natural landscape. However, these processes have only been operating on a large-scale, in places such as the USA and Australia, for a decade or so, and so it is only latterly that evidence has begun to emerge of the impacts upon human health and the natural environment that the operation of these processes cause.

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