UK onshore oil and gas industry responds to Medact report
7 July 2016
UKOOG, the representative body of the UK onshore oil and gas industry, today rejected the conclusions of the "Shale Gas Production" (SGP) report by Medact and pointed out that the lobby group's own research undermined its conclusions.
Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said:
"The report by Medact comes on the same day as the Committee on Climate Change confirmed 'onshore petroleum extraction on a significant scale' is compatible with the carbon budgets provided three tests are met. Medact, by its own admission, sees benefits from shale gas production. Public Health England concluded in 2014 that health risks from shale gas production are low if operations are well regulated and well run, and earlier this year re-confirmed their view based on more recent evidence."
Key points from the report
Climate change addressed by Committee on Climate Change:
• The report claims that "the biggest health threat posed by SGP is the release of GHG emissions and its contribution to global warming." The Committee on Climate Change report, published today, confirms that widespread shale gas production is compatible with the UK's carbon budgets provided that there are strict controls on fugitive methane, that gas consumption remains in line with carbon budget forecast, and that any emissions from shale gas production are offset elsewhere in the economy.
Lack of association with local health risks:
• The report acknowledges that "based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects".
All energy sources, and other industries, have risks and impacts:
• The report concedes that "It is however important to recognise the uncertainty about the degree of risk and not to exaggerate the threat posed by SGP. Society presently tolerates a number of industrial and commercial practices that are considerably more harmful to human health and the environment. It is also important to note that nuclear, solar and wind energy produce their own set of negative social, health and environmental impacts." As this passage of the report accepts, there is no special risk from shale gas production.
Risks from shale gas are low and can be managed:
• Public Health England's 2014 report on the potential public health impacts from shale gas extraction concluded that there are potential risks but the probability is low if shale gas operations are well regulated and well run. PHE at a recent public meeting in North Yorkshire confirmed that since its report was produced it has continued to review the evidence that is available. It remains of the view that the conclusions and recommendations of the 2014 report continue to be supported from the evidence that it has received since (see http://democracy.northyorks.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=18&meetid=3298).
• This point is further reinforced by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) representing the collective voice of European science to advise European policy-makers; the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering; the UK Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM); and the Scottish Government's Independent Expert Scientific Panel.
UK regulation and monitoring is comprehensive:
• It is clear for example in the US there is criticism that inadequate baseline data was performed for some projects, which has made it difficult to ascertain if there has been an impact attributable to a project or not during monitoring. While we appreciate the concern, this is not transferable to the UK, where robust environmental baseline and monitoring programmes are a formal requirement of UK practice, as defined in the UKOOG baseline monitoring guidelines.
• Key environmental pathways and receptors that may be affected by onshore oil and gas operations are monitored including soils, surface and groundwater, ground gases, air, ecology, naturally occurring radioactive material and seismicity. These measurements are contained within a site conceptual model and are used to benchmark measurements during and after operations.
• On this basis all potential environmental hazard pathways are already accounted for in the UK as part of the regulatory assessment and permitting process, including appropriate environmental baseline data and clear environmental monitoring programmes.
• Monitoring provides a more focussed approach to ascertaining any potential hazard pathway directly attributable to a proposed project by monitoring precursors to any health disorder. As an example, air pollutants can in certain circumstance, present a potential risk to respiratory and cardiovascular health. Monitoring of these emissions from a robust baseline provides an effective means to not only attribute the potential impact from a specific activity and project to the environment, but should they come close to breaching the objectives set to protect health, then it is possible to intervene before there are any health impacts.
• As Public Health England has concluded: "Caution is required when extrapolating experiences in other countries to the UK since the mode of operation, underlying geology and regulatory environment are likely to be different".
Newgate Communications: Deborah Saw/Jason Nisse
Notes to editors
UKOOG is the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, including exploration, production and storage. The organisation's objectives are to enhance the profile of the onshore industry, promote better and more open dialogue with key stakeholders, deliver industry wide initiatives and programmes and to ensure standards in safety, the environment and operations are maintained to the highest possible level. Membership is open to all companies active in the onshore industry including those involved in the supply chain. www.ukoog.org.uk