Definition of Hydraulic Fracturing
Ada Zaffina made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Dear Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,
I refer to your response to FOI #424943 raised by Lorraine Inglis.
You clarify the definition of hydraulic fracturing as "using either 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in
total or 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at any stage (rather than at every stage, as used by the
European Commission)" and refer to The Petroleum Licensing (Exploration and Production (Landward Areas) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
This statutory instrument def provides a definition of “Relevant Hydraulic Fracturing” which corresponds to your explanation, but it only relates to specifically defined "Protected Areas".
Can you please clarify whether this definition refers to protected areas only or in general?
Thank you for the response. Is there an email I can correspond with you at to ask follow up questions as 'normal course of business' enquiry ? Last couple times I contacted OGA Correspondence at [email address] , my queries were ignored.
My follow up questions are:
1. You state that "it is the Government's policy intent that any operations which use more than 1,000 cubic meters of fluid, butt which are not covered by 'associated hydraulic fracturing', will still need to meet an equivalent range of safeguards to those set out in section 4A of the Petroleum Act 1998 (inserted by Section 50 of the Infrastructure Act 2015)." Does the 1,000 cubic meters of fluid threshold relate to the entire fracking operation performed in multiple stages on a single well (so for example fracking performed in 4 stages using 251 cubic meters each would qualify) or does it relate to only one (any) stage?
2. You state that "the recent written Ministerial statement which accompanied the Ministerial direction to the Oil & Gas Authority of 30 November 2017 makes clear that it is the Government's policy intent that the same approach for consent is taken for all relevant hydraulic fracturing operations." What exactly is meant here by RELEVANT hydraulic fracturing operations?
3. You then state that "for these operations, operators will be expected to meet the same set of standards as required to obtain Hydraulic Fracturing Consent, laid out in the Infrastructure Act 2015." What is the mechanism here if a Hydraulic Fracturing Consent is not required for these relevant (please see question 2) hydraulic fracturing operations?
Dear Sara, [email address] on behalf of BIS Correspondence Team,
I of course do realise that I am writing to BEIS and not OGA, apologies for being momentarily confused by this system.
Dear Ada Zaffina
Please find attached our response to your recent enquiry.
BEIS MINISTERIAL CORRESPONDENCE UNIT
Dear [email address] on behalf of BIS Correspondence Team & Dear Sara,
Thank you for the clarification of the definition of "relevant hydraulic fracturing".
This creates a situation, where a hypothetical fracturing operation that includes 3 stages: 1,000, 700 and 500 cubic meters of fluid would be captured within this definition and required to meet a range of safeguards as set out in the IA2015, but another hypothetical operation involving 10 stages of 900 cubic meters of fluid would not be captured, even if the total volume of the latter would far exceed the total volume of the former (9,000 cubic meters vs. 2,200 cubic meters), meaning the operation that is not captured by the definition of relevant hydraulic fracturing would likely be much more risky to the environment and public health. Is this the Government's intention?
You also clarify that the definitions set the right balance between capturing hydraulic fracturing operations ("fracking") and not capturing conventional oil and gas operations. I understand your position is that operations that are not captured by the definition of "relevant hydraulic fracturing" are in your view conventional. The Planning Practice Guidance on mineral extraction defines unconventional hydrocarbons as oil and gas which comes from sources such as shale or coal seams which act as the reservoirs, and it doesn't anywhere mention the method of extraction. As the body overseeing the Government's policy for oil and gas, how do you reconcile the two definitions?
With respect to the mechanism in the Ministerial Statement of 30 November 2017, it sets out that "before issuing Completion Work Approval, the Oil and Gas Authority must require a licensee to share such information with the Secretary of State as necessary to allow the Secretary of State to consider whether the conditions in section 4A are met and whether the Secretary of State is otherwise satisfied" and that "before issuing Completion Work Approval, the Oil and Gas Authority must consult the Secretary of State and in determining the application for Completion Work Approval, the Oil and Gas Authority must take account of the Secretary of State’s view on the matters in paragraph 4 above." This doesn't provide any details as to how the SoS will come to the conclusion that he/she is satisfied. Does the SoS take into consideration the view of the Environment Agency? The Environment Agency doesn't require a hydraulic fracturing plan for operations that do not meet the definition of "associated hydraulic fracturing" so how can they be fully satisfied as to the safety of these operations that meet the "relevant hydraulic fracturing" definition?
I would appreciate your further clarification.