PESGB May 2015

Fri 01 May 2015

Category: Magazines

  • Unconventional Wisdom is Needed, Hamish Wilson, PESGB President 2015
  • 2014 AGM Minutes
  • Brazil E&P – Lula Leading the way

Plus Much More Inside

Unconventional Wisdom is Needed

PESGB President Hamish Wilson implores politicians to open their minds to a homegrown
mixed fuel policy

Election fever has gripped the country this month and dominates the headlines, yet very little has been mentioned on energy or energy policy; but, given the track record on energy policy from all political parties, I am not holding out much hope for anything profound emerging, which is disturbing: our nation needs a coherent balanced energy strategy that integrates policies to support renewables and the climate change agenda, with the role of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

It appears that government policy such as it is, is focused on supporting popular renewables. However, even in that area, support has been patchy and technology specifi c – wind and solar p.v in particular – winning the lion’s share of government subsidies to the detriment of other technologies. We’ve seen statements to the effect that there is a policy to electrify space heating and to decarbonise electricity generation. Yet very little concrete has been done to stimulate activity in this area.

Oil and gas has been neglected by successive governments so as long as the industry has generated tax income. The announcements in the last budget on a reduction in tax rate, and an investment of £20m to invest in seismic are welcome, but could have minimal impact on an industry that has halved its revenue and is facing apparently systemic cost increases. But I’m not sure what more the government can do for our industry. It’s really in our hands to sort this, facilitated by the Oil and Gas Authority. However it is in onshore exploration that government policy and action is absolutely critical. I’m sure that all of us hope for some resolve and courage in allowing the industry to drill wells and test the ability of our unconventional resource to deliver. The three main political parties appear to be aligned in their support of unconventional exploration.

However in the name of pandering to votes everything could change, particularly if the SNP or the Greens hold the balance of power.

It is a shame that we have allowed the onshore agenda to be dominated by anti-fracking and climate change NGO’s. Speaking personally, I’ve noted that when we can explain some facts to people about how deep wells are (it would take an hour to walk 5km down a well) and the chemicals used in frack fl uids (most found in products in and around our houses) then we can change minds. However we have completely failed to get these points across to the general public. And the general public infl uence politicians.

Perhaps we should be more proactive at presenting how fossil fuels form part of an integrated energy mix to power the UK. On cold, still winter days we need gas to supply energy to fi ll in the short fall if the wind is not blowing and sun is not shining. That gas has to come from somewhere, and as the North Sea is in decline, then either we get it from our onshore resources, or we import it … from Russia? Is that a worse threat than fracking?

I’m pleased to report that the PESGB in conjunction with the Geological Society and AAPG are working on preparing a pack of material that all members can take to their communities to explain geology. The pack will also have material about oil and gas extraction so we can discuss where oil and gas comes from. Given the lack of understanding about our industry in public and political spheres, we will have to do the explaining ourselves.

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