1 Aug 2013

Fracking: Can shale gas you make you rich?

John Loftus has the privilege – a dubious one in many people’s minds – of being the first and only person in Britain to have his land fracked for shale gas.

It was on his farm that Cuadrilla Resources drilled their first exploratory shale gas well in 2011.


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In April of that year, while pumping fluids into the well to fracture the shale rocks three kilometres down – that’s fracking to you and me – they caused a small earthquake.

Fracking was temporarily halted and has yet to resume anywhere in the UK.

But according to the geologists there are gas-rich rocks stretching all the way from Blackpool to Brighton.

And as this week’s protests in the West Sussex village of Balcombe show that despite comments made this week in the House of Lords fracking is no respecter of the north-south divide.

So if fracking does get up and running in Britain it could be you or your neighbour who gets a call from the oil men next.

Many of John Loftus’ neighbours sent Cuadrilla packing. But he didn’t.

Today, he spoke out for the first time about his decision to get involved in fracking.

“It’s not my gas. It’s your gas,” he said.

“I honestly believe it’s the government’s job to give licenses to companies and decide whether this is something the country needs or not.”

John Loftus said he owns a Stetson and some cigars – but only because his brother lives in Texas.

He wouldn’t tell me how much money Cuadrilla Resources paid him for access to his land said isn’t enough to make him the J R Ewing of Lancashire.

“It beats growing potatoes, but it’s only about 1-2 per cent of my income.”

In the US, fracking companies have made farmers and even homeowners rich overnight.

Mineral rights in America extend from the surface of your land all the way to the centre of the Earth.

A percentage of any profits from gas and oil extracted from the ground are shared with the landowner.

Here in the UK subterranean rights for oil extends just 3ft down. All the rest belongs to the Crown.

And here the former dairy farmer takes an ideological stand.

Mr Loftus said he has no right to deny the country access to mineral resources that it owns.

“This country is built on its natural resources and we’d be nowhere without fossil fuels.”

And here he has a point. Until we have effective policies that can bring alternative sources of power on-stream quickly – we’re stuck with gas.

One way of looking at fracking is that it’s a desperate, last-ditch scraping of the geological barrel to get gas out of the ground in a way that was far too expensive to even consider two decades ago.

But given what we’ve got to work with fracking companies – with the full support of government – will be looking for more people across Britain with the same outlook as John Loftus.

9 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Tom,

    I am all for fracking inside the M25 ghetto and the rest of the far south east corner around Corruption City, particularly Bracknell.

    Spread the wealth around I say. Fair’s fair.
    :-)

  2. adil says:

    It is really frustrating that we are not having the necessary discussion of energy efficiency. A large number of devices we currently use are terribly inefficient. There is a real new industry potential to either to reclaim energy or to make the maximum efficient use of fuel. We should not be assume trapped natural gas does not exist and try to maximise the efficiency of the fuel that we use. I think fracking should be put on hold for sufficient time to allow the consequences of the process to be understood. How long is sufficient? In my opinion that’s at least a generation (say tens of years).

  3. Spencer says:

    “This country is built on its natural resources and we’d be nowhere without fossil fuels.”
    Or perhaps it was the resources of other countries in the Empire.
    Personally, I don’t believe that the Earth is a resource to be exploited for short term gain, a business as usual approach to energy supply. That’s why I will oppose any attempt to chase ‘cheap’ oil and gas, because I recognise the true cost, to the earth, us and future generations.

  4. Andrew Dundas says:

    Like so many farmers, John Loftus believes in sharing the economic value of his land.
    We ought to add that deep mining for coal, salt and other minerals beneath Great Britain also cause shifts on the surface. Coal mining was (and is) a continuing cause of tremors and subsidence that reflects our national wealth creation.

    Fortunately, fracking for gas and oil causes much less disruption than other forms of underground mineral extractions. With proper care, fracking operations need cause no disruption – save for the belly-aching of the Nimby sects.

  5. Tommy Williams says:

    Good reasonable man. Not like those selfish NIMBYs.

  6. Barbara Lockwood says:

    FRACKING??

    Hasn’t anybody any sense anymore,? We need to think more carefully about new energy.
    We have a beautiful Natural world, however, Nature has shown it’s distaste for many years with catastrophic consequence around the world.

    We are an Island prone to floods if nothing else at this time. I predict if people think the earth will not be disturbed by dislodging rocks and gas they want to think again because I would like to be around to say I told you so. It is obvious if they start Nature will not allow them to continue, without hitting back.

    Just remember the loss we had over coal mining. I’ll never forget it and the 53 floods I was caught up in on our coast.——Barbara

  7. Neil Craig says:

    “Fracking was temporarily halted and has yet to resume anywhere in the UK.”

    Now how could that be when politicians of all the approved parties now say they are in favour of it and the ban ended nearly a year ago. Because as soon as the ban was lifted a new ban was reimposed on this site on the grounds that it is about 10 miles from a bird sanctuary.

    So all the politicians can get on with their Luddite promotion of recession while pretending to be supporting progress.

    Of course they wouldn’t get away with that if our media were actually honestly trying to tell us the news. But then we live in a country where both BBC and C4 are state owned propagandists making no attempt to report honestly.

  8. Barbara Lockwood says:

    Good for You Spencer, I partially agree.
    However, don’t ever expect to receive Cheap oil or gas, that will never happen
    in this economy stricken world.

    Neil—How naïve, They have started they will continue, popping up wherever they think fit.
    Prim Minister Cameron will make sure of that.

    Andrew & Tommy —-John Loftus is looking after himself anyway.!
    However, how will you account for any disruption to ground levels, subsidence and so on?
    With Silence I assume. It’s too late then.

  9. Gayzer Frackman says:

    Why have they got a farmer who dos not come over very bright to promote frackig on other farmers land? They are that desperate
    Most others have turned their back on this because (unlike this selfish man ) they have checked the dangers of this process.
    He failed to mention that the well is damaged beyond repair and the fact they carried on fracking 6 weeks after the cement casing was damaged.
    This man is only interested in lining his pocket ! Allowing a drill site 15,000 feet from Weeton Barrack school and housing which is home to the families of serving soldiers.
    Cudrilla have been proven to make claims that are not in fact true.

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